By Tom Haley
The Defense Never Rests. F. Lee Bailey wrote it. Jaquan Harris lived it on Friday night.
Framingham State's Harris intercepted five passes in a 32-16 victory over Fitchburg State, tying an NCAA record. It was a prelude to some other outstanding defensive performances for the weekend.
The next day Dean linebacker Trent Waters had 13 tackles and forced a fumble to lead the Bulldogs to a 28-14 win over Alfred State.
Waters, Dean's lone senior and a transfer from Arkansas State, is Dean's leader.
"Honestly, he's my best football player," Dean coach Steve Tirrell said.
Tirrell coached on various staffs for Don Brown, now Michigan's defensive coordinator, for 16 years. He uses Brown's defensive philosophy as his blueprint at Dean.
"To borrow from Don Brown, we try to fix our mistakes with an aggressive defense," Tirrell said.
Defense is also a huge piece of the success at Plymouth State, Tirrell's alma mater. The 5-1 Panthers have allowed seven points or less in five of their six games.
"We just try to put the guys in the right place and have them make the tackles. It's not rocket science," Plymouth coach Paul Castonia said. "We try to keep it simple."
This week it was Bridgewater State feeling the wrath of the Plymouth defense as the Panthers won 17-7 with sophomore corner Prince Gbaley making seven tackles, intercepting two passes, breaking up four other passes and returning a shanked punt for a touchdown.
Gbaley followed All-New England player Zach Zemba to Plymouth. The went to the same high school and Zemba is now a Plymouth graduate student.
"Prince has tried to look up to Zach, putting in the work and the time in the film room," Castonia said.
Trinity is 4-0 with a defense that has given up just 5.5 points a game. This time Hamilton got the jump on the Bantams and led 13-0. But the defense, led by Shane Libby;s eight tackles, shut out the Continentals after the first quarter in a 41-13 win.
Williams, 3-1, did it with defense. The Ephs intercepted four passes, two by T.J. Rothman, in beating Bates41-7.
Curry's Joseph Grogan had six tackles, all for a loss, and he forced a fumble as the Colonels got a key win against UMass-Dartmouth, 30-27.
And then there is Castleton linebacker Jakob Trautwein. He came into the weekend ranked No. 5 nationally in tackles per game (14.8) and did better than that in the 35-31 win over Mount Ida. Trautwein made 16 tackles and batted down a pass on fourth down when the Mustangs were driving for a go-ahead touchdown late in the game.
"He has always had such a passion for the game and now he has more of an understanding of it," said Castleton coach Tony Volpone.
"I have been fortunate. I have had an awesome opportunity to work with some great coaches," Trautwein said.
In addition to the passion and understanding that Volpone speaks of, the other ingredient has been some rigorous offseason work.
"I have worked extremely hard in 90-degree heat in the summer and gotten up at 5 a.m. every day in the winter to work out. It's all those things that nobody sees," Trautwein said.
Defensive lineman Luke Washburn was the cornerstone of the Husson defense in its showdown win over SUNY-Maritime. He had 11 tackles, four quarterback hurries and broke up a pass.
Everyone is talking about Gallaudet's record-setting day on offense in its 73-23 victory over Anna Maria. But Louie Akuffo put up his own prolific numbers on the other side of the ball for the Bison. The defensive back had nine tackles, picked off a pass and forced a fumble.
Westfield State had William Tejeda, Zach Howard and Tyler Robbin in all in double figures for tackles in a 35-28 win over Mass. Maritime.
Dominique Carr was a wrecking crew for Western Connecticut in a 49-23 win over Worcester State. Of his five tackles, two were for losses of 38 yards. He also recovered a fumble.
Kevin Hopsicker had eight tackles and returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown to help Middlebury go to 4-0 with a 35-31 win over previously unbeaten Amherst.
Brandon Morris had nine tackles on a Wesleyan defensive unit that kept Colby in check on third down. The Mules made just four of 19 third down conversions.
Greg Holt had 12 tackles for Tufts in its 31-3 thumping of Bates and MIT's AJ Iverson had seven tackles and forced a fumble in a 51-6 conquest of Maine Maritime.
Blayne Merchant and Luca Cerasini keyed WPI's defense in a 31-14 win over Catholic. Merchant had 12 tackles, three for a loss. Cerasini had seven tackles, three for a loss, and forced two fumbles.
Springfield rolled again overland as Jordan Wilcox rushed for 187 yards and Jake Eglintine 106. But ask other coaches and they will tell you the defense is equally responsible for the Pride's unbeaten season. Rich Williams had a team-high nine tackles and returned an interception 53 yards.
F. Lee Bailey and Don Brown would have loved it all.
Curry's Alex Corvese threw for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Middlebury's Jared Lebowitz passed for 205 yards and three scores. He has 13 touchdowns against two interceptions for the four games. Trinity's Sonny Puzzo kept his outstanding season going by passing for 378 yards and three touchdowns. Wesleyan's Mark Piccirillo threw for 324 yards and four touchdowns.
Quick Kicks: Trinity has won 13 in a row. ... U.S. Merchant Marine's Brice Morse ran for 229 yards and two scores in a 52-17 victory over Norwich. ... Springfield threw only five passes in the 38-7 win over Coast guard.
The big games
There are two big games in the NESCAC. Trinity takes its 4-0 record to Tufts to face the 3-1 Jumbos. Middlebury puts its 4-0 mark on the line at home against 3-1 Williams, possibly the league's most improved team. Sing it, Roger Miller: Destination, Bangor, Maine. That is where Castleton and Husson meet in a game where both teams are 2-0 in the ECFC. The marquee contest in the MASCAC has one-loss Plymouth and unbeaten Framingham State.