|The Seahawks have taken it
easy on Richie Edwards' knee, but when he's in there, he's tearing
it up for Salve Regina.
Salve Regina athletics photo
Football is hard. Nobody loves it like the Division III athlete and that's what gets them through the hardest times of all.
"I love Division III. The kids play it because they love it," Fitchburg State coach Patrick Haverty said.
That's stating the obvious. Everyone knows the kids love the game, going to practice each day, committing all the time in the offseason. But sometimes the love is tested and then they find out how much they really love the game.
Salve Regina coach Kevin Gilmartin saw his top running back Richie Edwards' passion for the game as he came back from a knee injury that put him on the shelf for much of 2012.
"His will to get back was impressive," Gilmartin said. "A knee injury is tough because you don't feel much progress when you can't walk or bend your knee. But he kept working."
The doctor cleared Edwards to play in the opener this year but the Seahawk coaches held him out for a couple of games.
"He wanted to play but we held him out the first two games and then we had a bye week," Gilmartin said. "He missed the first month. The minute he went onto the field he was 100 percent."
Edwards was also held out this week because of the long bus ride to Maine Maritime. Gilmartin wanted to make sure his leading rusher has fresh legs for the final two weeks as the Seahawks try to go unbeaten in the New England Football Conference. The stretch run ends with a showdown against Endicott, a team also unbeaten in the league.
Despite missing the three full games, Edwards leads the Seahawk backs with 635 yards.
There was no need for him against the Mariners as Dan Buonocore rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown in a 42-8 win. They also had the balance that Gilmartin strives for as Steven Wilken threw for 347 yards and three scores.
Haverty saw that same passion to get back from an injury in middle linebacker Talib Barksdale. He missed the first three games with a leg injury.
"Somebody else might have been out much longer," Haverty said.
Barksdale was a tight end in junior college but the Falcons needed a middle linebacker and Barksdale looked like a fit. He has been. Despite missing the three games, he has 44 tackles.
Coming back from injuries can be tough. Being a shutdown corner and have teams rarely throw your way can be agonizing in its own way. But winning helps ease that so Salve's Phil Terio can live with it.
Terio and Edwards grew up knowing one another in the town of Trumbull, Conn. Now, they are hoping to lead the Seahawks to an NCAA berth.
Terio has two interceptions, but might have many more with some more opportunities. They also kick the ball away from the dangerous return man.
"They are going away from Phil. No doubt about that. He's a heck of a player," Gilmartin said. "Why wouldn't they? It is tough for Phil, but it's allowing the rest of the defense to be more aggressive."
You measure a season's success in different ways. It's easy to see Salve's success. The unbeaten league season jumps out at you and it is being done in a year where the team is transitioning to a new head coach after Bob Chesney left for Assumption.
Fitchburg's success is less apparent, but it is very real. The 4-4 record represents significant strides after Haverty came back for his second stint at the school he loves in July 2011.
July is not the ideal time to be taking the reins. The numbers were very low and Haverty had time to bring in just a half-dozen players for that season.
One was Steph'fon Teague, a local. He rushed for two touchdowns in Saturday's 26-23 win at Westfield State.
"Coming to the job so late, we just brought in five or six kids, local ones that I knew were still around," Haverty said. "We were really, really low on numbers."
Haverty is Fitchburg born and bred. He loves the school and he loves the city. He is committed to bringing the program back and this year the number of newcomers reporting to camp swelled to 62.
He will go anywhere for players, he said. This year there are six from Florida and one from Montana. He makes two trips to Florida each year and has a coach from Chicago who makes excursions to that area.
Saturday's win at Westfield was against tremendous odds. The Falcons were playing against a Westfield team filled with emotion. It was the last home game for Westfield coach Steve Marino who announced his retirement during the week. He has been at the helm 24 years, has amassed 118 victories and earned three conference championships. His 2001 team went 10-0.
"We knew going in that our guys were up against a lot of emotion," Haverty said. "I have really respected coach Marino and the job he has done all those years. Once we saw the announcement we knew they would have a lot of emotion and they just kept coming and coming."
Phil Saint-Juste had 166 receiving yards for Fitchburg with two touchdowns.
"He really works hard in practice," Haverty said. "And our freshman quarterback Derek Dellechiaie has been outstanding. I can't say enough about what he has done as an 18-year-old right out of high school."
Gilmartin said the transition at Salve was not seamless.
"We lost people who are not only great coaches, but great friends," he said.
Then, they lost two starting tackles in a 19-18 loss to the NJAC's Montclair State, playing the second half with an offensive line pieced together with four guards and a center.
But here they are unbeaten in the NEFC and angling for that showdown with Endicott.
The Seahawks have three starters from their little state of Rhode Island.
"We try to pound the Northeast. And Newport is a world class place so people like to come here from outside," Gilmartin said. "But we don't want to let the good Rhode Island players get away to other states."
The Endicott Gulls did their part to stay on course for that "Battle of the Birds" on Nov. 16 with Salve Regina by outgunning MIT 52-21. They did it by land and air as Drew Frenette threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns and Spencer Walsh rushed for 173 yards and another three touchdowns.
Did we say this game is hard? Gallaudet and Wesleyan still have perfect seasons but it was anything but easy. And in Gallaudet's case it was not only hard, but about as dramatic as a game can be.
It took a blocked punt by freshman Chris Papacek and a 79-yard return of that blocked field goal for a touchdown by Ryan Bonheyo as the Bison edged Becker 40-34. Against Ida early in the season, the Bison won 7-6 with the Mustangs missing an extra point and then a field goal at the end. Against Norwich it was a goal line stand on the last series that preserved a 28-20 win.
They say champions find a way and the Bison have been finding about every way imaginable. And they are getting extremely close to a championship. The 8-0 start is the best in program history.
Wesleyan got three field goals from Sebastian Aguirre in edging Williams 16-14. It was some special prizes for the Cardinals that were a long time coming. It was their first outright Little Three (Williams-Wesleyan-Amherst) since 1970 and the first time they have been 7-0 since 1969.
Amherst nipped Trinity 17-16 to go to 6-1 as Max Lippe threw for a score and ran for one.
Wesleyan did it with it foot and Middlebury with its Foote. Quarterback McCallum Foote was prolific in the Panthers' 40-13 win over Hamilton. He completed 25 of his 29 passes for 332 yards and five touchdowns.
Bates got a win that is always special, beating Maine rival Bowdoin 17-10.
And the other NESCAC Maine team is on a roll. Colby won its third consecutive game, storming past Tufts 37-0 with Justin Ciero doing a lot of everything. He passed for 218 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 138 yards. Carl Lipani added 104 yards on 11 carries. The White Mules have been dominant during the three-game win streak, outscoring the opposition 95-18.
Colby's Luke Duncklee had his second huge week in a row, catching 12 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
The Western Connecticut resurgence continues. The Colonials trimmed UMass-Dartmouth 35-12 as Octavias McKoy followed up his record-setting 455-yard rushing performance from the previous week by running for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Plymouth State earned its first MASCAC win by beating Worcester State. Former linebacker Mark Hennessy had 105 yards on 19 carries and Andrew Foglia, an outstanding workhorse as a tailback, played his final home game by scoring three touchdowns.
Framingham State remained perfect in the MASCAC and went to 7-1 overall as the Rams continue their quest to be the first champions of the new league. They slammed Mass. Maritime 58-12 with Matt Silva and Melikke Van Alstyne having special games. Silva threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns. Van Alstyne piled up 228 rushing yards and had two touchdowns.
The special campaign goes on in Bangor where Husson is putting those dismal times of the last few years way behind them. The Eagles went to 5-3 with a 39-17 win over SUNY-Maritime with Ryan Dorso and Shabashe McIntosh each rushing for two touchdowns. McIntosh also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Stephan Dance did all he could do to blow up the Privateers' option attack. Dance had 21 tackles.
Anna Maria got a win in the ECFC by whipping Castleton 42-14 as Robert Small rushed for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Gregory McGoldrick threw two TD passes.
Norwich's Dane Palloto and Al Georgio won't soon forget their day at Mount Ida. Georgio ran for 130 yards and four touchdowns. Palloto intercepted three passes.
Western New England's John Krafick and Kevin Cook gave the Golden Bears some great balance in a 38-27 win over Curry. Krafick passed for 319 yards and two scores and Cook complemented him with 151 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
It's the Biggest Little Game in America and one of the great traditions on the football landscape when Amherst and Williams go at it.
But just as big this year in the NESCAC is this week's game between 7-0 Wesleyan and 5-2 Trinity. The Cardinals try to complete an undefeated season with the trip to Hartford.
And naturally, all eyes will be on the likes of Gallaudet, Endicott, Salve Regina and Framingham State as well.