November 18, 2009

Finally, acceptance

For the past two seasons, I’ve complained and had hope with Mount Union being moved into the “East” bracket.

This year, I’m going in a third direction.

I think the committee did a great job in picking the eight-team bracket for the 32-team tournament.

Joy Solomen, the athletic director at Rowan and the chair for the NCAA committee, decided, along with the committee to move only Mount Union from the North Region as the No. 1 seed and Washington and Jefferson from the South Region (the Presidents Athletic Conference) as the purported eighth seed, a Pool C representative.

(Yes, I know there’s no “seeds,” which is another whole column by itself.)

Many D3 pundits, including myself, (can I call myself a pundit?) believe W&J was the 32nd team to make the field.

All the other six teams were true East representatives.

Delaware Valley vs. Susquehanna
Delaware Valley, the Middle Atlantic Conference champions at 7-0 in conference and 9-1 overall, were the two seed and will face off against Liberty League champion Susquehanna in Doylestown, Pa.

Susquehanna went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in conference with the loss to Merchant Marine Academy when sophomore starting quarterback Rich Palazzi was out
with a shoulder injury.

Each team has been a member of the MAC and Susquehanna has a record of 26-17 in the series, starting back in 1951. While Delaware Valley dominated the MAC, Susquehanna struggled at the beginning of the year, starting 3-2 with losses to Lycoming and Merchant Marine. But the Crusaders won the rest of the games to get the first-round matchup against the Aggies.

Both teams have an extremely balanced attack. The Aggies have quarterback Mike Isgro, who was hurt earlier in the year but ended up throwing for more than 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior Matt Cook was the leading rusher in the MAC at more than 110 yards per game.

For Susquehanna, senior Dave Paveletz broke the single-season rushing record on a game-clinching 25-yard touchdown run against the Dutchmen. He leads the Liberty League in rushing with nearly 1,400 yards, and is ninth in the country in rushing yards per game with 134.

The Aggie defense, led by senior Kyle Gesswein, can’t focus all their attention on Paveletz, however. Palazzi led the Liberty League in passing efficiency, and has defenses honest, not allowing them to put eight or nine defenders in the box to stop Paveletz.

Susquehanna is in the playoffs for the first time since a semifinal run back in 1991, when they fell to eventual national champions Ithaca, and the eight wins in 2009 is the most for the Crusaders in the d3football.com era.

“It’s a great feeling to be in,” said senior running back Dave Paveletz. “We’ve had a chance to turn this program around and we’ve done that.”

Albright vs. Alfred
The A’s have it for the presumptive 3-6 matchup. Alfred, the Empire 8 champions after a 56-30 win over Utica, is in the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1981. They get a home game against the only East Region Pool C, Albright, a team who finished at 8-2 and 6-1 in conference in the MAC, the only loss coming against Delaware Valley in what turned out to be the MAC title game, a game DVC dominated.

Albright was in a winner-take-all contest for one of the final six Pool C spots into the 32-team tournament against Lebanon Valley, a team that had one of its best seasons ever.

The Lions got down 23-0 early after Tanner Kelly was injured in the first quarter. Patrick Subers came in and never missed a beat. He led the Lions all the way back to tie the game at 30 at the end of regulation. The teams traded touchdowns through two overtimes, but LVC coach Jim Monos decided to go for two and the win on the second possession. The conversion failed, and Albright was in; it was just a matter of making it official on Sunday during the selection show.

Subers threw for 362 yards and five touchdowns for the Lions.

Albright has scored nearly 35 points a game this year, but their opponent, Alfred, also has a high powered offense. The Saxons’ lowest point total, except the Ithaca game, was 31 in a 31-28 win over St. John Fisher.

They stumbled against the Bombers, but more than made up for it in a 56-30 win over Utica.

Sophomore quarterback sensation Tom Secky tied Paul Keeley’s 2007 record with six touchdown throws against the Pioneers. He threw for 369 yards and he looks ready to go for the tournament.

The Saxons have the 17th best scoring offense in the country and Secky has thrown 25 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions. But if the Lions focus on the passing game, senior running back Vinson Hendrix could beat them instead.

Hendrix is eighth in the nation in rushing yards per game at 136 and has rushed for 1,223 yards this year. Another player Albright will need to watch out for is Jared Manzer. The senior plays both wide receiver and safety and is excellent on both sides of the ball.

Manzer has more than 1,000 yards receiving this year, after catching 7 passes for 187 yards against UC. He also has 15 touchdowns. The senior also has five interceptions on the defensive side of the ball, and two of those were returned for touchdowns.

This is Alfred’s first NCAA bid since 1981, and look for them to make it count on Saturday.

Maine Maritime vs. Montclair State
The 4-5 matchup is the only one the committee could really do based on the NCAA’s own rules, and it’s another case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. The NCAA prefers to avoid flights in the first round, so since Maine Maritime made the field after winning the New England Football Conference title over Curry, the only game they can drive to is against Montclair State, a 462-mile trek (according to the NCAAs system) from Castine, Maine to Montclair, N.J.

Montclair won the New Jersey Athletic Conference with a 13-6 win over No. 24 Kean on Saturday.

Despite the long drive, Maine Maritime, who rushed for a record 730 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in one game against Coast Guard, could also win. Montclair State is second in the NJAC in defense, behind Rowan, 26th in total defense in the country and 19th in the nation against the run.

But Maine Maritime, behind Jim Bower’s 163 yards per contest, runs the triple option, and MSU hasn’t seen anything close to what the Mariners will be running this weekend.

The Mariners are No. 1 in the nation in rushing with more than 416 yards per game, they are seventh in total offense and fourth in scoring offense and nearly 40 per game, including 75 against Coast Guard.

Other than a loss to Bridgewater where they scored only 14 and a 21-13 win against Westfield, they’ve scored at least 35 in every game.

I think this is a good bracket. All roads may end in Alliance, but teams like Delaware Valley, a solid No. 2 seed and Alfred, a No. 3 seed, have a good chance to win first-round playoff games.

So far, there have been many complaints from the fans for the rest of the bracket, and then we find out the committee didn’t even seed the teams, but I think the East region bracket is as good as it could be with regards to how the East beat each other up this year.

Susquehanna got the automatic bid and a share of the Liberty League championship with a 28-17 win over Union on Saturday. Dave Paveletz ran for 116 yards, including the clinching 25-yard touchdown run with 3:30 left in the game. The touchdown run came on an outside zone play, Paveletz said.

“We ran the play earlier in the fourth quarter and it was stopped, and Coach (Steve) Briggs said that we would come back to it, and to bounce it outside,” Paveletz said. “We came back to it and I saw a hole and took it toward the pylon and got into the end zone. J.J. (Moran) had a great block on the play too.”

Paveletz was humble when asked about the record, and preferred to give the credit to his offensive line.

“They’re there right alongside me,” Paveletz said.

Union junior running back Chris Coney rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns, despite an injured leg.

“We were playing eight in the box and we could stop him early, but we couldn’t take him out of his rhythm,” Briggs said.

After the game, Briggs’ father came onto the field as the team was going back to the locker room and gave his son a huge hug.

“We did it,” Briggs simply said.

Cortaca

Ithaca kept the Cortaca Jug with a 23-20 win over Cortland at Butterfield Stadium.
The younger guys got it done for the Bombers, as junior Dan Ruggiero ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 35 carries and sophomore Andrew Rogowski kicked three field goals to seal the third straight Jug win for Ithaca.

Sophomore Kevin Cline had a big game defensively for Ithaca, snagging two of the Bombers four takeaways with a fumble and interception return.

Rogowski’s three field goals gave him a school-record 12 in one season. Ithaca overcame a 3-for-14 performance on third down.Cortland’s Alex Smith threw for 209 yards and three touchdowns. Eric Hajnos caught one of the touchdowns, and now has eight on the year going into the ECACs.

Both schools finished at 7-3 overall, Ithaca declined an ECAC bid, but Cortland will play St. John Fisher next Saturday afternoon.

LL awards

Susquehanna took most of the Liberty League awards, handed out by the league this week. Crusaders Dave Paveletz (Offensive Player of the Year), Bobby Eppelman (Special Teams POY), Jalon Scott (ROY) and Coach Steve Briggs (Coach of the Year) got four of the five awards.

St. Lawrence senior defensive tackle earned the Defensive Player of the Year honor after a season racking up 91 tackles, 23 for loss, 3 forced fumbles and 10.5 sacks.

MAC awards

Albright quarterback Tanner Kelly was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.

Other minutiae

 

William Paterson’s Joel Rivera was named to a Division III All-Star game, the Tazon de Estrellas (Bowl of Stars). He’ll also play in the Senior Classic on Dec. 5 in Salem, Va.

St. Lawrence’s Eric Jones rushed for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown in a 24-21 win over WPI. In the same game, SLU senior Connor Hackett rushed for his 27th career TD, breaking a 31-year old school record.

The St. Lawrence defense had eight sacks and created five turnovers in the victory.

In the I-90 bowl, Brockport defeated Buffalo State 48-30. Jake Graci has turned into Jason Boltus this year, and his game against the Bengals was no different.

Graci threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns and receivers Hector Rosasa and Matt Newman both had more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown.

In the Centennial Cup, Hobart beat Rochester, 34-20. Tyler Vincent was the leader for the Statesmen, catching nine passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Vincent is sixth in career catches and ninth in yards in Hobart history.

Kapps Killingstad threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns in the loss for the Yellowjackets.

Rowan senior quarterback Frank Wilczynski had 378 yards of total offense in a 39-0 shutout of TCNJ. Wilczynski threw for 238 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 140 yards and three more touchdowns for the Profs, who ended the season at 7-3 overall.

RPI freshman Matt Wood ran for a career-high 102 yards in the Engineers’ 13-10 win over Merchant Marine Academy. In the same game, Merchant Marine freshman Alex Coviello ran for 124 yards and a touchdown.

In the Mayor’s Cup, King’s rushed for nearly 400 yards in a 33-16 win over Wilkes.

St. John Fisher senior Brad Carlton rushed for 153 yards and four touchdowns, both career highs in a 56-13 win over Hartwick.

NCAA predictions

Mount Union vs. Washington and Jefferson
Many believe W&J shouldn’t even be in the field, with a lower opponents’ winning percentage, and Mount Union, despite the fact that the Presidents’ coach, Mike Sirianni, is a MUC alum, will make them wish they hadn’t gotten in the tourney in the first place.
MUC 49, W&J 7

Maine Maritime vs. Montclair State
The winner of this game will be determined on who breaks first – the triple option offense of Maine Maritime or Montclair’s defense.
Montclair 21, Maine Maritime 16

Albright vs. Alfred
Both high-powered offense, the home-field advantage at Merrill could be the difference.
Alfred 31, Albright 28

Delaware Valley vs. Susquehanna
DVC’s only loss was to No. 3 Wesley. If the Aggie defense can stop Paveletz, they’ll walk into the next round.
Delaware Valley 30, Susquehanna 14

ECAC predictions

Plymouth State at Springfield – Springfield
Hartwick at Union – Union
Cortland at SJF – St. John Fisher
Salisbury at LVC – Lebanon Valley
Ursinus at Kean – Kean

Thanks again for reading my columns in 2009, I look forward to writing again next year and to seeing a lot of you in 2010.

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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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