|As the commander of Western New England's offense, Anthony Service has thrown 16 touchdown passes against just two interceptions.
Photo by Eric Matland
There was so much drama around the Northeast that you expected John Facenda's voice to accompany some of the the game films. Overtimes and and thrilling finishes were the theme of the day.
Plymouth State saw the first blemish on its record when Westfield State's Phil Cohen ran for a touchdown in the overtime and then Norman Carroll tacked on the point for the Owls' 14-13 victory. There was a thrilling ending at Norwich when Matt Greenman caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jack Sheehan with 55 seconds left. Then Sheehan threw for the two points and a 15-14 victory. It was overtime at UMass-Dartmouth where Abbi Bamgbose caught both a 24-yard scoring pass from Corey Burnham and then a two-point conversion pass from Burnham for a 35-34 win over Framingham State.
But they dispense with drama at Western New England where the Golden Bears had rather put the hammer down. Drama? That's a class, right? An elective the Golden Bears choose not to take.
They stretched the lead to 29-7 by halftime on the way to beating Nichols 56-27, extending their record to 5-0.
A close game? They beat Springfield and Union by 16 points each, and that's as close as anyone has come so far.
They've achieved it with a balanced offense. Anthony Service leads the passing game and Nick Connell an effective ground game.
Service has thrown 16 touchdown passes against just two interceptions. Connell rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown against Nichols but 10 other players had carries.
Mohamed Camara was a big-play target for Service. He had three catches, but they totaled 111 yards.
"He had a normal freshman year, and then his sophomore year he just took off," coach Keith Emery said of his senior slot receiver.
"He just a great kid. We recruited him hard."
Since arriving on the Springfield, Mass., campus Camara has worked hard to get better, improving in every facet.
"He has really improved catching the ball, and he has worked hard on his body. He is not the fastest guy on the team, but he is one of the fastest. He is not the strongest, but he is one of the strongest," Emery said.
Service is a junior getting the offense to himself for the first time. He did appear in two games last season and the signs were there that he was ready.
"We recruited him in a year when we had a need for quarterbacks. He went against another freshman and beat him by a lot," Emery said.
Now, the show is his and he has flourished.
"He has a nice arm and he's athletic. He has definitely grown," Emery said. "He makes difficult things look easy and he is getting better every single week."
Service riddled the Bison by completing throwing for 233 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Tight ends Trent Vasey and Josh Henry have been a big piece of the success.
"They have been really, really good in the run game and the passing game. We depend on our tight ends a lot," Emery said.
The 5-0 record does not mean Emery is satisfied. The bye week will be put to good use.
"We've got things to fix. A lot of our questions coming out of preseason have not been answered," Emery said.
Those close ones
There were plenty of contests where fans couldn't leave early. Burnham and Bamgbose hooked up to prompt the overtime celebration at UMass-Dartmouth, but the Corsairs had plenty of other heroes. They featured a bruising ground game with three backs eclipsing the 100-yard mark. Michael Slaughter Jr. rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Stephen Roy ran for 102 yards and two scores and Eddie Sheridan added another 101 yards.
Coast Guard and Maine Maritime had another close one. The Bears outgunned Maritime 36-30 as Derek Victory threw two TD passes and ran for another. Ryan Robertson led the Coast Guard defense with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Sean Chinova had 11 tackles and a pass breakup for Mount Ida in its last-minute win.
Bridgewater State edged Western Connecicut 20-14 as Alex McLaughlin rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Tufts also had a close call against Bates as the Jumbos went to 2-0 with the 12-7 win. Ryan McDonald pulled the game out with a 15-yard scoring run with 9:24 remaining.
Also providing the difference was the strong leg of Willie Holmquist. He made good on both of his field goal attempts and one was a 48-yarder.
Armed and dangerous
Middlebury's Jared Lebowitz threw five touchdown passes for the second week in a row as the Panthers went to 2-0 by beating Colby 35-14.
Becker's Nas Sinkfield-Shelton threw four touchdown passes in a 42-18 win over Gallaudet. Sinkfield-Shelton threw for 132 yards and ran for 91.
Cory Brandon passed for 224 yards and two scores for Husson in a 33-12 win over SUNY-Maritime.
Sonny Puzzo threw three touchdown passes to lead Trinity past Williams, 38-13. Two of them landed in the arms of Darrien Myers.
Quick kicks: Lavante Wiggins, Joe Kalosky and Michael Scherer had rushing touchdowns for Endicott in a 21-9 win over MIT. Chris Lipscomb continued to be a weapon with his punting, hanging two more inside the 20. ... More fireworks in the sky for unbeaten Salve Regina. Thunder (Sam Pascale) rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns and James Dawson (Lightning) amassed 112 yards with three scores as the Seahawks thumped Curry 47-14. ... Mass. Maritime intercepted four passes in a 30-0 win over Fitchburg State. ... John Smith collects 100-yard rushing games and got another. Husson's reigning ECFC Player of the Year ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns. ... Becker's Davin Collins had two interceptions. ... Middlebury's Conrado Banky caught seven passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. ... Wesleyan's Mark Piccirillo passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in a 34-6 victory over Hamilton. ... Alex Berluti threw two touchdown passes as Amherst trimmed Bowdoin 31-10. ... Greg Holt had 20 tackles for Tufts and teammate Steve Dicienzo was in on 17 stops.
What's in a name? Plenty if you ask WNE's Emery.
He's not happy that the New England Football Conference will give way to the Commonwealth Coast Conference in 2017.
WNE, Curry, Nichols, Salve Regina, Becker and Endicott will be NEFC teams under the new banner with the University of New England, a new program, coming aboard in 2018.
"For me it's about the name change," Emery said. "That's 50-plus years of history. Losing that history is a shame."
The big games
The NEFC is in its bye week but there is a huge game in the NESCAC at Middlebury where Amherst and the Panthers match 2-0 records.
Both teams are ranked in the Division III New England Poll, and the Lord Jeffs will be trying to slow down Lebowitz and the passing attack, something that Bowdoin and Colby were unable to do.
Who would have thought the game of interest in the ECFC would be Castleton's trip to Mount Ida. Ida and the Spartans entered the week 0-3 but this is the only game this week matching 1-0 teams in the league.
The Mustangs did it with their dramatic win at Norwich and Castleton beat Anna Maria 23-13 behind the passing of Mitch Caron (199 yards) and running of Moe Harris who had 202 yards.
It was just the second start for Caron, a sophomore.
"Mitch has a lot of confidence and he's doing a great job, We all trust him," said Soren Pelz-Walsh, who caught six of Caron's completions for 121 yards and a score.
The most attractive game in the MASCAC looks like UMass-Dartmouth, coming off its upset win over Framingham, under the Friday night lights at Bridgewater State.