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The long, hard road to the upper tier

More news about: Castleton | Middlebury | Norwich
Defensive back Nate Decker had a pick-6 on Saturday against SUNY-Maritime.
Castleton athletics photo

Castleton University coach Tony Volpone called Saturday's 32-31 victory over SUNY-Maritime "the gutsiest performance in my 20 years of coaching."

A few hours away, Volpone's alma mater Nichols College had just beaten Coast Guard 24-14 for the Bison's third win. It was the first time since 2009 when Nichols went 4-6 that the Bison had won that many games.

Everyone wants to be Trinity, Framingham State, Western New England, Salve Regina and Husson. Everyone wants to get to that strata. Those are teams that are in the consciousness of voters when preseason polls roll around nearly every year. They will be challenging for titles and postseason play.

It's a long road to get there. But there are games that signify that your program might at least be on the way. Nichols, Castleton and UMass-Dartmouth won those types of games this past weekend.

Three wins for Nichols at this point is a big deal. Dale Olmsted is bringing in the type of player who can turn around a program that has been starved for success.

Coast Guard had been putting up big numbers so to hold the Bears to 14 points, regardless of the elements, is noteworthy. Brett McEvoy recovered a fumble and returned an interception 65 yards and Brian Camacho had two interceptions to help key that defensive effort.

Chris Mullins threw two touchdown passes.

UMass-Dartmouth also got its win with a stout defense as the Corsairs shut out a Mass. Maritime team that had been second in the MASCAC on offense statistically.

The Corsairs rolled up 705 yards of offense and held the Bucs to 175.

Brothers Michael and Tony Slaughter had huge days for UMass-Dartmouth on each side of the ball. Michael rushed for 144 yards, and Tony was a menacing presence at safety with his speed packed in a 6-2, 205-pound frame.

Tony came into camp this year from Bryant.

"They told him that he wouldn't start for them, and he got a little disillusioned," UMass-Dartmouth coach Mark Robichaud said.

"He is very aggressive and plays the run very well. He is probably the fastest guy we have on the team. He's a Division I player, you can tell."

The year is rounding into the type of season the Corsairs were envisioning. They are 5-3 with attention-getting victories over Framingham and now Mass. Maritime.

"We had pretty big expectations. We have 27 seniors back which is a lot for us," Robichaud said.

UMass-Dartmouth quarterback Cory Burnham threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Slaughter was one of two backs eclipsing the 100-yard mark that day. Eddie Sheridan ran for 107 with a touchdown.

"We have had a very good running game all year," Robichaud said. "The offensive line is outstanding. All five starters are returning."

Burnham is a three-year starter who complements that run game with his accurate passing.

Robichaud feels this season is putting down a foundation for something special despite the loss of the large senior class.

"We are recruiting earlier and harder," he said. "We know this is a year where we have to do well both in numbers and quality."

The biggest group of prospective recruits the Corsairs have had visit on game days were for the Framingham and UMass-Dartmouth games.

"Those kids got to see some great football and what we're all about," Robichaud said.

Castleton's win came in a meeting of teams that were 2-1 in the ECFC going into the game.

The Spartans trailed SUNY-Maritime 28-20 when the Privateers scored midway through the third quarter.

"It was a game that could have gone south," Volpone said.

The Privateers still were leading early in the fourth quarter when Matt Murphy booted a 40-yard field goal to make it 31-26.

The Spartans won on a late touchdown run by Corey Brimmer.

The Castleton seniors were honored before the game, but two sophomores found a connection. Mitch Caron threw for 250 yards and Ryan Barry caught seven of his 25 completions.

That was no accident.

"We put in work together between classes and sometimes after practice," Barry said.

Should the Bison, Corsairs and Spartans ascend to the elite circle of teams in the future, this weekend provided that glimpse of it all.

Kickin' and throwin'

Rain came down hard throughout the region most of the day, but it could not stop Middlebury's Jared Lebowitz and Norwich's Wes Medeiros from doing what they do.

Lebowitz threw for 394 yards and three touchdowns. He has 20 touchdown passes for the 5-0 Panthers.

Medeiros made both his field goal attempts, one from 43 yards. He now has the program record with 36 career field goals.

Norwich defeated Gallaudet 27-6, and Middlebury trimmed Bates 28-9. Conrado Banky caught two of the touchdown throws from Lebowitz.

SUNY-Maritime's Murphy is also one of the better field goal kickers around and is now 12 of 16. The previous week a 54-yard attempt that he missed on had way more than enough distance and was barely wide.

"He steps on the field and he's within range," Volpone said.

Corvese, Brandon light it up

Curry's Alex Corvese and Husson's Cory Brandon threw five touchdown passes apiece.

Corvese helped the Colonel fans celebrate Homecoming by throwing for 305 yards in a 42-41 win over Maine Maritime.

Brandon also threw for 305 yards and had the running game headlined by John Smith to complement that passing game. Smith rushed for 231 yards.

Husson's Deon Wiggins and Kadeem Edge had two touchdown receptions each.

Bears stay perfect in MASCAC

Since conference play began, Bridgewater State has not lost. The Bears are 6-0 in the league after two early defeats out of conference.

They defeated Westfield State behind a workhorse performance from Alex McLaughlin. He had 193 yards to show for his 35 carries. Malik Garrett added 63 yards and two touchdowns.

Picking 'em off at the pass

Wesleyan picked off five Amherst passes in winning the Little Three rivalry game and running its record to 4-1. Cole Harris and Zac Cusner each had two of those interceptions.

Kevin Maxen returned his interception for a touchdown to help Western Connecticut to a 40-13 victory over Worcester State.

Charles Quarles had two interceptions for Western New England as the Golden Bears won their NEFC showdown with Endicott 20-7 to push their record to 7-0.

Quick kicks: Framingham State's Quron Wright rushed for 175 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-7 rout of Plymouth State. ... Western Connecticut's Quinn Fleeting passed for two touchdowns and ran for another. ... Castleton's Sha'ron Schmidt-Bilowith set a program record with his five tackles for a loss in a game. ... Chance Brady ran for 157 yards and four touchdowns in leading Tufts to a 35-16 win over Williams. ... New offensive coordinator Kevin Bourgoin finally got to see the offense he is installing at Colby take shape as Jack O'Brien threw for 297 yards in a 23-7 victory over Hamilton. ... Sonny Puzzo ran for a score and threw for two others as Trinity remained unbeaten with a 38-7 win over Bowdoin. ... Brandon Basil threw three touchdown passes and Sam Pascale rushed for 117 yards as Salve Regina toppled MIT 35-22. ... It was Nichols' first win ever over Coast Guard. ... Norwich freshman Patrick Brown rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns.

The big games

Here it is: The game of the year in the NESCAC. Middlebury travels to Hartford where the Panthers and Bantams match their 5-0 records against one another. Trinity's field has been a graveyard for NESCAC opponents, but few quarterbacks like Division I transfer Lebowitz have challenged the Bantams' defense. This should be fun.

The other game to watch in the NESCAC: Tufts' visit to Amherst.

Norwich's trip to SUNY-Maritime figures to be the best game in the ECFC.

Unbeaten Salve Regina's trip to Endicott is the marquee contest in the NEFC, but the Curry at Nichols game holds plenty of allure. Both are coming off wins and looking to make a statement. It should be a competitive, entertaining game in Dudley, Mass.

UMass-Dartmouth would love to keep it going in the MASCAC game at Western Connecticut. Bridgewater is off before its huge contest at Framingham State on Nov. 5.

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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. He has been D3football.com's Around the Northeast columnist since 2007.

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