November 8, 2011

Once-in-a-lifetime players, games

More news about: Anna Maria | Mass-Dartmouth | Norwich
John Cordasco had a finalist for Play of the Week two weeks ago.
Mass-Dartmouth athletics photo

Endicott coach J.B Wells has called Kevin Eagan a once-in-a-lifetime player. Eagan, who was ready to play at Division I Rutgers before opting  to play at Endicott, had another big day with 15 tackles, including nine solo stops.

But UMass-Dartmouth coach Mark Robichaud feels he has his own once-in-lifetime guy on the Corsairs' defensive unit.

John Cordasco is among the leading tacklers in the New England Football Conference, but what brands the senior linebacker as unique this season is that he has scored four defensive touchdowns, two with interception returns and two by returning fumbles.

"That's amazing," Robichaud said.  "I have been doing this a long time, about 25 years, and I can't even remember a player with four defensive touchdowns in a season. Not even close."

Hard to believe but Robichaud didn't even want Cordasco when he was a high school senior in New Jersey looking to play college ball someplace. Cordasco was considering Springfield College, but his desired major of civil engineering was not available there.

"I did a search and UMass-Dartmouth came up and I saw that it had football," Cordasco said.

Robichaud looked at his film and was not impressed. He was not even going to invite him to camp.

"I told him three different times he couldn't come to camp, but he kept calling," Robichaud said. "I didn't think he could play for us. That's how smart I am."

"He thought I was a little too small to play," Cordasco said. "I had to keep bugging him a little bit."

There was something about Cordasco that did not show up on that film.

"He's driven to succeed," Robichaud said. "He's just a great kid. All he does is train and lift. He's such a weight room kid."

"I was kind of down," Cordasco said of the early rejection from Robichaud.

"But that made me try a little harder. It helped me a lot."

The Corsairs progressed right along with their middle linebacker. They have gone from 0-10 to 3-7 to 5-5 this season. The first win over Curry in seven years was one of the highlights. "There was a little more edge in practice that week," Cordasco said.

He is happy he came to UMass-Dartmouth and that he was undeterred when he got that icy reception four years ago.

"Some of my best college memories are about playing football. I have no regrets whatsoever," Cordasco said.

Cordasco said being moved from outside linebacker to middle linebacker has helped his game.

"It fits me a lot better," he said. "I noticed when I began playing it that my reads were fast."

"He is athletic and has great instincts. He's always in the right place," Robichaud said. "He's unstoppable.

All the way to the end zone.

Breaking through at Anna Maria

You want another once-in-a-lifetime moment? Your program only wins its first game once. Anna Maria had to wonder if it was ever going to come since playing its first football game on Sept. 5, 2009.

It finally did. the AmCats bear Becker 35-33 with quarterback Santino Simone throwing for 237 yards and a touchdown and running for another 153 with three touchdowns.

"There's a big monkey running from Paxton and into Worcester," Anna Maria coach Marc Klaiman said. "It's a big monkey off our back. The kids were pressing to make plays."

The AmCats had come so close. Castleton beat them 56-52 on a touchdown pass with 15 seconds remaining. They thought they had beaten Gallaudet until a call voided that outcome.

"I've been around good teams and I've been around bad teams," Klaiman said. "I told the kids I was sure we were a good team and that we just had to get over the hump.

"Becker's a good team. They are athletic and they can run."

Now, the AmCats want to end the season with two wins, building momentum for the offseason. Klaiman says it will not be easy against winless Husson.

"They are going to want to get that first win and we want to get the next one. It should be a great game," Klaiman said.

Klaiman said he received numerous emails and texts of congratulations, including many from his ECFC coaching brethren.

Cadets in NCAAs

They have been playing football well over a hundred years at Norwich University and now they have an NCAA playoff game to go on that lengthy resume. The Cadets clinched their berth with a 16-9 victory at SUNY-Maritime in a battle of teams that were unbeaten in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.

Field goal kickers were front and center. And right down the center of the uprights. Norwich's Long Ding and Maritime's Madison Leary were each three-for-three and Ding's day included a 51-yarder. Quarterback Kris Sabourin and  Andrew Fulford each ran for more than 100 yards for the Cadets, who finish 7-3 and 7-0 in the league.

It was the first league loss for the Privateers since 2009.

Also in the ECFC, Shane Brozowski had another prolific day throwing. He passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns in leading Castleton State College to a 40-20 win over Husson. Brandon Boyle was his prime target with 109 receiving yards and a touchdown.

The other ECFC game saw Mount Ida's Johrone Bunch doing it all. He ran for 160 yards and two touchdowns and threw for another score in a 28-12 victory over Gallaudet.

WNE tunes up for the big one

Western New England will be in the New England Football Conference Championship Game against Framingham State and they got ready for it by running their Boyd Division record to 7-0, beating UMass-Dartmouth 28-12.

Bryce Brown led the Golden Bears by running for a couple of touchdowns and throwing for another as Cordasco finished his career for UMD with 14 tackles, including three for a loss.

Milestone for Cullen

Worcester State earned the 150th career victory for coach Brien Cullen and in the process the Lancers stated their case for an ECAC Bowl by trimming Framingham State 27-13 to finish at 8-2.

Worcester quarterback Tony Tokarz accounted for 248 yards of total offense and passed for two scores.

Coast Guard has so many cruel last-minute losses this year, but this time the Bears left nothing to chance. They crushed Maine Maritime 52-15 with Jarrod Owens passing for 334 yards and four touchdowns. Doing much of the catching was Tyler Hames. He had 13 receptions for 111 yards.

Bridgewater State got the Cranberry scoop back after losing it last season. The Bears edged Mass. Maritime 38-35 in the Cranberry Bowl behind game MVP Mike McCarthy.

First-year coach Kevin Loney knew it would take time to build something at Nichols. The Bison finished 0-10, but served notice things are going in the right direction as they played a good (7-3) Salve Regina team tough, bowing 37-27.

Mark Moore kicked three field goals for Salve.

Curry got to the .500 mark in its season finale with a 38-14 win over Plymouth State. The Colonels built a 28-0 lead by halftime as Anthony Carnevale threw two TD passes in the second quarter. Robert Bambini was nearly unstoppable with 122 receiving yards and two touchdown grabs.

Endicott is waiting after a 36-24 win over MIT. The Gulls just aren't sure what they are waiting for. They hope the 9-1 record, marred only by a three-point loss to Boyd Division kingpin Framingham, will be enough for an NCAA bid. If not. an ECAC Bowl would be the other prize.

Endicott quarterback Phil Konopka threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns and Mike Lane complemented him with 125 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Westfield State defeated Fitchburg State 34-7, scoring all 34 in the first half and 28 in the opening quarter. Tyler Dow passed for three touchdowns.

NESCAC showdown goes to Jeffs

Amherst won the battle of unbeatens in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. The Lord Jeffs defeated Trinity 35-28, ending the Bantams 12-game winning streak.

Amherst will take a 7-0 record into the Biggest Little Game in America against 5-2 Williams.

The Bantams trailed 35-7 before staging a furious charge back.

Amherst's Eric Bunker ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns and his brother Evan Bunker amassed 122 rushing yards with two touchdowns for Trinity.

Life is a little better in Waterville, Maine these days. Colby began the season 0-4, but the White Mules have won three in a row and will try to win the CBB Trophy outright now by beating Bowdoin this week.

Colby quarterback Nick Kmetz ran for two touchdowns.

Middlebury's McCallum Foote threw four touchdown passes and Zach Driscoll caught two of them as the Panthers toppled Hamilton 40-21. Remi Ashkar gave some balance to the air show, running for two touchdowns. Zach Roeder was a monster on defense for the Panthers. He had 13 tackles with two sacks as the Panthers won the Old Rocking Chair.

Williams put itself in a position to win The Little Three. They can do that this week by upsetting Amherst. The Ephs edged Wesleyan 19-17 as Joe Mallock nailed a 40-yard field goal with 4:48 remaining.

Bates kept the the Bowdoin offense out of the end zone to win the game between Maine rivals 24-2. Patrick George rushed for three touchdwons and Gilbert Brown, Andrew Kukesh and Kyle Starr had interceptions to contribute to the stellar defensive effort.

The Big Games

Always, it begins with The Biggest Little Game in America. This where you get the biggest crowd in the Northeast. The game is always televised and playing before 12,000 or so is one giant rush for the players.

Amherst has the undefeated season at stake. Williams has to be relishing the thought of costing its rival that perfect mark. Thrown into this huge package is the matter of the Little Three (Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan) title.

And then, there's that battle of Connecticut in the NESCAC between Wesleyan and Trinity.

There's an NCAA berth on the line at Framingham State where the Rams will clash with Western New England in the NEFC title game.

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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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