September 13th, 2021 12:00am
To be perfectly honest, I was about to shut off the American International/Pace game Friday night. After AIC had a bad snap over the head of Jayson DeMild and Pace had an easy touchdown, the score was 26-6 and the Setters were in full control. My stream was going in and out and figured the game was over with that miscue. Boy, I was wrong.
American International marched down the field on the ensuing drive and that was just the start of an epic fourth quarter for the Yellow Jackets. They scored 28 points in the final 15 minutes including an unbelievable three-play, 70-yard drive to win the game that took a mere 15 seconds in the final minute.
When the dust settled, American International left Pace Stadium with a 40-33 victory to move to 2-0 on the season. The Pace sideline was left stunned as they just tied the game with an impossible drive in the final minutes only to be one-upped by the Yellow Jackets.
It is the first time since 2009 that AIC started the season with consecutive victories. It was the first time since 2015 that the team scored 40 points in a game. It was the first time in several years that the AIC will be in the mix when the NE10 league games kick off this coming weekend.
DeMild was the difference-maker for AIC in the victory. He threw for 364 yards, four scores, and added another 93 yards with his legs. It was a career day for him and the type of performance that the Yellow Jackets needed to win the game.
He spread the ball around to six different receivers and seemed to have plenty of time to make something happen as his offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Jaheim McGuire and Kequan Jamison both hauled in two touchdowns.
It has been a while since American International has been a team that can put up points and pulling off this type of improbable comeback. They are a better team than the preseason pickers thought including yours truly.
They are on the road again this weekend as they make their first trip to Franklin Pierce to open the NE10 league schedule.
It is the worst kept secret in the NE10 and now in the country. Stonehill running back Justin Felder is a touchdown machine. The latest example is re-writing the record books in Easton.
Felder found the end zone five times in a 54-21 victory over Southern Connecticut last Saturday night. It is a school record with five rushing touchdowns in a single game and he now has eight scores on the season. At this pace, he might be re-writing the NE10 record book as well as the Stonehill ones.
The Stonehill offense is dynamic when Felder is on the field. He has the ability to break off a long run each time he touches the ball. And if he doesn’t touch the ball, the opposing defense needs to stack the line of scrimmage and then the Skyhawk receivers have more field to work with. That is the sign of a dangerous player and that is exactly what Felder is.
The overlooked unit right now is the Stonehill offensive line. They are doing the work in the trenches to give Felder the time to make the cuts and find his holes to break off those long runs. That unit is often overlooked but when they do their good job, the running back is the one that gets all the accolades.
Ironically, the last team to hold Felder under 100 yards and out of the end zone was Bentley in Week 7 of the 2019 season. Guess who Stonehill faces this weekend.
And speaking of Bentley, they have been rolling in 2021. They used the pandemic to get better and not miss a beat from their 2019 season. The offense used a late drive in the first half to tie the game with Assumption and they exploded in the third quarter to win the game 40-28.
Bentley has won seven straight games going back to 2019. In the last five of those games, they have scored at least 38 points. They have broken the 40-point barrier in both games in 2021 and look like a solid football team on both sides of the ball.
They have an experienced quarterback in Stephen Sturm, two solid backs, and plenty of speed and play-making abilities with their wideouts. The offense line is winning the point of attack and not enough credit goes to the defense. They are flying all over the field and not allowing the opposing offense to feel comfortable doing anything.
Speaking of that seven-game winning, it all started against this week’s opponent, Stonehill. Guess that there is going to be a lot on the line in Waltham Saturday in their NE10 opener.
The brightest and biggest new addition to the Franklin Pierce team has been running back EJ Burgess. He has been a dominating force in the first two games for the Ravens and it looks like he is just getting started.
On his first touch in the loss to Lake Erie, he went 71 yards to the end zone. For the game, he averaged 9.4 yards per rush and finished with a game-high 197 yards. He also hauled in four passes to make his Week 1 performance at New Haven no fluke.
Burgess comes to Rindge, NH via a community college in Florida and growing up in Texas. Coach Russell Gaskamp has strong ties to the Texas area since he played for the Texas Longhorns and coached football and grew up in the Oklahoma area.
This is not your typical path to play football in the NE10 via Texas and Florida, but Franklin Pierce is certainly happy that Burgess took this route.
Two Weeks in
We have learned that good players are able to shake off the rust and play at high levels despite nearly 650 days between games. We have learned that teams need some confidence if they are going to play well. But of course, we knew that.
This coming weekend is when all the hard work starts to pay off. It is the week that teams start to vie for the league hardware. Nine weeks and we will have a champion of the league.
We have teams not expected to be in the mix who are suddenly in the mix. And we have teams that were expected to be in the mix who might not be. One week doesn’t define a season, but this coming weekend will do a lot to shape the season. Win your league opener and you are one step ahead of the competition. Lose this weekend and you might be facing an uphill battle until November.
Let the fun begin.