September 5, 2013

Games to watch for 2013

I was on the phone with Coast Guard coach Bill George this summer and told him about our youngest daughter Virginia's kidney transplant in July. Meghan, one of our other daughters gave her the kidney in Colorado.

"You should write that story. That's a better story than anything you could write about football," George said.

Who said football coaches don't have perspective?

Matter of fact, all of Division III football has things in perspective. That's one thing that makes it the great game that it is. There are special things going on in Division III football from Westfield to Linfield; from Trinity in Connecticut to Trinity on Texas. You will read about them in every column on this site throughout the season.

There will be players registering for bone marrow donations. There will be entire teams aiding communities that have been struck down by a natural disaster. There will be teams putting light in the darkness of children who are battling life threatening illnesses. There will be players rallying around a teammate who has lost a parent or sibling or the family home.

These are deeds being done every year by players who leave it all on the field and go to class every day.

The world of Division III football is a special one and we will do everything we can to capture it here every week in every region of the country.

There is, of course, plenty of excitement on the field, also. And here are 10 games to watch in the Northeast in 2013:

1. Sept. 7, Springfield at Western New England. The Pride and WNE inhabit the same neighborhood in the same city. Yet, they have not played. Western New England coach Keith Emery says now that they are finally getting together, he hopes it will be a game played for the next 100 years. It's great for the city and with both teams expected to be strong, the series should get off to a rousing start.

2. Sept, 12, SUNY-Maritime at Mass. Maritime. It is the sixth annual Chowder Bowl and there's plenty of pride on the line between two similar institutions. Mass. Maritime is still looking for its first win in the series.

3. Oct. 5, Gallaudet at Mount Ida. These are teams receiving first-place votes in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference preseason coaches poll. Ida is the defending champion and has to feel good about getting the Bison at home.

4. Oct, 26, Trinity at Middlebury. Last year, the Panthers went to Trinity unbeaten and got their nose bloodied, 45-7. It was Trinity that ran the table, finishing 8-0. Trinity never loses in Hartford so the Panthers have to feel good that the Bantams must come to Middlebury this season. Middlebury finished 7-1 and the record-setting passer Mac Foote is back. Could be a classic. Could be the one that determines the NESCAC champion.

5. Nov. 2, Norwich at Mount Ida. Another ECFC battle between contenders who received first-place votes in the poll. These two met in the first ECFC Championship Game in 2009. This could wind up meaning just as much.

6. Nov. 9, Framingham State at Bridgewater State. This is a meeting of 2012 NCAA playoff teams and one that could well decide the champion of the new MASCAC.

7. Nov. 9, Wesleyan at Trinity. If the Trinity-Middlebury did not decide the NESCAC kingpin, this meeting of Connecticut rivals might. Trinity has been an annual power, but Wesleyan has steadily been rising under coach Mike Whalen. It is not a remote possibility that a title and unbeaten season could be the stakes.

8. Nov. 9, Amherst at Williams. Biggest Little Game in America. Crowd is 10,000 or more. Enough said.

9. Nov. 9, Norwich at Castleton. A state rivalry game for the Maple Sap Bucket. It has become an eagerly anticipated game that fills the void ever since Middlebury and Norwich stopped playing one another back in 1991. And if both teams can find a replacement for the quarterbacks that had great four-year runs, this game could be for much more than the Maple Sap Bucket and state pride.

10.Nov. 16, Bridgewater State at Massachusetts Maritime. Bridgewater might have the distinction of being the first MASCAC champion riding on this one. But the Bucs won't be an easy out in the 35th Cranberry Bowl.

Now to honor coach George's suggestion: The two girls in Colorado are doing great. Virginia recently completed a 14-mile hike. Everyone in the family rallied as all the other kids were lined up and willing to be the donor if Meghan wasn't a match. Evan (youngest son) had just sent in his paper work to be tested in the event Meghan's kidney didn't work out. Then, while we were still in Colorado, we learned that Evan had taken second place in a cooking contest and had his prize money going to the National Kidney Foundation.

It was a team effort.

I was proud of the kids, just as I am the players on these 244 football teams in our Division III fraternity.

Division III football. Nothing like it.

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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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