September 30th, 2019 3:00am
Bentley showed glimpses of this type of performance in the first two weeks of the season but had nothing to show for it with a 0-2 record. That all changed last Friday as the Falcons were impressive in their 31-14 victory over New Haven.
It all started perfectly for Bentley. Will Sheriffs picked off the pass on the first play of the game and took it back 30 yards for a pick-six to give the Falcons an early advantage. New Haven righted the ship quickly and had two straight scoring drives to take the lead.
But then Bentley regrouped and dominated the final 50 minutes of the game. The defense was swarming to the ball and allowed no breathing room for the New Haven offense. They stepped up and played like a unit capable of stopping any offense in the country.
The Falcon offense took some time to get going and when it did, they were flawless. Quarterback Stephen Sturm had his best performance in a while as he looked comfortable in the pocket and threw the ball with confidence.
The big play of the night came in the third quarter as Sturm found a wide-open Drew Mahoney behind the defense for a 79-yard scoring strike. Mahoney was the top target for Sturm with 11 catches, but Sturm connected with six other receivers in the victory.
Sturm was also the leading rusher for the Falcons as he found holes in the pass rush of the Chargers and took exactly what the defense gave him. And let’s not overlook Isaiah Collins and his explosiveness in the return game. He set up a couple of short fields for the Bentley offense as he had a long of 66 yards on one return.
Bentley hit the road next week for a huge match-up with rival Assumption.
Second Half Surge
For the second straight week, the Pace Setters used the second half to make a close game a one-sided affair. This past weekend, it was a 28-point second half that fueled a 42-21 victory over St. Anselm. The Setters are 3-1, 2-0 NE10 and have a couple of huge games over the next several weeks.
Quarterback Carlton Aiken was unstoppable in the win over St. Anselm. He threw for 207 yards and four scores. He added another 89 yards on the ground and was once again the catalyst for the Pace offense. His favorite target was Darius Jones who hauled in six passes for 90 yards and two trips to the end zone. He also found six other receivers in the game and was able to help the offense move the ball up and down the field.
The Pace defense accounted for four interceptions including three times in the second half to help seal the victory. Harrison Moran-Fernandez and James Day led the Setters with nine tackles apiece from their defensive back positions.
Pace will travel to New Haven this weekend.
If you have seen Pace at all this year, one player seems to be running up and down the field making plays. He is not the tallest guy on the field, but he is standing out with his frequent trips to the end zone as defenders are trying to chase him down.
That is Darius Jones, the senior wide receiver for the Setters. Pace head coach Andy Rondeau would love to take credit for finding a hidden gem, but it was the right place at the right time.
“We would have loved to lay claim to recruiting him, but he showed up on our doorstep,” Rondeau said. “He walked on and has earned everything he got. He is a captain for us and is just a wonderful guy.”
Jones currently leads the NE10 in receiving yards, yards per reception and touchdowns. It just seems that when the ball is in his hands, he is a threat to make a big play.
“He is a multi-purpose guy,” Rondeau said. “He can play inside. He can play outside. We line him up at running back. We just know that we need to get him touches.”
Jones is also a dangerous kick returner. He is second in kickoff return average and holds the longest kickoff return to date with a 75-yard return against Millersville.
The way that Jones makes plays reminds you of another player that graduated last year and is playing at a higher level this year. As Mark Twain said, “It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.”
The American International defense was a brick wall when they needed to be last Saturday afternoon. Southern Connecticut had a first and goal at the 10-yard line in the waning seconds of the game. And the Yellow Jacket defense stood tall including a goal-line stand on 4th down at the one-yard line to win 19-13.
The victory improved American International to 2-2, 1-1 NE10 on the season and helped them win more games in September this year than they did in all of 2017.
The offense was not as crisp as a couple of weeks ago against Bentley but they scored when they were in the red zone. They were three of four on trips inside the 20-yard line.
But the ball-hawking defense for the Yellow Jackets was the difference in the game. They intercepted two passes and held the Owl offense to just two of six inside the red zone. They had a bend and not break attitude on Saturday as they were on the field for 82 plays and made that big stop at the one-yard line to preserve the victory.
American International is on the road at Stonehill this weekend.
Assumption used a fast start to defeat Franklin Pierce 53-6 last Saturday afternoon. The Greyhounds scored four times in the opening quarter and used short fields with their special teams’ units to get the ball into the end zone.
The balanced offensive attack saw the Greyhounds move the ball with ease to grab their second league win of the season. The defense was solid again in allowing just 174 yards of total offense and causing four turnovers on the afternoon.
Assumption has a huge game this weekend as they host Bentley.
The first month of the season is over and it is time to reflect on how the first four weeks of the season have progressed.
Like previous seasons in the NE10, expect the unexpected. A team that you think is struggling will put together a solid performance and shake up the standings.
We have the usual suspects at the top of the standings and the front runner for the league is unknown. New Haven was supposed to run away with the league but was brought back to reality at Bentley last Friday night. Southern Connecticut was supposed to compete for the league title but is currently winless along with St. Anselm.
Stonehill and American International were going to be in the back of the pack but have both garnered as many or more victories this month than all of last year.
Bentley was this close to upsetting a nationally ranked team on the road in Week one and seems rejuvenated after their bye week. Pace is 2-0 in the league for the first time in a while.
Franklin Pierce grabbed their first program victory in the month and seems to be getting into the rhythm of the NE10 season. Assumption was crushed in the opening weekend and seems to have rebounded nicely with three straight wins.
What is going to happen in October? Let’s follow along and see who emerges for another chock-full month of interesting matchups. It all starts this weekend with the top six teams squaring off against each other.
Who will rise to the top?