This time hope, not indignation

Last year, I was miffed that the selection committee would have the gall to send the hallowed Mount Union College into “our” region of East teams. But then, I said, I’m going to defend the teams. Any team has a chance when you get into a playoff -- that’s why the FCS system is so bogus, right. So of course, when the games were played, the closest game in the region was a 42-18 whupping of Ithaca.

So now to this year. With Cortland losing, the East had no undefeated teams for the second season in a row, so the committee, as they are wont to do to get the four best teams as No. 1 seeds, conferences be damned, put MUC back as the No. 1 seed in the East again.

This time, instead of being annoyed at the committee’s choice, I’ve decided to go another direction -- hope springs eternal.

Hey, at this point, everyone’s 0-0, right? The scoreboard says 0-0 at the start of every game, right? It’s not like MUC gets a two-touchdown lead before the game starts. Everyone has a chance. In fact, ask the other seven teams in the bracket and I’ll bet at least 90 percent of the teams and people involved want that chance at Mount Union.

Like Ric Flair said: To be the man, you gotta beat the man. Mount Union has been the man in Division III football for years. (That’s the second professional wrestling reference I’ve gotten into a column!)

Anything can happen. The Purple Raiders aren’t as perfect as they were in 2007, when they didn’t give up a point in more than a month. So the region has their chances. They just need to make the most of it.

The matchups:
No. 8 Randolph-Macon (ODAC winner) at No. 1 MUC (OAC winner)
No. 5 Lycoming (MAC winner) at No. 4 Hobart (LL winner)
No. 6 Plymouth State (NEFC winner) at No. 3 Cortland State (NJAC winner)
No. 7 Curry (Pool C) at No. 2 Ithaca (Empire 8 winner)

The best thing about this bracket? The possible Cortaca redux two Saturdays from now. This time, however, thanks to IC’s win in Cortland, a possible second-round matchup would take place at Butterfield Stadium at Ithaca.

Predictions are at the bottom of this column.

About Cortaca

Cortland State averaged 35 points per game while running through the New Jersey Athletic Conference schedule.

With a chance to go 10-0, get their first undefeated season since 1988 and with that ’88 team in the house on Saturday, Ithaca came into town for the coveted Cortaca Jug.

But sometimes it takes a record effort to beat all the hype.

Ithaca’s Jason Chier was the star of a defense that held Cortland to zero offensive touchdowns in a 35-13 Cortaca Jug victory at Cortland State.

Chier had three interceptions, two in a row on consecutive defensive plays off of Cortland senior quarterback Ray Miles, and the three picks set an Ithaca single-game record. Chier became the sixth Bomber in the team’s illustrious history to make three interceptions in one game.

Ithaca backup quarterback Brian Grastorf had an MVP-type day, throwing for 273 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for two more touchdowns. Senior receiver Kyle Crandall had a good day offensively too, catching four touchdowns for 111 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard touchdown.

Cortland senior tailback Andrew Giuliano ran over the Ithaca defense, running for 135 yards on 18 carries.

Both teams end up 9-1, but Ithaca jumped Cortland in NCAA playoffs seed with the victory.

The other postseason

From ecacsports.org, the seven ECAC “bowl games”
ECAC Northeast Bowl: St. John Fisher (6-4) at Husson (7-2) 12 Noon
ECAC North Atlantic Bowl: Alfred (7-3) at RPI (7-2) 12 Noon
ECAC Northwest Bowl: SUNY Brockport (6-4) at Hartwick (7-2) 1:00 p.m.
ECAC Southeast Bowl: Catholic (8-2) at Johns Hopkins (8-2) 12 Noon
ECAC South Atlantic Bowl: Kean (7-3) at Delaware Valley (7-2) 12 Noon
ECAC Southwest Bowl: Salisbury (8-2) at Moravian (8-2) 12 Noon
ECAC South Central Bowl: Albright (7-3) at Montclair State (8-2) 1:00 p.m

East Region games

St. John Fisher vs. Husson

Husson, only a few years in Division III football, will play their first playoff game in the Eagles’ history against St. John Fisher. The two teams have never faced off.

Alfred at RPI
This game will be the last game ever on ’86 Field, the first time AU and RPI are meeting since 1973. Both teams are undefeated in ECAC games as RPI is 7-0 and AU is 6-0.

Brockport State vs. Hartwick
Brockport makes its first postseason appearance of any kind since 2004, Hartwick is back in the ECAC’s after a one-and-done in the national playoffs in 2007. It’s the first ECAC game for Brockport since 1993. The two teams have played four times, but none since 1950 as Hartwick dropped football from 1951 until 1992.

Kean at Delaware Valley
These two teams from the NJAC and MAC, respectively, have never played, but according to DVC, the two teams have a non-conference matchup next season scheduled. DVC has been in the playoffs five of the last six seasons. Kean took home an ECAC title with a 37-0 win over King’s in 2006.

Albright at Montclair State
These two faced off last year in the South Atlantic Bowl, this time -- it’s in the South Central bowl. MSU won last year 17-13 in the Red Hawks fifth ECAC appearance, and their 13th playoff appearance in the team’s history. For Albright, the only time they’ve faced Montclair State was in last year’s ECAC game. The two teams have two common opponents from the 2008 regular season -- Wilkes and Western Connecticut, with both the Red Hawks and Lions going 2-0 against those teams.

Close but not quite

Alfred kept St. John Fisher from receiving the Empire 8's Pool A bid with a 36-33 overtime win at Merrill Field on Saturday. After ending regulation tied at 30, the Cardinals’ Ricky Tatar kicked a 24-yard field goal to put St. John Fisher up by three, 33-30. On Alfred’s first possession of overtime, on the first play, freshman quarterback Tom Secky threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Bork to win it for the Saxons.

In the first three quarters, Alfred was running away with the game, and led 30-14 at the start of the fourth. But St. John Fisher scored 16 points in the final 15 minutes, setting up the extra period.

Two Fisher receivers went over 100 yards on the day, Eli Hayes, who caught 10 balls for 134 yards and two touchdowns and Tim Marion who called 14 passes for 134 yards.


The United States Merchant Marine Academy knocked out RPI from getting a berth to the NCAA playoffs with a 23-21 upset win on Saturday. Jimmy Robertson scored to make the score 23-21 with only a couple of minutes left, but the Mariners were able to make a couple of first downs to seal the victory for MMA.

Geoff Troy kicked three field goals to lift MMA to the victory. John Watson had a nice day running the football for the Mariners, carrying the ball 30 times for 146 times and two touchdowns against one of the better defenses in the Liberty League in RPI.

RPI’s Ray Davis had a great day, catching nine passes for 164 yards, but it wasn’t enough for the Engineers.

Great performances

Union’s Chris Coney had one of his best days of the year in the Dutchmen’s 51-45 shootout win over Susquehanna. Coney ran the ball 31 times for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Justin Gallo also had a terrific afternoon, catching six passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

Susquehanna’s Dave Paveletz was a little overshadowed, but he also had a good performance, rushing 37 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns, and quarterback Derek Pope threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns in the game.

Montclair State’s Jeff Bliss went over 1,000 yards for the Red Hawks, the 12th back in program history to do so, in a 21-17 loss against Kean.

Brockport had a receiver and running back both go over 100 yards as the Golden Eagles won the I-90 bowl over Buffalo State, 44-16.

Garet Lynch ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns in his last game at Bob Boozer Field at Brockport. Freshman Tamere Shannon had another nice day catching the football, snagging 10 passes for 138 yards in the rout.

King’s freshman running back Rich Maerten ran the ball 30 times for 128 yards in a 16-8 win over FDU-Florham on Saturday. Keep his name in mind for the next few years in the Middle Atlantic Conference.

WPI’s Justin Wells had nearly 300 yards of total offense as he led his team to a 21-20 victory over St. Lawrence on Saturday. Wells threw for 229 yards and a touchdown and ran for 65 more and another touchdown.

In the same game, St. Lawrence running back Eric Jones ran the ball 19 times for 145 yards and a touchdown and Saints defensive tackle Gerard Bryant made 11 tackles, 2.5 for loss and a sack.

Lycoming clinched the MAC automatic qualifier with a 23-15 win over Lebanon Valley on Saturday. Warrior kicker Scott Erikson kicked three field goals to help lead Lycoming to the victory. Josh Kleinfelter rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown as well. In the same game, Lebanon Valley’s Joe Brennan caught seven passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

Delaware Valley grabbed a share of the MAC title for the third time in five years with a 34-9 rout of Albright. The Aggie defense came up with 8 sacks and Matt Cook ran for 107 yards and a touchdown, his sixth 100-yard game of the season.

Kyle Gesswein made 10 tackles, had 3.5 sacks and blocked an extra point.

Hobart fifth-year senior Jeff Sanders made 15 tackles to lead Hobart in a 10-7 win over Rochester. Hobart won the Liberty League championship and faces Lycoming in the first round of the NCAA playoffs on Saturday.

Utica’s William Northey ran the ball 21 times for 104 yards and a touchdown in the Pioneers’ 31-21 loss against Hartwick. Hartwick’s Jason Boltus threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns and senior Jack Phelan caught five passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns.

Hartwick tailback Tosh Demulder ran for 150 yards on 20 carries in the win.

Springfield rushed for 471 yards as a team in the Pride’s 28-16 win over Norwich. Fullback Baldwin Cunningham ran the ball 30 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and Justin Fuller had 94 and Anthony Solano had 77 yards on just six carries.

In the same game, Norwich defensive lineman Reza Afsarmanesh made 14 tackles, 2.5 for loss, recovered a fumble and a sack.

Rowan junior quarterback Frank Wilczynski kept up his terrific season for the Profs, racking up 303 yards of offense in a 42-3 win over The College of New Jersey. Wilczynski threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 151 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Wilczynski has 30 total touchdowns (11 rushing and 19 passing) on the season. Ryan Leafey ran the ball 19 times for 159 yards as well.

Record-breakers/milestones

Kean’s Durell Dukes caught 12 passes for 128 yards, giving him 61 on the year, breaking his own school record. Another Kean player, Jared Chunn, ran for 59 yards, giving him 1,375 on the season, setting a new Cougar single-season record.

Morrisville’s Mel Betts set a career-high for the Mustangs, carrying the ball 21 times for 194 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s 39-8 win over Mount Ida. The Mustangs ran for 241 yards total in securing their first win of the season.

Brockport senior quarterback Zack Luke broke the Brockport single-season record for most passing yards in a season. Luke has thrown for 2,378 yards so far, breaking the record of 2,101 set by Jim Higgins back in 1990. Luke has thrown for 5,299 yards in his college career, second in school history.

Other minutiae

Every game in the Liberty League on Saturday was decided by six points or less.

Rob Johnson completed 15-for-28 for 198 yards and three touchdowns this week. Johnson, the quarterback at Wilkes, led the Colonels to a 30-27 win over Widener. The difference in the game was a Wilkes field goal, made by Chris Horn, a 47-yarder in the third quarter.

TCNJ kicker Marc Zucconi kicked a 49-yard field goal, one of the longest in Division III this season.

Predictions

Randolph-Macon at Mount Union

MUC makes Randolph-Macon feel bad that they got in as the East’s 8th seed. MUC 54-3.

Lycoming at Hobart
This is the best game of the region. Lycoming played Ithaca tough in both teams’ openers back in September, losing by only a point. Hobart beat RPI and only lost to Union by three for their only loss of the year. Hobart wins 24-23.

Plymouth State at Cortland State
Plymouth State won the NEFC championship for the first time, but the quality of the teams they play doesn’t matchup with the Red Dragons. Cortland wins 34-14.

Curry at Ithaca
Curry managed to get a Pool C berth over Rowan or Montclair State, and they’d have to win to prove that the NEFC deserves two bids in the future. Curry beat Hartwick, an Empire 8 team, last season in the first round of the playoffs, but this isn’t Hartwick, Ithaca 44-18.

ECAC predictions
St. John Fisher
RPI
Hartwick
Delaware Valley
Montclair State

A final note to my readers: Thank you for supporting me and reading my column. I look forward to putting it together every week and hopefully Pat Coleman will allow me to keep doing it in the future.

I have appreciated your e-mails and welcomed all the feedback and constructive criticisms.

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Andrew Lovell

Andrew Lovell is an associate news editor for ESPN.com and a former sports staff writer/editor for the New Britain Herald (Conn.). He has contributed freelance work to ESPN Rise and has been a regular contributor to D3football.com since 2007. Andrew has also written for a number of daily newspapers in New York, including the Poughkeepsie Journal, Ithaca Journal and Auburn Citizen. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2008 with B.A. in Sport Media and a minor in writing. A native of Hyde Park, N.Y., Andrew currently resides in New Britain. 

2006-10 columnist: Adam Samrov 

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