October 25, 2011

Tough places to play

Nobody has come into Trinity's house and won in quite a while.
Trinity (Conn.) athletics photo 

We've all seen the signs in the stands. They are waved with gusto as the visitors come onto the field: "Not in Our House." "Wecome to Cat Country." We have heard the fiery pregame oratory from captains or coaches: "Nobody comes into our house and disrespects us."

Few teams have ever taken care of their turf quite like Trinity. When the Bantams rolled past Bowdoin 31-0 it marked their 42nd consecutive victory at Jessee-Miller Field.

Trinity coach Jeff Devanney just as soon avoid the pressure and talk of the streak. It's hard enough to win in the New England Small College Athletic Conference..

"As a coach you try to avoid talking about it," Devanney said after the latest win on the home field. "But it has become like a topic now that you can't avoid.

"The players talk about it because they don't want to be the team that loses the streak."

What Devanney, a defensive guy from way back, does like to talk about is his defense. After all, it just pitched its third consecutive shutout.

"Our front seven is playing very well," he said. "We held them to under 40 yards. When you can make a team one-dimensional, it makes it a lot easier with defensive play calling."

What makes a home field an advantage? Certainly, the Bantams are just plain good. They have won a lot on the road, too. But when a home streak reaches 42 straight wins, players gain confidence and it all gets in the opponents' heads

Everybody has those places they dread going to.

"In our conference, (SUNY) Maritime is that place," Castleton State coach Marc Klatt said. "There's the Manhattan skyline and when a kid is in the big city for the first time, he is kind of captured by the environment. Their fans are real loud because the home team is on the other side away from the stands and they are right on top of us."

Framingham State coach Tom Kelley doesn't hesitate when asked for his toughest venue in the New England Football Conference.

"Maine Maritime. Absolutely," he said. "I always figured it was a two-touchdown advantage to them with the travel and everything else.  One of the end zones is right by a street and the fans line the street and they really give it to you.

"It's a tough place to play."

This year the Rams finally got a win in Castine. "I think it's the first time we've won up there in about 20 years," Kelley said.

Teams in the NEFC have one adjustment to make when they get to Plymouth State. Currier Field is the last grass surface remaining in the Boyd Division.

Plymouth coach Paul Castonia sees Castleton as a difficult place due to the atmosphere.

"We have only been there once," he said. "It's a great setting with all the tailgating and the big crowd and the band. They have done it right there. I am sure their guys get pumped up to play there."

Sometimes a venue can pose a problem for the visiting team just because of the game's placement on the schedule. Mickey Heinecken offers a classic example from when he coached at Middlebury.

Heinecken had a wealth of success, coaching the Panthers to 126 victories from 1973 through 2000, but he dreaded the trip to Bates.

"The weekend tended to fall on break week for the college so there were no fans. just a few loyal parents," Heinecken said. "Bates always had to beat us, but usually didn't have a good record so I was worried the kids wouldn't take them seriously.

"We were always coming off the previous week playing Williams, our big rival, so they were primed for an upset.

"The atmosphere was absolutely lousy, kind of like practice. We always had a tough game, but most of the time came out alive."

But nobody gets out of Hartford alive where the Bantams have taken the home field edge to a new level.

The streak goes on and the players derive confidence from it.

"We have won some games there we should have lost," Devanney said. Those were games like triple overtimes or scoring twice in the final minute to pull out a victory.

"We do have great fans. We are often in the top five in Division III in attendance," Devanney said. "Our alums are very active. Our players have a confidence level there."

The Bantams have now won 11 consecutive games and Hamilton, Tufts and Bowdoin have been shutout victims in successive weeks.

This time that defense was spearheaded by the likes of Walter Fallas (10 tackles with a sack) and Rae Haynes and Matt Paskalides with an interception each.

Ben Crick rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

Dorothy said there's no place like home. The Bantams have proven it. Forty-two times in a row.

Amherst keeps pace

Like the Bantams, the Amherst Lord Jeffs are 5-0. The teams are on pace for a battle of unbeatens on Nov. 5. Amherst did its part by trimming Wesleyan 24-10 behind Eric Bunker's 143 rushing yards with a touchdown. LaDarius Drew eclipsed the century mark once more, running for 107 yards and a TD for Wesleyan.

Midd's air force

It was the highest scoring game in the 117-year history of Bates football and Middlebury quarterback McCallum Foote was a huge part of it. Foote had his customary 400-yard passing game. This time he threw for 412 yards and five touchdowns as he led the Panthers to a 48-43 victory. Foote has thrown for 1,840 yards with 15 touchdowns in just five games.

It was a dramatic finish with Foote throwing the winning TD pass to Nick Resor with just 12 seconds left.

Williams quarterback Adam Marske also had a nice day through the air as he threw for 210 yards and two scores in a 38-17 win over Tufts.

Colby broke through for its first win, edging Hamilton 13-7 to gain some momentum for the first leg of the CBB Trophy game this week at home against Bates.

Lancers back on track

Worcester State started 5-0, lost two straight, but got back to winning by edging Coast Guard 31-30. It was another tough loss for the Bears who have had plenty of heartbreak this season. This time it was a missed 43-yard field goal on the final play of the game.

Tony Tokarz threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Lancers.

Mass. Maritime's cup runneth over

Massachusetts Maritime hoisted the Admiral's Cup for the first time in eight years, beating Maine Maritime 34-6.

Walter Butler had a big part in blowing up the Mariner attack. He had seven tackles, including a sack, and returned a fumble 48 yards for a touchdown.

Bradley Skeffington threw for two scores and ran for another in leading Salve Regina over MIT 36-13.

Bridgewater State raised it record to 5-2 by pitching a shutout against Fitchburg State. Mike McCarthy was a pig piece of the Bears' 42 points. He ran for a couple of scores and threw for one.

Curry kept Nichols winless, 31-20.

Western New England set up its showdown of undefeated teams in the Boyd Division by crushing Plymouth 49-7. Bryce Brown passed for three touchdowns and freshman Kareen Hines caught two of them. Kevin Cook also caught a touchdown pass and ran for two scores as the Golden Bears went to 7-1 and 5-0 in the Boyd.

Endicott did its part by beating Mass-Dartmouth 27-14 as Mike Lane collected 165 yards on the ground with a touchdown.  Dylan Rushe, Endicott's talented kicker from California, was good on two of three field goal attempts.

Rams stay perfect

Framingham State, another NEFC team that has it all going, raised its Bogan Division mark to 5-0.

But it was far from easy. Earlier in the week Kelley referred to Westfield State as a "pesky team" and the Owls were all of that and more. Framingham had to make a stop on fourth down with 28 seconds left to preserve the 27-24 victory.

Framingham's Dino Mancinelli passed for 274 yards and three touchdowns. The hot receiver was James McCarthy with 185 yards out of seven catches and two touchdowns.

Melikke Van Alstyne is the constant. He went over 100 yards rushing for the seventh time this season and his body or work for the year shows 1,219 rushing yards with 16 touchdowns or 152.4 yards per game.

"He's just an excellent runner," Kelley said. "I think he's the best runner in the New England Football Conference.

"He's not a big kid but he's put together pretty well. And he's got good speed.

"He struggled a little bit academically in high school so he went to Bridgton Academy and we were lucky enough to have a shot at him.

"We heard he was a great kid, a better kid than a football player, and that has turned out to be true.  He has worked very hard in the classroom."

Drama in the ECFC

The Eastern Collegiate Football Conference had a couple of dramatic games with Castleton State outlasting Anna Maria 39-34 and SUNY-Maritime edging Mount Ida 31-29.

Shane Brozowski passed for 452 yards and four touchdowns as the AmCats went to 0-26 for their program history.

They will not go through the season without a win. That's a guarantee.

Brandon Boyle and Zach Waitkus each had more than 90 receiving yards for the Spartans and each had a touchdown catch. Tyler Carpenter added two rushing touchdowns. Anna Maria's Santino Simone threw three TD passes but suffered five interceptions.

Who knew Madison Leary's 41-yard field goal that opened the scoring would wind up being the difference for SUNY-Maritime which stayed undefeated in the ECFC and against Division III competition?

Jamie Spanopoulos had 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Privateers in their sixth consecutive win. They are 16-1 in the regular season over the last two years.

Norwich University stayed on course for the clash of unbeatens in the league when they meet the Privateers in two weeks. The Cadets cruised past Husson 41-7.

Gallaudet got its ECFC win with Quentin Williams rushing for 138 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-20 victory over Gallaudet. Ryne Worsham caught two touchdown passes.

The Big Games

The schedule did us a favor in the NEFC. It's always great to have teams meeting with unbeaten records and everything else on the line this late and that will be the case in Springfield, Mass., where Endicott and Western New England collide. Endicott also is trying to go through the campain unbeaten overall. The Gulls are 8-0 and the Golden Bears 7-1.

Trinity and Amherst try to set up their battle of the unbeatens on Nov. 5, but they each must do it on the road. Amherst is at Tufts and Trinity at Middlebury.

Trinity appears to have the tougher task. The Bantams have found Middlebury to be a land mine in the recent years and must deal with the Panthers' prolific passer McCallum Foote.

Anna Maria is trying to get that elusive first win and wouldn't former Norwich assistant coach Marc Klaiman love to get it back in Northfield against the Cadets. This one might not be the stroll in the park it appears to be on paper for the Cadets.

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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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