Bentley 17, Mercyhurst 16

WALTHAM, MA – This was a terrific season opener between two good teams, in which special played a major role in the outcome.

Bentley University defeated Mercyhurst University on Saturday afternoon, 17-16. The game featured a blocked field goal, a perfectly-executed fake field goal attempt, and a difference-making missed extra point.

“We knew coming in that we were going to be in a very tough dogfight,” said Bentley Head Coach Thom Boerman. “We said special teams were probably going to be a huge factor, and they were.”

The Lakers, out of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) drew first blood on their opening possession. They marched it 52 yards in seven plays, and Anthony Vendemia capped it off with a six-yard TD pass to Jeff Groene. After Bentley kicker Michael Baron had a 39-yard FG attempt partially blocked, he redeemed himself with a 27-yarder in the second quarter to make it 7-3.

The Falcons took a 10-7 lead when Danny Guadagnoli threw an 18-yard TD pass to Jet Kollie on 4th and 5. But Mercyhurst would re-take the lead just before the intermission. After the Lakers executed a fake field goal to set up a first-and-goal, Brandon Brown-Dukes ran it in from three yards out. But Jordan Spangler’s extra point attempt was no good, so the margin at halftime was just three. That missed PAT would turn out to be huge.

In the third quarter, Spangler nailed one from 31 yards out to give his team a six-point lead. But Bentley answered later in the quarter with an eight-play, 72-yard drive. Kollie’s second TD of the game – this time on the ground – gave the Falcons a one-point lead.

The Bentley defense took over from there. After allowing the field goal at the start of the third quarter, the Falcons did not allow any more points the rest of the way. The Lakers got one final possession with 1:22 remaining, but were unable to cross midfield and were stopped on 4th and 2.

“We were banged up, so I wasn’t certain what was going to happen,” said Boerman. “You don’t know who’s going to step up, but they did, the entire unit. Coach McKinney did a great job. (They) dominated the second half.”

Guadagnoli finished 20-28 for 162 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Vendemia threw for 207 yards. Mercyhurst also held the advantage in rushing yards (163-137.) But at the end of the day, it was the special teams that made the difference.

“We’ve been playing out of conference opponents for a number of years now,” said Boerman. “But you’ve got to start….beating those teams We’re getting a win against a quality opponent that I think, again, can just validate the Northeast-10 as much as Bentley University.”

Bentley will host Assumption on Friday night.

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Season Preview: Bentley University

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The 2013 season is just days away, and Bentley University is hoping it will end with a Northeast-10 Championship. On Tuesday morning, Noontime Sports caught up with Head Coach Thom Boerman to get his thoughts on the upcoming season.

Boerman says most of his offensive skill players return from last year’s 8-2 team, whose only two losses came by a combined eight points. Once again this year, QB Danny Guadagnoli will be under center. Boerman says he’s looked very strong in practice. The senior captain from Framingham is coming off an outstanding year in which he completed almost 62 percent of his passes, 16 of them for touchdowns. His pass efficiency rating of 150.26 was second in the conference and 25th nationally. The Falcons’ offense averaged over 26 points per game.

Defensively, Boerman will be looking for guys to step up, now that Steve and Don Hopkins have graduated. The coach says two players to keep an eye on 2013 are both captains: LB Blaine Hopwood, who led the team in tackles in each of the last two seasons, and DE Matt Campo, who was named the team’s Co-Defensive Most Improved Player in 2012.

Boerman expects the NE-10 to be extremely competitive again this year, saying there’s a lot of parity in the league. The Falcons are picked to finish third in the preseason coaches’ poll, behind New Haven and American International, the two teams Bentley lost to in 2012. They’ll kick off the regular season on Saturday against Mercyhurst, a team that went 9-2 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) last year.

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Season Preview: Bridgewater State University

BRIDGEWATER, MA – The Bridgewater State Bears are coming off a 9-2 season, and their first postseason berth since 2000. On Monday, Noontime Sports’ Brian Willwerth talked to head Coach Chuck Denune, who’s entering his 9th season, to get his take on the 2013 campaign.

THE BIGGEST CHANGE BETWEEN THIS YEAR AND LAST YEAR: “I think the big thing is we lost 18 seniors to graduation last year. Anytime that happens, you’re obviously going to have big holes to fill. So that was our biggest concern. We know that we’ve got a really good core of guys coming back…but at the same time, we’ve got some pretty deep holes we’ve got to get filled in prior to playing a game….Right now, we’re pretty comfortable. We’re going to be competitive.”

ON SENIOR QB: Mike McCarthy: “There are quarterbacks, and then there are guys that are just football players. He was just a football player; he’d go out and just he could just play football well. He’s also a very good quarterback. If he were to go out and throw for a ton and run for a ton, I’m not going to be surprised. He’s put a lot of work into his offensive training. He understands the offense better than he ever has. He looks really good in camp thus far.”

ON THE RUNNING GAME: “We have a stable, right now, of guys that can go in the game, and I wouldn’t nervous about them being in the game. I know coach Moyen and coach Callahan are really happy about where the offense is at this point in camp.”

ON DEFENSE: “There were probably bigger holes to fill over there, and right now I’d say we’ve got ‘em half full. But we’ve got guys in the right position right now, and they’re doing well. I don’t know if they’re going to play at that level, but combined I think they’re going to be a pretty darn good unit….We’ve got some freshman who are stepping up right away, and I think there’s a good chance we’re going to have some young guys playing on defense. Usually you’re pretty nervous about that. Right now I feel pretty comfortable with them.”

The Bears open the season on Saturday, September 7th at Salve Regina.

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Season Preview: Curry College

In 2013, the Curry College football team will be looking to improve on last year’s record of 6-4, 5-2 in the Boyd Division of the New England Football Conference (NEFC). The Colonels ended last season by winning three straight, and four of their last five.

Curry’s four captains include senior QB Kevin Fruwirth, DT Sam Calley and FB Jordan Shairs. All three are returning 1st Team All-Division. The fourth captain is OT Gil Parson, who was hurt for part of last year, but head coach Skip Bandini says Parson should be as good as any other in the league.

Fruwirth started all ten games for Curry last season, throwing 27 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. With Rob Bambini having graduated, expect Skubie Mageza to see even more passes thrown in his direction. Last year, he caught 54 passes and 3 TD’s. Phil Bigelow returns in the backfield for his senior year, having rushed for over 700 yards as a junior.

Joining Calley on the defensive line are Tim O’Brien, Nic Calvano and Parish Rogers-Reed. The Curry defense as a team picked off 13 passes in 2012.

Bandini, entering his eighth season at Curry, says he also has some outstanding freshman on the roster who he hopes will make their mark in 2013.

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Northeast-10: Bentley beats Merrimack, 38-21

WALTHAM, MA – After back-to-back losses to the top two teams in the Northeast-10, Bentley University bounced back in a big way on Saturday.

Behind an impressive defensive effort, and an outstanding performance from quarterback Danny Guadagnoli, the Falcons dominated Merrimack, 38-21, in front of a Homecoming Weekend crowd of 3,491.

The junior quarterback from Framingham did it with his arm, and his legs.  He threw for 341 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 76 yards and two more scores on the ground.  He was the Falcons’ leading rusher on the day.

“He really showed me some maturity today,” said Bentley head coach Thom Boerman, whose team improved to 6-2 on the year.  “He ran when he needed to run, and he put the ball where it needed to be put….I’m very, very proud of him.”

The home team never trailed in this game.  In the first quarter, Guadagnoli capped off an 11-play, 68-yard drive with a 14-yard scamper.  Guadagnoli kept that drive alive with a completion on 4th and 5.  On the ensuing Merrimack possession, the Warriors marched down the field and had 1st and goal at the Falcons’ 4.  But Bentley’s defense stiffened, and kept Merrimack off the scoreboard.

After a field goal by Will Lockwood put the Falcons up by 10, Merrimack got on the board.  Joe Clancy threw an 11-yard TD pass to Isaiah Voegeli.  The 2-point conversion failed.  Clancy, who broke many conference records in last week’s 81-point outburst against Saint Anselm, threw for 321 yards against Bentley, but was picked off three times.

Bentley delivered the equivalent of a knockout punch late in the first half with two touchdowns in less than a minute.  Guadagnoli’s second rushing TD of the game made it 17-6.  Then, following a Steve Hopkins interception, Bentley found the end zone again on Lorenzo Warren’s one-yard run.  It was 24-6 at halftime, and the Warriors never got the deficit under double-digits the rest of the way.

Guadagnoli had two favorite targets on this day.  Jeff Hill caught eight passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns.  Sean Cross also broke the 100-yard plateau (107.)

Merrimack, which was coming off an 81-point performance last week, came into this game averaging 40 points a game, and led the conference in total yards per game.  But the Falcons’ defense limited the Warriors to 21 points, and 370 total yards – far below the 534 Merrimack had been averaging.

“Coach Boyle (defensive coordinator Scott Boyle) did a tremendous job preparing his people,” said Boerman.  “When we scored early, that forced them (Merrimack) out a little of what they wanted to do.”

Bentley travels to Southern Connecticut State next weekend.  Merrimack returns home to take on Assumption.

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ECFC: Mount Ida 24, Maritime 21

NEWTON, MA – Mount Ida kicker Bobby Hemmann knew he had it the moment the ball left his foot.

His 38-yard field goal as time expired gave the Mustangs a dramatic, 24-21 victory over Maritime College on Saturday afternoon, and set off a big-time celebration on the home team’s sideline.

“I felt like the first game that we did against UMass,” said Hemmann.  “I was in the zone once again.  The crowd’s going wild….just wanted to get another one for my brothers.”

The drama began to unfold in the final minutes.  With the game tied at 21, the Privateers had the momentum, were marching down the field, chewing up the clock, and in position for a game-winning score.  But the Mustangs’ first big play came when Frank Greene intercepted Maritime quarterback Tyler Trodden in the back corner of the end zone with 49 seconds on the clock.  It was the last of three picks on the day by the Mount Ida defense.

“They were killing us on the hitches the whole second half,” said quarterback Scott Drosendahl.  “I told the DB’s to make a play.  Frank looked at me and said ‘I got this’, and they went hitch-and-go.  They were setting it up the whole second half, and Frank just got back on it and made a good play.”

But there was still work to be done.  Drosendahl still had to lead his team down the field to get into field goal range.

“It was kind of like Norwich, “said Drosendahl, referring to his team’s last-second victory on Sept. 29.

On this day, he was up to the challenge once again.  He moved the chains with a 12-yard completion to Dejhuan Williams.  Then on 3rd and 9, Drosendahl threw an incomplete pass, but the Mustangs’ drive remained intact thanks to a personal foul/late hit penalty.  Two plays later, he found Matt Valentini over the middle for 24 yards, which put his team in position for Hemmann’s heroics.

For the first 15 minutes, it didn’t look there would be any need for such heroics.  Mount Ida built a 21-0 lead on touchdown receptions by Williams and Jordan Hyman, and a 14-yard run by Kareem Cope.  Drosendahl was 15-of-25 for 167 yards.  Trodden had 188 yards passing for Maritime.

But from that point on, Maritime started to seize control, and worked its way back into the game.  Gary Bigham scored three times on the ground for the Privateers, the final one coming early in the fourth quarter.  The ensuing 2-point conversion completed a comeback from a 21-point deficit.

But in the end, Mount Ida made the key plays down the stretch to pull out the win.

This whole season has been a roller coaster, ups and downs,” said Hemmann.  “I think we’ve been doing a great job coming back from having our backs against the wall.”

Mount Ida improves to 6-1 on the season.  The six wins tie a school record.  The Mustangs will play their final home game against Becker next Saturday.  The Privateers fall to 3-4, and will host Husson next weekend.

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Northeast-10: New Haven 17, Bentley 13

by Brian Willwerth, Noontime Sports staff writer

WALTHAM, MA – Whenever you get a juicy matchup like this – the top two teams in the Northeast 10 with identical 5-0 records – you often ask yourself the question: can the game live up to all the hype?  This one sure did.

In a hard-fought, hard-hitting defensive battle, No. 5 New Haven defeated Bentley on Saturday afternoon, 17-13.  With the win, the Chargers take over sole possession of first place in the conference.  A lot of so-called pundits may have thought this would end up being a shootout.  But the opposite turned out to be true.

After a scoreless first quarter, UNH got on to the board first when Ronnie Nelson threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jason Thompson to give the Chargers the lead.  There was some talk going into this game whether Nelson would get the start, since Ryan Osiecki was considered available after missing the last three games with an injury.  But Nelson went the distance on Saturday against the Falcons.  UNH increased its lead to 14-0 when Victor Jones ran it in almost untouched from 5 yards out.

While that was going on, the Chargers’ defense was making life miserable for Bentley quarterback Danny Guadagnoli.   He was under pressure for much of the afternoon.  He was sacked four times.  And the Falcons were unable to generate any offense in the first 30 minutes of play.  In fact, Bentley had a net of 50 total yards in the first half, including minus-14 on the ground.

“Our guys played really well,” said New Haven head coach Peter Rossomando.  “Other than a couple of drives that were aided by a couple of penalties, but other than that we played very well defensively.”

In the second half, Bentley saw the first of two key plays that it will likely look back on and think, “what might have been.”  On third-and-goal from the 4, Mike Sumrell fumbled, and New Haven’s Matthew Fallicco recovered at the 2 to stop that scoring threat.

But later in the third quarter, momentum started shifting to the home team.  A resilient Guadagnoli capped a 7-play, 56-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring pass to Jeff Hill, who made the grab in the end zone despite defensive pass interference.  All of a sudden, it was a one-score game.

The plot thickened in the fourth quarter.  The Chargers’ Chris Scifo missed a 26-yard field goal that would’ve made it a two-score game again.  Bentley took over, and marched right down the field.  Guadagnoli found Bill Kiley in the left corner of the end zone to pull the Falcons to within a point, and electrify the Family Weekend crowd of 3,571.

But then came the second key miscue for the Falcons.  Will Lockwood missed the extra point wide-left.  So the home team still trailed by one.

When the Chargers got the ball back, they marched 56 yards and, more importantly, took more than five minutes off the clock.  Scifo atoned for his miss by nailing a 30-yard FG to make it 17-13.

Bentley had one last shot, needing to go 75 yards in 1:32 for the win.  But the Falcons couldn’t move the ball, and UNH’s fourth sack of Guadagnoli sealed the deal on an impressive defensive performance by the Chargers.

“They fly to the ball,” said Rossomando of his team’s defensive effort.  “We got them out of the option, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do: put the ball in 17’s hands, and take it out of those running backs’ hands.  And we did that.”

“He almost beat us, but we did it,” he joked.

The Falcons’ defense was just as impressive.  Consider this: New Haven came in averaging more than 44 points a game.  Bentley held them to 17.  The Falcons limited UNH to 288 total yards, far below the Chargers’ season average.  Bentley also forced three turnovers.  But in the end, it wasn’t enough.

New Haven travels to Stonehill on Thursday night for a nationally-televised game.  Bentley has another big game next weekend, against American International College in Springfield.

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NEFC: More Drama For Curry; Bridgewater State Wins Again

While I was assigned to the Mount Ida game on Saturday, I kept an eye on these two teams, because I’ve covered both of them this season (and probably will again before it’s over, since much of my focus is south of Boston.)  Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with any of the schools I cover.

Geez, Curry: how many more of these can you pull off?  Kevin Fruwirth hit Robert Bambini with a 39-yard touchdown with :01 left.  It brought back memories of the game I covered last month, when the same combination won the game against MIT.  Well, they did it again against Western New England.  Fruwirth threw for nearly 400 yards in this game and five touchdowns, four of them to the aforementioned Bambini.  WNEC had actually scored two late touchdowns to take the lead, but Curry came back to rally once again.

There was no drama for Bridgewater State in its game against the Coast Guard, but the visitors didn’t need it.  After falling behind 7-3 early, Bridgewater rattled off 28 unanswered points en route to a 44-21 win in New London, CT.  BSU had 306 yards rushing to just 10 for the Coast Guard.  Bridgewater is now 5-1, and has bounced back nicely from a shutout loss to first-place Framingham State.

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ECFC: Mount Ida 48, Anna Maria 35

by Brian Willwerth, Noontime Sports staff writer

NEWTON – There are three things worth noting about this game: 1) there was a lot of offense, 2) there were a lot of points scored and 3) there were a lot of penalties.

Behind a stellar performance from quarterback Scott Drosendahl, Mount Ida rolled to victory over visiting Anna Maria on Saturday afternoon, 48-35, in a Eastern Collegiate Football Conference matchup.  The senior quarterback accounted for six touchdowns on the day – four through the air, two on the ground.

It didn’t take the Mustangs long to start lighting up the scoreboard.  They recovered a fumble on the AmCats’ first play from scrimmage.  Three plays later Drosendahl connected with Dejhaun Williams on a 25-yard scoring play for a 7-0 lead.  Anna Maria quickly responded with a 9-play, 75-yard drive.  The AmCats tied the game it on Robert Small’s 1-yard run.   Small had a great day: 115 yards on 19 carries.

Mount Ida took the lead for good later in the quarter when Melquan Pinkney’s 14-yard run capped a 59-yard drive.  In the second period, the Mustangs broke the game open.  They increased their lead to 21-7 when Drosendahl found a wide-open Matt Valentini for a 38-yard touchdown.  After Small’s second rushing TD of the game cut the margin to seven, Drosendahl took matters into his own hands, scoring on a quarterback sneak, then hitting Jordan Hyman for a 30-yard score to make it 35-14 at halftime.  Drosendahl finished the game with 244 yards passing.  He only had seven yards on six rushing attempts, but he found the end zone on two of them.

“That’s what a quarterback does,” said Mount Ida coach Michael Landers, whose team improved to 4-1, 2-0 in the ECFC.  “He doesn’t just deliver the ball and throw the ball.  He works the clock, manages the game, it’s like having another coach on the field.”

In the second half, Anna Maria could not get any closer than a two-score deficit, despite two touchdown passes from Santino Simone to Domenique Concepcion.  That pair hooked up 13 times for 181 yards.  Simone’s numbers are impressive: 346 yards and no interceptions.  But the Mustangs were pretty much in control in the final 30 minutes.  They relied heavily on the running combination of Pinkney and Chris McNally, who ran for a combined 280 yards.  Drosendahl scored on another quarterback keeper, and also hit Williams for his second TD reception of the day.

“I just came out as a freshman, and did what I had to do.  I played my hardest,” said Williams.

As for those penalties: the numbers are mind-boggling.  Mount Ida was flagged 23 times in this game for 200 yards.  Two of those penalties wiped out touchdowns.

“Obviously there’s a lot of procedure things that we have to take care of,” said Landers.  “Those are the mistakes that we’ve got to limit.”

After the game, Landers told his team that it was ugly, but a win is a win.  It’s hard to argue with that assessment, despite the fact these two teams combined for well over 1,000 yards of total offense.

Mount Ida travels to Husson University next Saturday, while Anna Maria (1-4, 0-2 in the ECFC) hosts Maritime College.

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Bucs Suffer Ugly Loss to Cowboys, 16-10

This was ugly with a capital “U.”

The Bucs got every opportunity to steal this game from the Cowboys.  But they couldn’t do it, thanks to an anemic offensive.  Tampa Bay lost to Dallas, 16-10.

Who’s to blame?  The offense comes to mind.  It was, well, downright offensive.  Look at these numbers: 166 total yards, 110 yards passing by Josh Freeman, with much of that coming on their very last drive.  He was just 10-of-28 on the day, with an interception and two fumbles (the Bucs recovered both.)  And don’t forget some of the questionable play calling late in the game by Greg Schiano’s staff.

Who’s NOT to blame: the defense, which bounced back nicely from last week’s nightmare in the Meadowlands.  The Bucs made life miserable for Tony Romo for much of the day.  They intercepted him one.  They forced him to lose two fumbles.  They sacked him four times.  It was a great effort by this unit that went for naught due to the offensive’s struggles.  There is, however, concern about the knee injury suffered by DE Adrian Clayborn. 

The Cowboys tried hard to give the Bucs this game on a silver platter.  But Tampa Bay never took the game off the tray.

Next week: Tampa Bay returns home to face its third straight NFC East opponent: the Redskins.

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