NCAA Division-III Playoffs: Western New England vs. Husson
Saturday afternoon, the No. 23 ranked Western New England Golden Bears welcome the Husson Eagles in the first round of the NCAA Division-III football playoffs. The Golden Bears won the New England Football Conference (NEFC) by posting an undefeated 10-0 record, including 7-0 in the conference. The Eagles won the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) by winning all seven of their conference contests as well, and finishing 9-1 overall.
How They Got Here:
Western New England proved to be too much for the rest of the NEFC. They won every game this season except for one by at least 13-points, including a 55-7 thrashing of Westfield State in Week 2 of the season. Three times the Golden Bears scored 55-points or better, and the closest margin of victory was in the final week when they defeated the Coast Guard, 36-29. Eight times they scored 32-points or better.
Husson lost their first game of the season to fellow playoff entrant Alfred, 35-28, then won the last nine games of the season. All but one of their wins was by at least 20-points, and they put up at least 33-points eight times. They are an offensive machine as well.
Western New England: 41.0 PPG, 251.7 Rushing/Game, 208.8 Passing/Game, 460.5 Yards/Game
Husson: 40.0 PPG, 259.0 Rushing/Game, 211.8 Passing/Game, 470.8 Yards/Game
Western New England: 17.1 PPG, 110.8 Rushing/Game, 155.1 Passing/Game, 265.9 Yards/Game
Husson: 15.4 PPG, 28.7 Rushing/Game, 133.5 Passing/Game, 162.2 Yards/Game
Players to Watch
The Golden Bears have an outstanding ground attack, which is going to be scrapping for every yard against the Husson defense. Nick Connell rushed for 1,061-yards and 12-toudchowns. Dante Aiken gained 509-yards and 5-scores, and QB Anthony Service proved to be a dual threat with 374-yards rushing and 6-TDs. Service also threw for 1,894-yards and 22-touchdowns with just 2-interceptions. He is very smart with the ball and accurate, completing 62.7 percent of his passes. Mark Deitrich was the top receiver with 39-receptions for 579-yards and 7-TDs.
The two leading tacklers for Western New England were Sam Olsson, who had 60-tackles, and Kurtis Jolicoeur, who had 58. Robert Sihlanick led the team with 3-sacks, and Obi Etuka recorded 5-interceptions.
Husson has an outstanding young quarterback as well in sophomore Cory Brandon. He threw for 2,015-yards and 23-TDs, but had 8-picks to go along with a 60.3 percentage of completion. Brandon is greatly benefitted by having stud running back John Smith behind him in the backfield. The junior rushed for 1,715-yards and 17-touchdowns and is a huge load to try to stop. Seven different players caught at least 11-passes this season, led by Deon Wiggins who made 27-catches for 379-yards and Kadeem Edge who had 24-catches for 547-yards. Both had 7-TD receptions. TE DJ Allen had 22-receptions.
Ellis Throckmorton led the Eagles with 61-tackles and added 4.5-sacks, which was second on the team. Elvin Suazro, Jr. had the team lead with 8-sacks, and Quan Soyini and Logan Steward each had 3-interceptions.
The Western New England Golden Bears have a very impressive offense, and can put up some points, but this Husson defense really knows how to shut down the run. That is going to mean that the quarterback for the Golden Bears is going to need to step up, and Service has proven this season that he can do so. The big difference in this game is going to be Smith. If he can rush for 150-yards or more Husson is going to win this game. If he can be contained, then the Golden Bears are the likely winner. The dual threat abilities of Service proves to be too much in this one. Look for Western New England to pull this out, 34-24.
By Robert Pannier