Division-III Football Playoffs: Husson Eagles vs. MIT Engineers
Match-up: On Saturday at Noon Eastern Time the Husson Eagles (Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, 8-1, 7-0) will host the MIT Engineers (New England Football Conference, 9-0, 7-0) in Bangor, Maine. Neither team enters the playoffs ranked according to the D3Football poll, although MIT received six votes. The Engineers swept through an undefeated season, while the Eagles have won their last eight games following an opening weekend loss.
Coaches: Gabby Price is finishing his eighth season with the Eagles. Price served as the head coach of the team in the school’s first six seasons of ever having a college football program (2003-2008), and returned following the 2012 season He was 25-28 in his first stint with the team, and is 13-6 since returning for an overall record of 38-34. This is his first playoff appearance as coach.
MIT is coached by Chad Martinovich. This is his sixth year with the team, and is the culmination of a progression that saw MIT go 1-8 in his first two seasons in command to going 9-0 in 2014. Overall he is 24-30 and this is his first playoff appearance
Husson is led on offense by freshman running back John Smith. Smith is 16th in the country with 1144 yards rushing, and he has scored 13 rushing touchdowns, also tied for 16th. The freshman is averaging an incredible 6.6 yards per carry and 127.1 yards per game.
Joe Seccareccia is the quarterback and he has been a great game-manager for the Eagles. The junior has passed for 1350 yards this season with 12 touchdowns, but he also has a 50.5 completion percentage and has thrown 9 interceptions in just 222 attempts. How well he performs is going to be a key for the Eagles in this contest.
Husson has four primary targets that Seccareccia will turn to. Sophomore Deon Wiggins is the leader with 30 receptions for 433 yards and 4 TDs. Ryan Stroud is second with 26 catches for 364 yards and three touchdown receptions. Both Josiah Hartley and Shabashe McIntosh made 17 catches during the season.
On defense the Eagles are led by sophomore linebacker Ellis Throckmorton, who led the team with 78 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss. Throckmorton has a non-stop motor that makes him relentless in pursuit. Another sophomore, Kenny Sweet, led the team with 5 interceptions, and is a straight up ball hawk. He also had 6 pass breakups and matches up well with most No. 1 receivers. This defense is especially alert to make plays that lead to turnovers. They recovered 14 fumbles and made 17 interceptions, and if a ball carrier or quarterback is even the slightest bit careless the Eagles defense will make them pay.
MIT has their own beast of a back in senior Justin Wallace, who finished fourth in the nation in rushing yards with 1420, and he added 16 touchdowns on the ground, tied for seventh. At 6-0. 215. Wallace does not have the size of a power back, but his 200 carries prove he can take the beating, and his 7.1 yards per carry average demonstrate that he is tough to bring down. The senior did fumble four times during the season, so he will have to be extra careful not to give Husson any additional chances with the ball.
Senior quarterback Peter Williams doesn’t get the attention that Wallace receives, but he has done everything the team has asked of him. He has passed for 1761 yards and 18 touchdowns, with a solid 64 percent completion rate. He is also a threat to run when needed, gaining 260 yards and 5 TDs.
Williams has two primary targets he will seek on passing downs. Seve Esparrago made 39 catches for 538 yards and 5 touchdowns. Brad Goldsberry made 36 catches for 417 yards and 4 TDs.
The Engineers are led by their outstanding corps of linebackers that blend youth and experience seamlessly. Senior Cameron Wagar leads the team with 76 tackles, and added a sack and an interception. Sophomore Anthony Emberley is not far behind with 70 tackles and an interception. He also leads the team with 4 sacks. Freshman Mitch Turley made 52 tackles and had an interception and sophomore Kodiak Brush had 45 tackles. This is the heart of the defense, and they must have a huge game for the Engineers to advance. MIT only recovered five fumbles and made 10 interceptions during the season.
MIT: 471.7 yards per game. 40.3 points per game
Husson: 366.1 yards per game, 32.7 points per game
MIT: 372.4 yards per game, 25.0 points allowed per game
Husson: 371.6 yards per game, 23.4 points allowed per game
Outlook: Both teams enter on a roll, and either team can walk away with a victory. Cleary the Husson Eagles have the advantage in that they can create turnovers and have a slightly more balanced defense, but MIT can match them offensively, and Williams may actually be the better signal caller in this game. I will take the slight upset and go with a late Tucker Cheyne field goal to win it for the MIT Engineers, 20-17.
Tomorrow’s Previews on the Minor League Sports Report will look at:
Wheaton vs. Benedictine
John Carroll vs. Centre
Wittenberg vs. Washington & Jefferson
Mount Union vs. Adrian
By Robert Pannier