November 19, 2013

'Survive and advance' has different meaning for Morgan

More news about: Plymouth State
Josh Morgan had bigger fish to fry in the offseason but had a huge season for the Panthers.
Plymouth State athletics photo 

Framingham State, Endicott and Gallaudet are getting ready for the playoffs. Plymouth State linebacker Josh Morgan is getting ready for his cancer treatments.

Morgan was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in February. He had his thyroid removed in May. And he was a standout on both sides of the ball for the Panthers in September, October and November.

He could have taken the season off. But it was his senior year.

"The first question out of my mouth for my doctor was whether I would still be able to play football or not," Morgan said.

Oh how he played. A couple of weeks ago he was the Panthers' leading rusher and made 11 tackles in the same game. How many players do that anymore? A throwback.

Now, he will adhere to a special diet to get ready for the treatments.

"I'll have the treatments over the holidays," he said.

The Panthers won but two games this season, but Morgan savored those victories. He wishes there could have been more of them, but he would not trade the Plymouth experience for anything. He is appreciative of the support he received from the coaches, players and entire football family.

"They were always calling me and asking me what is happening next," Morgan said.

Now, it's holiday time and cancer treatment. Not most people's idea of the season, but Morgan has a great outlook.

"I am looking at it pretty positively. I'm looking at it as something you have to go through," Morgan said.

He has reason for optimism. The doctors have told him they believe they got all of the cancer when they removed the thyroid.

Plymouth coach Paul Castonia spoke to the team about Morgan's situation and his courage after the season finale against Fitchburg State. He made a conscious effort not to talk about it during the season.

"He came in here as a quarterback and we made him a running back," Castonia said. "We moved him to linebacker two years ago and he made second team all-conference as a junior. He was all over the place. He also plays on special teams.

"He wants to be out there all the time. If we had 22 of him we would win every game."

Castonia said Morgan wants to be on the field all the time. Defense, offense, special teams. He will do whatever it takes to help the team.

"It just shows what kind of a person he is," Castonia said.

"I've just got to kick this thing in the butt," the criminal justice major said.

Opponents who have seen his meddle as a linebacker or running back have no doubt he will do just that.

Bison, Gulls and Rams move on

Endicott and Salve Regina were in a winner-take-all game. The NEFC title was on the line and much of the pregame hype was Salve Regina's stout defense against Endicott's prolific offense.

"I think it would up being the other way around," Endicott coach J.B. Wells said. "Our offense didn't do anything until the second half."

But maybe the biggest key in the Gulls' 24-0 win was the punter. Dylan Rushe pinned the Seahawks inside the 20-yard line on seven of his nine punts. If he did punt it anywhere in the middle of the field the hang time was so good that a fair catch was needed.

"It was a masterful performance," Wells said. "The plan was to use the sideliner as another defender."

It also neutralized Phil Terio, one of the best kick returners anywhere.

"One of the key matchups was our kicking game against their return game and we won that one," Wells said.

Endicott's Drew Frenette threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns with Alec Matys pulling in two of his TD throws. Spencer Walsh was the complement on the ground with 118 yards.

And now it is a trip to Rowan to meet another NJAC team. Endicott played Cortland State in the playoffs a couple of years ago and played Kean during the regular season this year.

Wells knew the Gulls would get Ithaca, Rowan or Hobart, but none of them were on his mind until the business was taken care of against Salve.

"We were just so focused on the game Saturday. That's the way it has been for us all year. It's just always been about the next one," Wells said.

Framingham State gets the trip to Ithaca.

"We're just happy to get the experience of going up there. Ithaca is one of the great programs in the East," Framingham coach Tom Kelley said after he and his team watched the selection show in the football conference room while eating pizza.

 The Rams have done it with an outstanding defense and a balanced attack that features both the passing of Matt Silva and the running of Melikke Van Alstyne.

Van Alstyne rushed for 138 yards in Saturday's 36-0 win over Worcester State and joined former Maine Maritime backs Steve Tardif and Jim Bowers as the only players in New England Division III football to go over 6,000 career yards.

If Ithaca follows the game planning of the Rams' opponents all year, they will key on Van Alstyne.

"Everyone tries to shut Melikke down," Kelley said.

The Rams have been pretty banged up much of the year. Their group of receivers has been especially depleted. It seems Silva has been throwing to different people each week.

Travis Hayes (30 catches, six touchdowns) has emerged because of this opportunity.

"He has kind of become our go-to guy," Kelley said.

Gallaudet lost it final game as SUNY Maritime denied the Bison an unbeaten season with a 7-6 victory. It was Gallaudet's first loss since Oct. 27, 2012.

Dwayne Lacroix scored from eight yards out and Diogo Dietrich kicked the point for the Privateers.

Now, the Bison have the long trip to Hobart.

Long? Well, not by Gallaudet's standards. The Bison, who call D.C. home, play in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference that stretches all the way to Bangor, Maine.

"Geneva, N.Y. is a walk in the park," Gallaudet coach Chuck Goldstein said upon learning of the opponent.

The Bison will be without quarterback Todd Bonheyo who was injured. Quentin Williams gets the start.

"He's got big-game experience. He will be our guy," Goldstein said.

Goldstein was thinking he would get Johns Hopkins or Wesley, somebody closer.

"After we lost I thought it might even be a trip to Mount Union," he said.

But the Bison have made trips to New England, and New York City for the finale, as part of their routine all year. They won't mind the walk in the park.

Around the MASCAC

Fitchburg's 41-30 win over Plymouth gives the Falcons a 6-4 mark, branding them as a program on the rise. It does not hurt that quarterback Garrett Dellechiaie is just a freshman and Pat Haverty can look forward to more years with him. He threw five touchdown passes against the Panthers, giving him a school record 25 for the season. His air show was balanced by a ground game led by Steph'fon Tagie with 150 yards on 22 carries and Shaheem Burnett with 120 yards and a touchdown on just six carries.

It was the curtain call for Westfield coach Steve Marino. He had 24 extremely successful year at the helm, but his Owls fell 37-0 to Western Connecticut as Octavias McKoy scored his 26th touchdown of the season.

Bridgewater State quarterback Mike McCarthy won the Lee Harrington Most Valuable Player Trophy for the third straight year in the Cranberry Bowl as the Bears outgunned Mass. Maritime 45-20. All he did was rush for 119 yards and two scores and throw for 273 yards and another touchdown. Dillon Huber-Parker and Mike Gentil had two interceptions each for 6-4 Bridgewater.

School records in the NEFC

Curry's Kevin Fruwirth fired a school-record six touchdown passes in a 54-38 win over Maine Maritime and MIT had a school-record 577 yards of offense in a 48-31 win over Coast Guard. Justin Wallace accounted for 215 of those yards rushing and Peter Williams had 293 passing. Mark Behne, Aaron Black and Kyle Wood made 15 tackles each for Coast Guard.

Maple madness

Norwich found itself trailing Castleton 13-7 at halftime. The Cadets rallied for a 31-13 victory to take the Maple Sap Bucket back to Northfield. Castleton won the Bucket in 2012 for the first time in the five-year series.

The game-changer was two picks returned for touchdowns, both by linebacker Andy Mangin.

"On the first one I knew that a slant was coming and I kind of read the quarterback's eyes," Mangin said.

The win gave Norwich a 7-3 mark following last year's 7-2 record.

Mount Ida pitched a shutout against Husson. Carlous Julien keyed the defensive effort in the 6-0 win. He had 14 tackles and recovered a fumble.

A new season

Now, it is a whole new season for Endicott, Gallaudet and Framingham State.

"We're looking forward to the opportunity and we want to do our best to represent our conference," Goldstein said.

"Now, you are just trying to go 1-0 every week," Wells said.

It's survive and advance. Words that have an even deeper meaning to our two-way stalwart at Plymouth State.  

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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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