November 8th, 2021 3:00am
Party like its 2012
It is hard to believe that the New Haven Chargers last won the NE10 way back in 2012. It has been a long time coming but the celebration on the blue turf after the game was well deserved.
New Haven easily defeated Bentley 31-14 last Saturday to claim the NE10 championship in a battle of previously unbeaten teams in the league. The Chargers were the better team from the first whistle to the final one. They did everything that they needed to do to win the title and now will never forget that feeling.
But the season is far from over. They will conclude the regular season next Saturday at Franklin Pierce and then await their seeding in the playoffs.
One of the matchups that people focused on before the game was the New Haven offensive line against the Bentley defensive line. Both units are very experienced and talented and a major reason for their respective team’s success.
But the reason that New Haven won the game was their offensive line. They completely dominated the trenches as their quarterback had all the time in the world to make the necessary play. And they opened holes for the running backs to run through to the tune of 286 yards on the ground.
“They worked so hard,” said New Haven running back Zach Mauro. “They opened up everything for me. They overpowered the DL. Bentley has a very good upfront line, and it was awesome to see them overpower them. It gave us opportunities to move the ball down the field.”
The group of John Tyrrell, Michael Wilson, Mike Zecchin, Michael Cappuccilli, Williams Ayers are all graduate students and have plenty of experience on the field. They showed it all day long and toss in Neil Brown, this group is extremely talented.
“Shout out to the offensive line,” New Haven quarterback Connor Degenhardt said. “They were awesome all day. We were able to run anything we wanted. They did a great job protecting me and blocking for Zach.”
“I think that we played well,” said New Haven offensive lineman Michael Cappuccilli. “Assignment-wise, we were sound. We moved the down lineman, and our calls were solid. We had a great week of practice and it translated to the game.”
If New Haven is going to go deep in the playoffs, the offensive line will be a big part of their success.
With all the focus on the New Haven offense, the defense is often overlooked but not on this day. The unit had consistent pressure on a good quarterback and didn’t allow any big plays.
Bentley had been putting up over 30 points per game and 400 yards per game. But the New Haven defense limited them to 14 points and a mere 215 yards in the game.
“We understand that if we shook the pocket, we made sure that he was not able to stay in a clean pocket that it would be hard for him to make good throws,” New Haven defensive back Shawn Tafe said. “We made big hits and plays on the ball.”
The New Haven defense was exceptional all day long. They allowed minimal big plays and we just did everything that they needed to do to win the game.
“Our defense has been fantastic and especially the last month,” New Haven coach Chris Pincince said. “They were really dialed in and working together. We have gotten better as the season has gone on. I am excited about how far we can take this.”
This defense is experienced and ready to go week after week.
The biggest play of the game happened midway through the second quarter. With New Haven leading 7-0, the Bentley defense needed to make a play and they did.
On third and long on the 13-yard line, Cedric Dashiell tracked down Connor Degenhardt and forced a fumble. Jailen Branch jumped on the loose ball and Bentley had a first and goal from the 5-yard line. It was the play that Bentley needed to grab momentum and tie the game.
But once again, the New Haven defense rose to the occasion. The Falcons moved Stephen Sturm out wide to the receiver position and left Andrew Brazicki alone in the backfield. He took the direct snap and tried a quick jump throw to the end zone. Khyon Fitzpatrick saw the play developing and intercepted the pass in the end zone.
The crisis was averted and then the Charger offense put together an 11 play, 80-yard drive to extend the lead to 14-0.
That play was the difference in the game as New Haven seized control of the game and Bentley was never able to recover.
New Haven coach Chris Pincince has done a lot during his time in charge of the Charger program. But last Saturday, he did something that he had not done in the past. He has the most wins in school history, he has won playoff games, but a league championship has eluded him.
That all changed last Saturday with New Haven clinching their first NE10 title since 2012. His players failed in their first attempt at the Gatorade bath but succeeded the second time.
“It was cold, I am not going to lie,” Pincince said in his drenched shirt. “It felt great, and it is a great accomplishment for the 16 seniors that choose to come back. It was our goal, and I am happy for the kids.”
“I am happy for Coach P and everyone on this team deserved,” Cappuccilli said.
“I wanted to come back for my fifth season and win a championship for my coach,” Tafe said.
Pincince knows that the season is far from over. It is a solid win for the program, and they had plenty of happy fans on the field celebrating. But they have another game to play and a playoff berth upcoming. There was plenty of celebrating Saturday night, but the team will need to quickly refocus on the final regular-season game.
Last week was the week of the running back. This week, it was the weekend of players with multiple trips into the end zone.
New Haven quarterback Connor Degenhardt found the end zone three times in the Chargers’ victory. He also added a touchdown pass in the game. He is currently second in rushing touchdowns in the league.
Justin Felder found his groove again as he scored three times in the Stonehill 34-7 victory over Franklin Pierce. The junior running back started with a 77-yard run to ignite the Skyhawks and then visited the end zone two more times. He leads the NE10 with 15 rushing touchdowns.
Assumption quarterback Jacoby Cady took the cake for most touchdowns last weekend. After seeing limited time in 2021, the junior had a career day in the victory over St. Anselm. He scored four times on the ground while leading the Greyhounds in rushing.
Tylon Papallo was not to be denied from his record-setting day a couple of weeks ago. He rushed for a score and added a receiving touchdown as Southern Connecticut fell to Pace.
Once again, players step up in big games and it doesn’t hurt to score three or more times to help your team win their games.
The final regular-season regional rankings will be released Monday afternoon and I expect chaos once again. Top teams fell and others behind them in the rankings had impressive wins. I don’t envy the job of the committee as there is a slew of teams with similar records.
For the NE10, Bentley will fall out of the top spot with the loss to New Haven. And I expect New Haven to jump up the rankings. But the good news for the league is that if both teams win next weekend, they should have two representatives in the playoffs.
The PSAC is even more chaotic. California fell to Slippery Rock and no team in the region is undefeated. The Rock will play Kutztown for the PSAC championship this weekend. If Kutztown wins, they will probably be the number one seed in the region.
Notre Dame College is also in the driver’s seat for a first-round home game. If they defeat Alderson Broaddus, they should finish second or third in the region with a 9-1 record.
The committee also made a statement by putting in two GMAC teams last week. Tiffin and Findlay will play each other this weekend in a game that will decide the league title and a potential trip to the playoffs. The winner might stay in the top nine of the region, and that will be good enough to vault them to the seventh seed in the playoffs via earned access.
With all of this, something will have to give. California, Kutztown, Slippery Rock, Shepherd, Notre Dame College, Bentley, and New Haven all have one loss right now. That is what is known as a log jam.
What we know is that Kutztown and Slippery Rock are playing each other so one of those teams will have two losses and maybe out of the playoffs. It looks like it leaves seven teams for six slots if the GMAC gets earned access for the winner this weekend. If everyone else wins, I would love to be a fly on the wall for the region call next weekend when they need to pick the teams for the playoffs.
Stay tuned as it is about to get very interesting.