November 1st, 2021 3:00am
We have all avoided it. But it is finally here. Bentley will travel to New Haven on Saturday for the biggest game of the season in the NE10. Both teams are undefeated in league play and the winner will most likely be the regular-season champion.
It is a game involving two good teams. New Haven and Bentley might have been looking ahead as both teams eked out victories last Saturday. But I will blame the rain as both coaches were focused on their respective opponents.
The NE10 got rid of the championship game in 2016 but this game is as close to a championship game as we have seen. There have been two times in league history that undefeated teams have met each other in the month of November.
The first time was in 2012. New Haven crushed American International 37-6 in the final week of the regular season. The two teams met again the following weekend for the title and New Haven was once again the better team on their way to the NCAA playoffs.
The other time was in 2018 when LIU Post defeated New Haven 17-13 on Long Island. Both teams made the playoffs that year as the Pioneers finished the regular season undefeated but fell in the playoffs. The Chargers won a playoff game before falling to Slippery Rock.
What is at stake in this game? New Haven hasn’t claimed an NE10 title since 2012. Bentley is looking to win back-to-back titles for the first time since New Haven did so from 2010 to 2012.
Will this game live up to the game in 2018? We will be able to answer that question later next Saturday afternoon.
Running Back Weekend
With the rain and bad weather in each game except at Pace last weekend, it turned out to be the weekend of the running back. Ball control and ball security were going to be the game plan in the rain, and we saw that on display.
Justin Felder bounced back from injuries to have a solid game in Stonehill’s 19-8 victory over Pace. He gained 96 yards on the ground and had a score. He added another 57 yards receiving and seemed to find his early-season spark.
Andrew Brazicki continues to rewrite the record books for Bentley as he had a huge hand in the 24-14 victory over Franklin Pierce. He had 108 yards and two scores in the game. He has been the backbone for the Falcons and is a major reason why they are undefeated thus far.
EJ Burgess continues to be a reason why Franklin Pierce has been in close games this year. He had 186 yards and a trip to the end zone. He added another 22 yards receiving and has been a consistent bright spot for the Raven offense.
Zach Mauro got the start for New Haven and made the most of his opportunity. He rushed for 133 yards and a score in the Chargers’ 16-10 victory over Assumption. He usually gets snaps later in the game and special sets but was there from the start and helped New Haven to the victory.
Khaleed Exum-Strong has had a huge 2021 season and the same was true in the 16-10 loss to New Haven. He gained 139 yards on the game against a defense that doesn’t allow many rushing yards. Despite some late-game cramps, Exum-Strong was a huge reason why the Greyhounds almost pulled off the road victory.
Vincent Wagner had his second straight 100-yard game, and it was the second straight win for St. Anselm. It was a 21-16 victory for the Hawks as they won their third game of the season. Wagner had 153 yards in the game to go along with 10 yards receiving.
With the first rainy Saturday of the football season, it was time for the running backs in the league to shine and they did.
We saw the first regional rankings last week and the NE10 had three teams in the top ten.
Bentley was ranked number one and appears to be the team to beat for that top spot. They are 8-0 and have two huge games left. They control their own fate for the playoffs. If they win both games, they will be the top seed and have the bye to host a game in the second round. If they split their final two games, they will still be in the playoffs and hosting a first-round game.
New Haven checked in at number six in Super Region One. They are one of three teams that are undefeated in regional play. Their lone loss was to SR2 foe Bowie State and only counts to their overall Division II record. The Chargers also control their own fate for the playoffs. Two wins and they are hosting a playoff game. If they split, they are still in a good position to make the playoffs but will be on the cusp and on the road.
Stonehill is number nine in the region and needs a lot of help to make the playoffs. They lost to the NE10 teams ahead of them in the rankings and need some of the teams to fall ahead of them to make the playoffs.
For the NE10, the easiest way to get two teams into the playoffs is to have New Haven win this weekend and then both Bentley and New Haven win on the 13th. That will get both into the playoffs and make up for the lack of teams for the league in the 2019 playoffs. If Bentley wins, they is an outside shot that New Haven gets in and might only have one NE10 team playing in late November.
The biggest movement will be with the PSAC. With California and Slippery Rock playing each other this weekend, the winner will be the PSAC West champ and face Kutztown on November 13th. But Kutztown still has a tough game against West Chester this weekend, so they are not quite a lock for a home playoff game but look good to finish in the top seven.
The same goes for Shepherd. They are going to get the loser of the Rock and California game on the 13th and will be a huge game for both for playoff positioning. Shepherd will be in if they win this weekend against East Stroudsburg but might have to play on the road if they lose to the PSAC West runner-up.
Notre Dame College seems to be the best hope for the Mountain East Conference as they have been a solid team for years now. If they can win out, they are in the playoffs.
The biggest surprise is the lack of representation from the GMAC. They are fighting the same issue that the NE10 has faced over the years, parity. Two teams that seem to have a chance to make the top ten are Tiffin and Findlay. Both are 4-1 in the league, but Tiffin has the better overall record. They will play each other on November 13th so the winner might slip into the rankings and grab a spot.
As always, a team that wins on the field will have little to complain about in the rankings. Win on the field and don’t let the committee determine your fate.