Winning day for Cadets

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Mike Cavanaugh opened the scoring for Norwich with a 32-yard touchdown catch to give the Cadets an early 7-0 lead.
Norwich athletics photo

Phil Cacciola played football for Norwich when the all the fields were real grass and the Cadets still played Middlebury and the University of Vermont.

"Playing Vermont and Middlebury made our season," the 1963 Norwich graduate said.

He was at midfield during halftime of the Cadets' 20-9 victory over Becker on Saturday being recognized with the other Hall of Fame inductees. The induction ceremony was held Sunday.

"We went to Middlebury one year when they were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in New England. We ran all over them. We had a good sophomore class. We just stunned them. To this day, I don't think they know what hit them. We also had great games against the University of Vermont."

There was another special rivalry for the Cadets.

"The other highlight was playing Coast Guard," Cacciola said. "We always played that at night in New London. It was a magnificent venue. The coach and athletic director for Coast Guard was Otto Graham. You ask kids today who Otto Graham was and they saw, 'Who?' But he was a Hall of Fame quarterback who we all idolized.  We were in awe of him.

"And we would beat them and he would come into the locker room to congratulate us. He was the nicest guy.

"There was a lot of significance to the Little Army-Navy Game."

Vermont no longer has football and Middlebury is no longer allowed to play outside its own conference, but the Coast Guard-Norwich rivalry is coming back. It is slated to be renewed in 2017.

Coast Guard, like Norwich, had a conference victory on Saturday as the Bears beat Western New England 41-38 on Tyler Henning's 22-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining.

Coast Guard is becoming a big story of the early season as the Bears have gone to 2-0 in the New England Football Conference and freshman quarterback Derek Victory had a big game for the second straight week. He completed 36 passes for 388 yards and two touchdowns. And Collis Brown broke two Coast Guard records by catching 16 passes for 244 yards.

This was Cacciola's first look at Norwich's newly renovated Sabine Field and he was impressed.

"This is magnificent," he said.

The former nose guard also had to be impressed with the goal-line stand the Cadets made at the end of the half. Becker had a first-and-goal at the 6-yard line Cadets held to take a 14-2 lead into the locker room.

"That is one of the things we pride ourselves on," Norwich senior linebacker Luis Delgado said. "Coach is always saying, 'bend but don't break."

"That was gigantic," Norwich coach Mark Murnyack said. "Coming into the game we were ranked in the top 10 in the country in red zone defense. Shutting them down going into halftime was huge."

Delgado said they knew the defense would be good back in the preseason.

"We've got a lot of guys back and we have a lot of depth," he said.

Al Georgio had another productive day after being named the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference Player of the Week in a 31-14 win over WPI the previous game. He added his fourth touchdown in two weeks.

"He is small (5-6, 165 pounds) so a lot of people think of him as an outside runner," Murnyack said. "But he is pretty physical. He will run over you if he needs to. He'll also make you miss."

Don't think Cacciola is just living in the past of Middlebury and Coast Guard memories. He appreciates the game today for everything that it is.

"I think Division III football is the best. I love the kids. They are the greatest kids,"' he said.

And on Sept. 21, the Middletown, Conn. resident and his wife strolled over to Wesleyan's Andrus Field to take in the first night game in NESCAC history against Tufts.

Life was good for the new Hall of Famer as he surveyed Norwich's gorgeous new turf and lighted facility with the spacious plaza, new bleachers and so many other amenities.

He does have one nod to the past, though.

"I still like the grass fields," he said.

Off and running in the ECFC

Gallaudet, Husson and SUNY-Maritime joined Norwich as the teams off to 1-0 starts in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference as the league opened its season.

Maritime opened up 0-3 before starting league play but the Privateers have a whole new outlook after beating Anna Maria 35-24. Kyle Gardner did his New York State hometown proud. He was the Amityville Horror to the AmCats as he ran for 221 yards and two touchdowns.

Husson rolled past Castleton 34-3 as Joe Seccareccia passed for two touchdowns and Kyle McKinnon rushed for two. It was the second straight win for the Eagles.

Everyone's pointing at 4-0 Gallaudet as the team to beat and the Bison survived the league opener, returning from the long trip to Mount Ida with a 7-6 victory. Tyler Snider had three sacks for the Bison.

New kid (bully?) on the block

Western Connecticut's first season back in a New England football conference has breathed new life into the program. The Colonials rolled past Bridgewater State 49-26 and are now 2-1 in the league and 3-1 overall. Octavias McKoy rushed for 163 yards and four touchdowns.

Framingham State, which just got past Western Connecticut (14-12) last week had another close one. The Rams edged UMass-Dartmouth 21-14 to run their MASCAC record to 3-0. Melikke Van Alstyne was the mainstay on the offensive side with 174 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The man on the defensive side was Kevin Donahue with 13 tackles and an interception.

Salve Regina also stayed perfect in its league, going to 2-0 in the NEFC by whipping Nichols 32-0. Richie Edwards looks to be all the way back from his injury last year. He led the Seahawks on the ground with another big game, amassing 133 yards on 16 carries. Penetration? The Seahawk defense took it to a new level. They had 10 tackles for a loss, four by Matt Conroy and three by Hayden Stanton.

But if you really want a mind-boggling defensive statistic look to Fitchburg State's Elizear Torres. He had 17 solo tackles in the Falcons' 40-17 win over Massachusetts Maritime. Steph'on Teague added 175 yards with a touchdown on the ground.

Westfield State continued to roll in the NEFC. The 3-1 Owls got two rushing scores from Michael Mercadante and Tim Rich complemented that with 245 passing yards. Nick Adams returned an interception 35 yards for a score.

Curry got a big win as Kevin Fruwirth threw for two touchdowns in beating MIT 26-21.

Endicott fashioned a great second half into a 53-28 win over Maine Maritime. The Gulls trailed 28-21 at halftime. Drew Frenette had a monster day in keeping the Gulls perfect (2-0) in the NEFC, with five touchdown passes. Marcell Cooper was a big piece of the defensive effort that kept the Mariners off the board in the second half. He finished the game with 13 tackles and forced two fumbles. Spencer Walsh was another headliner for the Gulls. He rushed for 191 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a pass for a score.

NESCAC unbeatens down to three

Amherst picked off Middlebury 35-16 leaving three teams in the NESCAC with perfect records. Amherst, Trinity and Wesleyan are the 3-0 teams.

That ball-hawking Amherst defense was at it again. The Lord Jeffs intercepted five passes for the second time this season. Their 12 picks lead the league. Two of the five interceptions were by Landrus Lewis. Max Lippe passed for 213 yards and two touchdowns.

Trinity has some impressive streaks. The Bantams won their 12th straight game and their 49th in a row at home. They did it by land and air. Sonny Puzzo threw two touchdown passes and Evan Bunker rushed for 106 yards and another score.

Wesleyan's 1-2 punch got 100-yard rushing games again. LaDarius Drew ran for 138 yards and a score and Kyle Gibson accumulated 114 yards on the ground with another touchdown as the Cardinals rolled to a 41-0 win over Colby. Jesse Warren threw two touchdown passes.

"The Trinity-Wesleyan game should be something," Cacciola said.

Oh, yeah!

Trinity coach Jeff Devanney and Wesleyan coach Mike Whalen would never publicly look down the road that far, but it's exciting for the rest of us to think about.

Bates continued its rise in the pecking order. The Bobcats beat Williams 14-10. Ryan Curit and Matt Cannone ran for the scores and Adam Cuomo keyed the defense with eight tackles and an interception.

Bates kept Tufts winless with Zach Donnarumma keying the 13-10 victory by rushing for 136 yards and a score.

The Big Games

All the talk in Washington, D.C., is about the shutdown. That could also be the theme of the ECFC's biggest game of the week when Norwich comes to D.C. to face Gallaudet this week. These are probably the league's favorites right now and the calling card of both the Bison and the Cadets is defense.

"We were already talking about it in the locker room," Delgado said, shortly after the Cadets' win over Becker. "We are on a mission. It's a business trip."

Delgado knows he and his defensive mates have a tough task against the option offense Chuck Goldstein deploys.

"You have to be disciplined against it," Delgado said.

The NESCAC game between 2-1 Bates and 3-0 Wesleyan should prove interesting.

Coast Guard's 2-0 record will be on the line in the NEFC at Curry in a game that figures to test the Bears.

The MASCAC's most intriguing contest has Framingham State visiting Westfield State.  This one has the earmarks of a classic.