November 18th, 2019 3:01am
It is that time of the season when my Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards are handed out as well as Coach, Team, and Game of the Year.
Here are my selections for the 2019 season.
Offensive Player of the Year
Justin Felder, RB, Stonehill
The sophomore running back had a breakout season in 2019. He finished the year with 1,513 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, both school records. He added another two trips to the end zone through the air to become the first player in school history to cross the 100-point mark in a season.
Felder had back to back 300 yards games for the first time in league history and had six games this year that he had at least two trips to the end zone. He was an earlier riser as he scored a bunch of touchdowns in the opening quarter and was a big reason that Stonehill exceeded expectations in 2019.
Justin Felder was a workhouse for the Skyhawks and that is the reason why he is my Offensive Player of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year
CJ Miller, LB, St. Anselm
The senior linebacker was a monster for the Hawks all season long. He led the league with 107 tackles including 58 of the solo variety. He also led the league with 10.5 sacks and spent a lot of time in the opposing backfield. He racked up 14 totals for a loss and pushed the opposition back 100 yards in those tackles.
Miller also picked off two passes and broke up five passes during the season. He was also credited with three forced fumbles and recovered a fumble as well. He was all over the field and making plays for the Hawks in helping them to their best season in five years.
CJ Miller had a nose for the ball in 2019 and that is why he is my Defensive Player of the Year.
Coach of the Year
Eli Gardner, Stonehill
Not many people thought that Stonehill was going to be in the mix for the NE10 title. But Eli Gardner knew the talent that he had in his locker room and allowed them to emerge as the season went along.
It started in Week 1 when the Skyhawks went on the road and defeated Bloomsburg. They were the only team to win in Week 1 and it started them on the way to a winning season.
They jumped out to a 4-1 record before a couple of tough, close losses to Assumption and Bentley pulled them back to the pack. But the Skyhawks won a couple of more games to have a shot at first place headed into the final weekend of the season.
2018 was a tough season for Gardner as his team was only able to win two games but finished the season in style with a victory over Assumption. That win seemed to put the right mindset in his team for the offseason and get back into the top tier of teams in the league.
Eli Gardner pushed all of the right buttons in 2019 and that is why he is my Coach of the Year.
Team of the Year
They emerged from a tough start of the season, hit a speedbump in the middle of October but were still crowned the 2019 NE10 champs.
They finished the regular season with a 6-2 league record and a victory over New Haven in Week 4 on a nationally televised game was the difference in the tiebreaker.
The Falcons were 1-4 on October 12th and looked like it was going to be a long season. They rallied to win five straight games and their first league championship since 2010 and fifth overall.
Head coach Bill Kavanaugh rallied his troops in the bye week to defeat New Haven but a tough overtime loss to Assumption on the road and then a dud against Southern Connecticut. But he once again got his team to believe in the program to pull off the improbable title.
They traveled to rival Stonehill and won on a last-second field goal. The key play was a fake punt on their side of the 50 that worked and led to the winning field goal. They went to Pace the following weekend, withstood a rally and won the game late. They held off St. Anselm at home before finishing the season with back to back shutouts of Franklin Pierce and American International.
Bentley defied the odds of winning the league title and that is why they are my Team of the Year for 2019.
Game of the Year
St. Anselm 37 New Haven 31
It was the game that turned around the season for the St. Anselm Hawks. They were 0-5 at the time and facing one of the top teams in the league on a Saturday night. Nobody gave the Hawks much of a chance to win this game except for the players in the St. Anselm locker room.
It was New Haven in the first quarter. They jumped out to a 14-3 lead behind touchdowns by Shamar Logan and Nyshere Woodson. But the start of the second quarter showed St. Anselm that they had a chance.
Anthony Brown fielded the kickoff and was not stopped until he crossed the goal line for the 94-yard kickoff return. An Eric Fairweather to Shawn Donovan touchdown then gave the Hawks a slim 16-14 lead late in the second quarter.
Ju’An Williams caught a late touchdown before the half and the Chargers were in front 21-16. It was a quiet third quarter as New Haven booted a field goal and then Donovan caught his second touchdown of the evening to cut the lead to 24-22 heading into the final 15 minutes.
And then the craziness begins.
With just under five minutes to play, Logan breaks off a 41-yard touchdown run, and New Haven leads 31-22. People are thinking about heading to the exits, but Brown has other thoughts.
He returns the kickoff 62 yards and gives excellent field position to his offense. A couple of Fairweather completions and a pass interference call put the ball at the four-yard line. Fairweather calls his own number and cuts the deficit to two again, 31-29 with 3:28 to play.
The Hawk defense makes a huge stop as they stuff two rushes and force an incompletion to get the ball back quickly with 2:22 to play.
The Hawks then drive 77 yards and cut through the New Haven defense to get the ball into the end zone. The key play was a 16-yard completion on 3rd and 10 for the Hawks as Fairweather hooked up with Christian Matthews-Byrd.
Fairweather scores his second rushing touchdown of the quarter and St. Anselm leads 37-31 with 34 seconds to play. But the game was far from over.
The Chargers take over on the 23-yard line and proceed to move the ball down the field. Christian Lupoli completes a pass to Paul Cooper and AJ Greene twice to get the ball down to the nine-yard line with two seconds left.
The Hawk defense makes one final play as they stop the final pass and the ball falls incomplete.
In total, the teams combined for 50 first downs, 147 plays and 990 yards of total offense. The game also saw 290 yards on kickoffs return but zero return yards on seven punts. Not to mention one final nail-biting play at the end of the game.
St. Anselm’s frantic comeback in the fourth quarter is good enough to qualify for their 37-31 victory over New Haven to be my 2019 Game of the Year.