October 10, 2011

Bunkers' battle awaiting just over the hill

More news about: Amherst | Trinity (Conn.)
Amherst's Eric Bunker
Evan Bunker
Amherst's Eric Bunker, top, and Trinity's Evan Bunker are on a collision course.
Amherst, Trinity file photos 

There are two undefeated teams remaining in the New England Small College Athletic Conference and they each have a Bunker in the backfield.

Amherst stayed unbeaten by outgunning Middlebury 42-28 with Eric Bunker rushing for 130 yards and four touchdowns. Trinity spanked Hamilton 35-0 for its 41st consecutive victory at Jessee-Miller Field with Evan Bunker romping for 108 yards and two touchdowns.

The Lord Jeffs and Bantams both can't stay perfect forever. The Bantams travel to Amherst on Nov. 5.

The teams were 6-0 when they met last season. Imagine the conflict of parents Lauren and David Bunker as they watched their boys on opposite teams.

"Mom had a scarf that was both purple and gold. My little brother wore a Trinity hat and Amherst jersey," Evan said. "They sat on the 50-yard line and rooted for the team on offense."

Rooting for the offenses can be fun. Evan and Eric are a threat for the 100-yard game each time they take the field.

But what does the family do on all the other Saturdays?

"They look at the schedule and try to pick the biggest game or the closest game," Evan said.

That would be the closest game to Topsfield, Mass., where the Bunkers used to play together, wearing the uniform of Masconomet Regional High School.

This year will be the final time for playing against one another for Eric is a senior.

Eric was looking at schools in the Ivy and Patriot leagues as well as the NESCAC. He went to prep school and when he visited Amherst he was sold.

"I committed early decision. I really liked my visit. I liked the campus and the coaches," he said.

Then, he got a pretty big surprise when he found out his younger brother, now a sophomore at Trinity, was coming to a NESCAC rival.

"He wasn't even looking at the NESCAC, so when he said he was going to Trinity, I was shocked," Eric said.

"I was close to going to Union and I was also looking at UNH (New Hampshire). Trinity came into the recruiting process late," Evan said. "I visited and I loved it."

Evan said in some ways he has been competing against his older brother all his life.

"There was always that brotherly competition," he said. "And we played with each other in high school. Now, it's really cool to be on the other side. Not many brothers can say they have done that."

Last year Evan logged a school-record 45 carries against Amherst.

"We had a new quarterback and we were looking to run the ball more in that game. But we didn't have any plans for me to get 45 carries," Evan said.

Not surprisingly, with two siblings in the NESCAC, education was stressed in the Bunker home.

"My parents always stressed grades. My grandparents, aunts and uncles were all over us about our grades," Evan said.

"It was always education first," Eric said. "The main objective was for football to help get us into a better school."

There is a lot of football to be played and plenty can change before Nov. 5. But a battle of unbeaten teams with the Bunkers on the field becomes more of a possibility as the weeks go by.

"It's always in the back of your mind, but we just try to take it one game at a time," Evan said.

They each pile up impressive statistics, but they do it in different ways.

"It's hard to know your own style, but from what people have said, I am more of an inside power runner. I get my 4 or 5 yards and go on to the next play.

"Eric is more of a finesse runner and he's a little faster."

Eric concurs.

"He's a little bit bigger and more of a downhill runner," he said.

"The Trinity game always has huge implications," Eric said. "It's not Williams, but we hate them just as much.

"And my brother is another player on the other team. He's wearing the other jersey.

"After the game we get back to being brothers."

One of the best things about being an Amherst or Williams player is the game against one another, Division's III's longest rivalry and one with tons of passion and pageantry.

"It's a phenomenal experience," Eric said of the Williams game. "You are playing before a crowd of upwards og 10,000. The game is televised on NESN and it's shown around the world.

"People I don't even know are coming up to me saying, 'Beat Williams.'"

The Amherst-Williams game has the tag "Biggest Little Game in America."

But for the Bunker family, the biggest game of all comes a week earlier. 

Offense on display for Jeffs, Panthers

It wasn't all Eric Bunker and his four touchdowns. Matt Rawson kicked two field goals to become Amherst's all-time leader with 23 and Middlebury's McCallum Foote threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns.

Bobcats' revenge

Bates had had enough from Williams. That made the Bobcats' 35-26 win over the Ephs on the road plenty sweet. It marked the first time since 2003 Bates had beaten Williams and the first time since 2002 the 2-1 Bobcats had won two straight games.

Ryan Curit ran for 102 yards and a touchdown for Bates and Trevor Smith fired three touchdown passes with John Squires catching two of them.

Polar eclipse

The Bowdoin Polar Bears made some history. It is thought to be the first time two players on the same team returned an interception at least 99 yards for a  score. Griffin Cardew took his pick back 100 yards and roommate Joey Cleary returned his interception 99 yards for a TD.

Best of all for Bowdoin, it was a 27-6 victory over Tufts.

The other Maine NESCAC team was not as fortunate. Wesleyan beat Colby 28-21 behind LaDarius Drew. Drew, quickly branding himself as one of the best backs in the NESCAC, ran for 114 yards and three touchdowns. One his scores was a burst of 72 yards.

Rams keep it going

Framingham State continues to be a big story in the New England Football Conference. The Rams keep going down the depth chart to find new quarterbacks as injuries strike again and again. But they are 3-0 in the Bogan Division of the NEFC after whipping Fitchburg State 41-7.

This time it was Dino Mancinelli throwing three TD passes with James McCarthy hauling in two of them.

Melikke Van Alstyne took much of the pressure off him by collecting 171 yards on 26 carries while scoring two touchdowns.

Lancers suffer first loss

Worcester State lost for the first time in the sixth game of the season. Knocking the Lancers from the ranks of the unbeaten was Massachusetts Maritime and the Bucs did it in dramatic fashion with Matt White scoring with 40 seconds left for the 23-19 victory.

Walter Butler was a wrecking crew for the Bucs. He had 11 tackles, three for a loss, along with a forced fumble that set up the winning touchdown. He also blocked his third kick of the season.

Bridgewater State got plenty out of Mike McCarthy in a 34-16 victory over Coast Guard. He ran for two scores and threw for two.

Salve Regina got the same type of performance from freshman quarterback Bradley Skeffington in a 38-7 thumping of UMass-Dartmouth.  Skeffington threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns and ran for one.

Maine Maritime bounced back from its loss to Worcester State by edging Westfield State 36-34 in two overtimes. Maine Maritime quarterback Matt Rende had 151 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

Mulcahy picks off MIT

Plymouth State's Christian Mulcahy intercepted two passes and kicked a 42-yard field goal to help the Panthers to a 30-27 win over MIT. Mulcahy, who seems to distinguish himself on special teams and everywhere else on the field each week, had help from Andrew Foglia and Dustin Matthews. Foglia rushed for 118 yards and Matthews for two touchdowns.

More glory for the Gulls

Endicott stayed on course for accomplishing something memorable. The Gulls stretched their record to 6-0 by whipping Nichols 51-14 as Phil Konopka threw for three touchdowns and workhorse Mike Lane had 131 yards to show for his 30 carries. Konopka's roommate Ryan Carino caught two touchdown passes.

Western New England can't be counted out of anything. The Golden Bears extended their record to 5-1 and 3-0 in the Boyd Division with a 37-20 victory over Curry. WNE freshman running back Kevin Cook rushed for 91 yards and scored his first two collegiate touchdowns.

Taste of Maple sweet for Cadets

The Norwich Cadets took home the Maple Sap Bucket for the third straight year, beating Vermont rival Castleton 40-21. Norwich quarterback Kris Sabourin roared 63 yards to a touchdown on the game's first play from scrimmage and ran for an 89-yard TD later in the first quarter. Sabourin finished with 229 yards and three touchdowns. Andrew Fulford added 153 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman Derrick Pitts contributed 68 yards rushing and 52 more receiving.

"Our offense controlled the football and that's exactly what we wanted to do," Norwich coach Mark Murnyack said.

The Cadets are 3-0 in the ECFC after an 0-3 start.

"Those three (nonleague) games helped us to get our game together," Norwich senior safety Sean Stone said.

Gallaudet smothered Husson 35-0 as Gabriel Paulone and Nick Elstad each threw touchdown passes.

Mount Ida won its ECFC game in a big way, 56-7 over Anna Maria. The big guns in the Mustang attack were again Johrone Bunch and Scott Drosendahl. Bunch amassed 211 yards and a touchdown. Drosendahl threw for threescores and ran for two.

Anna Maria, which started football in 2009, is still looking for its first win and will try again at home this week against Castleton.

SUNY-Martitime stayed unbeaten in the ECFC and against Division III competition by rolling past Becker, 47-15.

The Big Games

Amherst and Trinity try to keep pace with one another and each must win on the road. Amherst is at Colby and Trinity at Tufts.

Plymouth never seems to impress anyone early, quietly gets better and then is playing big games late in the season. The Panthers, 4-1 and 2-1 in the Boyd, will try to become the first team to take down the Gulls when they travel to Endicott.

Norwich is unbeaten at the top of the ECFC, but the Cadets could get a stern test when Gallaudet comes to Northfield.

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Tom Haley

A seven time Vermont sportswriter of the year, Tom Haley has been with the Rutland Herald since 1987. He was inducted into the Castleton State College Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Contributor to Football Award from the National Football Foundation's Vermont Chapter.

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