Monday, November 12, 2007

What a season

As I sit at home with a gallon of tea in front of me due to a serious case of laryngitis and a nasty cold, my first time calling out sick in over a year has given me time to reflect on what was one heck of a football season. If I have my count correct, I did something like 35 games in between Middlebury College, the Ice Storm, UVM and high school. There are days in which I would think, "Gee Fells, you are insane for keeping up this pace." The reality of it is that man alive, this thing some would call work sure beats working for a living.

Middlebury College wins its first ever NESCAC title with a 21-19 victory over Tufts down in Boston. The team this season was simply outstanding, and was a blast to watch. Freshman quarterback Donald McKillop played more like a senior, and the defensive unit was simply unreal this season. Credit Coach Ritter for opening up the playbook a little more and really making things exciting. The Middlebury parents as always were wonderful to me. They more or less ordered me to join them in the post-game tailgate parties, and their warmth, kindness and allowing me to get to know them and their kids meant the world to me. This is one of the many reasons covering the NESCAC and the Panthers is so much fun for me.

UVM saw their season end on Sunday with a 28-0 loss to the Ravens on a frigid day in Barre. Credit Ravens coach Mike Salmon's defense and Warren Bombardier for getting open for a couple of huge touchdowns. Don't credit the officiating crew who as always were simply awful. When Darren Haynes gets upset about a series of calls, you know the officials are bad. Darren is about as laid back as the day is long, and he actually had to be restrained by his coaching staff after another typically abysmal series of calls that went against the Cats. Also, when someone as equally laid back in Mike Salmon gets upset, you know there is something wrong. Darren, thanks for your kindness, insight, and humor this year. Let's do it again next season. To Mike and the Ravens, bring home the title next week!!!!

The Ice Storm this season gave us more thrills than can be described. Not only did they go 15-0, but Rob Joy showed us all what it means to have guts. For those who were not at the EFL title game, Rob took one of the most sickening shots to the knee I have ever seen. The entire crowd could hear him screaming, and no one expected he would come back into the game again, much less walk without a limp for the rest of his life. What did Rob do? He only caught the game winning TD pass with four seconds to go in the game on one leg. Way to go Rob, and congrats to the Ice Storm.

High school action saw guys like Taylor Devarney run wild, South Burlington upset Middlebury to get to the state finals, and more thrills than I can even remember right now. Vermont does not get enough credit for their play on the gridiron. Man alive, in between South Burlington, Essex, Middlebury and all of the other teams I covered this season, people should take notice and do so now. We may be a small state, but we have athletes here that are as good as there are in the country. Coming from California and seeing some great football in my day, this is saying something.

To stray from football for a second, I would like to thank the Vermont Frost Heaves for inviting me to play in their fan fest. Being on the court again was a blast, and hitting a nice little 22 footer was even better. My final professional line: 1-2 from the field, 1-2 from three point land, no boards, no assists, no fouls, and 248 shirt pulls telling Lafftery to get my butt out of the game before I needed oxygen.

This may sound like a goodbye, but trust me, it isn't. This week we start our coverage of Saint Michael's college basketball, both men's and women's as well as hockey as well. Saint Mike's is a tremendous school with amazing people. I cannot wait to do the broadcasts of the games, as well as doing PA this coming weekend. High school hockey and basketball is coming too, and I still can't believe I get paid to do what I do for a living.

Now to take my second nap of the day............

I would be remiss if I did not send my best to my father-in-law Erik who is in the ICU at Dartmouth. Get well soon old man...........

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hamilton at Middlebury preview

Hamilton at Middlebury—Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium

Needless to say, this is a must win for the Panthers, and the Continentals can play spoiler as Middlebury looks for its first NESCAC title since 2000. Currently the Panthers are tied for first at 5-1 with Tufts whom they play next week. Tufts is at Colby to take on the Mules, so if both teams win today, as many expect them to do, next week’s game will be for the NESCAC title.

Middlebury comes into this afternoon’s game with a record of 5-1 following last week’s 22-14 victory over Trinity. The game that was played in a driving rain was delayed twice due to lightning which had to throw the timing off for both teams. On his way to Rookie of the Week honors, Donald McKillop was 14-22 for 145 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. David Randolph had 32 carries for 70 yards and Timothy Dillon had a game high six receptions for 64 yards and a score.

The Panthers defense and special teams was very impressive against the Bantams. Middlebury’s defense was able to hold Trinity quarterback Eric McGrath to only 7-30 for 158 yards and an interception to go along with his 68 yard TD strike to Joe Clark. After the middle portion of the first quarter, McGrath was held to only 53 yards through the air. Middlebury was able to shutdown the Bantams running attack as they rushed for only 87 yards. The biggest play of the game for the Panthers came with 11:02 to go in the game when Jack Britton pooched a punt inside the Trinity one yard line. Two plays later Erik Woodring tackled McGrath in the end zone for a safety to give the Panthers a two point lead. Later, Timothy Dillon would snag a 25 yard TD strike from Donald McKillop and the Panthers kept their hopes for a NESCAC title alive. For Middlebury, Erik Woodring had 14 tackles, including three and a half for losses, Nathan Clancy had 11 tackles, and Brian Marcks earned NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors with five tackles, a forced fumble, broke up three passes and had an interception.

Hamilton comes into today with a record of 2-4 on the season following their 34-9 loss to Williams. In that game Williams quarterback Pat Lucey was 14-25 for 223 yards and a pair of touchdown passes, and Brian Morrissey carried the ball 31 times for 162 yards and three scores. The only touchdown of the game for Hamilton came with 7:30 remaining when Claudius Zorokong returned a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown. Williams out gained the Continentals 425-265. Hamilton quarterback Dan Hood was 19-36 for 186 yards and threw an interception.

Hamilton has struggled this season as they have scored only 75 points in six games, but have played better of late. The Continentals opened up the season with losses to Tufts, Wesleyan and Trinity, but have rebounded to win two of their last three, including a 20-0 victory over Colby.

Hamilton is lead on offense by senior quarterback Dan Hood. Hood is a 5’11, 180 pound senior out of Simsbury, CT. For the season, Hood is 82-167 for 968 yards with four touchdowns and six interceptions. His two leading receivers are Joe Rinaldo and Maxwell Foster. Rinaldo is a 5’8, 195 pound senior from Canastota, NY. Rinaldo has 24 receptions for 235 yards and a score. Foster is a 6’1, 185 pound sophomore out of Sherborn, MA. Foster has 20 receptions for 397 yards this season. The team’s leading rusher is Mark Snickenberger, a 5’11, 195 pound freshman from Wellesley, MA. Snickenberger has 69 carries for 341 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

On defense, linebacker John Lawrence leads the team in tackles with 42, he has seven and a half tackles for a loss, has three interceptions and three and a half sacks. Lawrence is a 6’0, 215 pound sophomore out of Baldwinsville, NY. Also look out for safety Matt Pittarisi who leads the team in interceptions with four. There are two Vermonters in the Hamilton defensive starting lineup. Nick Rockwell will get the start at one of the linebacker positions, he is a 6’3, 238 pound senior from Shelburne. Rockwell is fifth on the team in tackles with 32, he also has three and a half tackles for a loss along with an interception and a sack. The other Vermonter getting a start today is defensive tackle Derek Donovan. Donovan is a 6’2, 260 pound junior from Stamford. Donovan has 19 tackles this season with two coming for losses.

By the numbers:

On offense, Middlebury comes into today’s game leading the conference in rushing at 171 yards a game, they are third in scoring with 24 points a contest, and are third in total offense at 348 yards an outing. On defense, the Panthers lead the conference allowing only 12 points a game, they are number two against the pass, are third in total defense, but only seventh against the run allowing 120 yards a game.

Hamilton is ninth in scoring offense with only 12 points a game, are fourth in passing, and are last in the conference in rushing as they gain only 86 yards an outing. On defense, the Continentals are ranked sixth in the conference allowing 21 points a game, and are ninth against the pass, but are stingy against the run as they allow only 83 yards a game.

Keys to the game:

On offense, this may be more of a passing game for the Panthers than what is the norm. Donald McKillop will have to play another strong game, and may see his arm tested more than in weeks past with Hamilton being ninth against the pass, so that will be a key. David Randolph and the running backs will have to be patient against a Hamilton run defense that is one of the best in the conference. The defense will just have to do what has become the norm over the years and that is play hard and aggressive against a team that does not put many points on the board.

Hamilton will have to do what many have not been able to do and that is play keep away from Erik Woodring, the NESCAC’s leading tackler with 13 a contest. But, with guys like Brian Marcks, Brian Young, Alex Buggy and a whole host of others, it is like picking your poison when it comes to the Panther defense. Hamilton may need to do the unexpected against the Panthers and try to trick the defense just a bit. On defense the Continentals will have to try and confuse Donald McKillop, the freshman out of Poway, California. McKillop tossed five interceptions against Williams with a variety of defensive sets by the Ephs. McKillop is poised, but is still a rookie, so he may see some sets he has never seen before.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My take on the ABA

As I drove to and from Maine for the Middlebury/Bates football game on Saturday, my mind drifted as I dodged moose poop, various road kill, and tried to figure out where on the back roads of Maine, Cow Hampshire and Vermont I could get coffee and take a much needed pee break. When it drifted, the state of the ABA came to mind. Yes, I laughed quite a bit at some of the outrageous things I have seen and heard, but then I composed my three brain cells and came up with the following...........

I really think that the end of the league is near and that it will not survive the season. There is just too much going against it right now, mainly the Play On deal falling through. The league does not have any money right now, there is very little coming in, and the reputation of the league has scared away potential corporate sponsors.

The league needs money, but with the way Mr. Newman has run his league, he won't get any from anyone. Brad is in a terrible position where he has fantastic ideas but Mr. Newman refuses to listen to him because Joe thinks he is always right about how the league should be run. As we have seen, he is quite delusional in his thoughts.

As it stands now there are teams that have not been heard from, others jumping leagues or folding, and the crucial piece of this puzzle is that there isn't a cent of revenue coming in. Combine that with astronomical debt, I simply don't see how the league can survive.

For the teams that are run well, like those in the Northeast, I would get out before the ship sinks. Obviously there are teams who run themselves well, draw well, and have the overall concept as to how to run a team. Those teams should in my opinion leave the league and create their own. Have Alex Wolff be commissioner, involve the guys from Strong Island in the new league, as well as a select few who will set guidelines and follow them.

Minor league basketball has a place in sports, but just not the way it is being run now. Look at the CBA for example that has been around forever. They have solid teams, strong guidelines, conduct extensive due diligence on prospective teams, and as a result they have been a success. Their players are scouted, and signed by not only overseas teams, but NBA teams as well.

The only solution is for Joe to sell the league. Sources have told me there is an offer on the table but he has declined to sell. If Joe doesn't sell the league, it goes down the toilet. When the league goes down, he will probably be forced into bankruptcy. Obviously this is something Joe does not want to see happen to himself and his family.

Many may give James of the Bulldogs a hard time, but at least he is trying. Owners like Larry seem to have these grand plans for their teams, but they don't do a darn thing about it. Words are one thing, actions are another. This is a league that seems to be all talk, but the action does not exist. Give James credit, he at least tries to make his team solid and has done a good job with publicizing his new franchise.

Brad Hester is just too good for this league. I know some don't seem to care for the man, but he has solid ideas, strong desire, and a love for the game. A man who cares as much as he does and works as hard as he does deserves a better fate.

Hang it up Joe, and do it before you tarnish the reputation of all of minor league basketball and take some good people with you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trinity at Middlebury preview

Trinity(4-1) at Middlebury(4-1)—Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium—Middlebury, VT

Middlebury is 4-1 on the season after their 13-0 victory over Bates on Saturday in Lewiston. Donald McKillop was 19-31 for 227 yards, he did not throw a touchdown but did throw an interception. David Randolph had 20 carries for 88 yards and a one yard touchdown run; Gary Cooper added the other score for the Panthers. James Millard caught five passes for 80 yards in place of the injured Derek Polsinello and Charlie Holm caught five passes for 59. Penalties killed the Panthers as they had a touchdown run by David Randolph called back on a holding call, and Charlie Holm negated a big run with a personal foul penalty.

The Middlebury defense was outstanding in holding Bates to only 189 yards of total offense. Bates quarterback Brandon Colon was only 7-26 for 82 yards and was picked off twice. The first of those interceptions was picked off by Brian Young who ran it back 48 yards to the Bobcat seven yard line. Two plays later David Randolph punched the ball in from a yard out. Bates was able to keep the ball away from Erik Woodring, the Panthers leading tackler as he had only five stops on the afternoon. Nathan Clancy lead the way with seven stops, Michael Quinn added six. Middlebury sacked Colon twice with the sacks coming from Paul Thibodeau and Eric Kamback.

The Panthers out gained the Bobcats 378-189 and held the ball for five minutes longer than the Bobcats. Middlebury’s defense was able to hold Bates to only 2-13 on their third down conversions.

Middlebury comes into today third in total offense, second in rushing yards and are fourth in the conference in scoring at 24 ppg. The defense is going to be the key to this afternoon’s contest as they are number one against the pass, are second in scoring defense allowing nine points a game, but are seventh against the run. Middlebury is plus four in the turnover department which will be a factor today. Individually for Middlebury, Andrew Matson leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 21 receptions for 302 yards and is second in the conference intouchdowns with five. David Randolph is the team’s leading rusher with 90 carries for 407 yards and four touchdowns. Erik Woodring leads the conference in tackles with 64, he is in the running for the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Trinity shares Middlebury’s 4-1 record after their 54-13 victory over Bowdoin. Jordan Quinones carried the ball 15 times for 107 yards and two scores; Robert Jackson had 18 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Eric McGrath was 15-29 for 197 yards and a pair of touchdown passes to Justin Holliday. Holliday finished the afternoon with six receptions for 120 yards. The Bantams dominated on both sides of the ball as they outgained the Polar Bears 476-158 and held Bowdoin to only 74 yards on the ground. Trinity converted an incredible 15-19 on third downs and went 7-7 in the red zone.

Trinity is a team that is simply loaded on both sides of the football. Quarterback Eric McGrath is second in the NESCAC in passing with 1,259 yards and he leads the conference with 13 touchdowns. For the season McGrath is 93-185 and had thrown six interceptions to go along with his 13 touchdowns. Running back Jordan Quinones is fifth in the conference in rushing at 82 yards a contest. McGrath has some weapons to throw to in Joe Clark and Justin Holliday. Clark has 19 receptions for 339 yards and leads the NESCAC in touchdown receptions with seven. Also look out for Justin Holliday who has 17 catches for 250 yards. As a team, the Bantams lead the conference in scoring at 34 ppg, and are second in passing and in total offense. On defense, the Bantams are touch allowing 15 points a game, are third against the run and are second in total defense.

Keys to the game:

Middlebury HAS to control the football and play disciplined football. The Panthers have been plagued by penalties the last few weeks, and against a team like Trinity, that could hurt them. Donald McKillop has to take his time and be selective in his passing. Trinity is outstanding on the defensive end and will probably try to rattle the freshman QB. Trinity has 22 quarterback sacks on the year so the offensive line will have to be strong. On the defensive end they will have to try and contain Eric McGrath and all of his weapons as they can be deadly.

Trinity will have to play the style of play that has them scoring 34 points a game. McGrath is a good quarterback who has a balanced attack behind and in front of him. McGrath has an offensive line that has allowed only eight sacks this season. The defense will try to confuse Donald McKillop, and that is something that will be key as for the most part McKillop does not make many mistakes. The Bantams will also have to contain a very good Middlebury defense lead by Erik Woodring. The Panthers are very strong with a supporting cast of Alex Buggy, Chad Gurrerro, Brian Young and a strong host of others.

The Bantams lead the all-time series 23-8 and won last year’s meeting 40-9.

In other action, Amherst is at Tufts, Wesleyan is at Bowdoin, Hamilton is at Williams, and in a battle of winless teams, Bates is at Colby.

ESPN 1490 WFAD and on the web at at 12:30 Eastern Time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The wild weekend that was.......

It was a good and hectic weekend for the sports clown with another three game in three day stretch. No, I am not complaining, as I still can't believe they pay me to watch and talk about football.

Friday night in the rain and wind, it was Essex taking on Burlington with Essex winning this one 20-0. Essex has a solid team with Peter Dietrich and Max Librizzi sharing quarterback duties, and with the Nicasio cousins playing very well on both sides of the ball, it was a fairly convincing win for the Hornets. Burlington is not a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, they have just been killed by injuries on their front line. The big blow for the Seahorses was when quarterback A.J. Dusablon was knocked out of the game in the second quarter. A.J. is one tough kid, and although I did not see the hit as I was following the ball, it had to be nasty for A.J. to go down and to miss the second half. Thankfully for both teams, they were playing on turf as the rain was torrential at times, but the press box wasn't spared. George Commo and I were drenched with the wind whipping the rain into the booth. We had to cover our equipment and our written notes were soaked.

Saturday was Middlebury at Bates with the Panthers moving to 4-1 with a 13-0 shutout of the Bobcats. As always, the Middlebury defense was outstanding, but the offense was sluggish. Middlebury should have been able to put at least 27 points on the board, but they committed dumb penalties at the wrong times. One of those penalties cost the Panthers a touchdown that was called back on a holding call.

Bates is a very nice campus up in Maine. The field was surrounded by a new building to the north end zone, and you could see a good part of the campus from the field. We almost didn't get on the air on time though as we were having issues with the phone line. Andy Walter, the Bates SID, did a great job getting things back up and running so we could go on the air on time.

The drive up was nice, but I learned not to trust Mapquest directions. Mapquest had me going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house and I got so lost. Finally, after driving around in circles, I found a mail carrier who got me to where I needed to go, although it was a bit late. Not his fault, I blame Mapquest. Needless to say, I asked one of the locals how to get home and it was a nice straight shot. Route four to 108, 108 to Route 2 and on home. Why couldn't it have been that easy on the way there? Oh yeah, I followed Mapquest so never mind.

Sunday, after getting home late and getting up late, I made the easy trip to Barre for the UVM/Ravens semi-pro game. UVM dropped a tough 10-7 decision in a game that was pure defense. These guys were just beating the tar out of each other, and the offenses just could not get going at all. My intern at WSKI, Tanner Acebo, ended up doing PA and did an awesome job. This is one FANTASTIC kid who just wants his shot at doing sports, and is learning that the more you do, and the more opportunities you take advantage of, the more exposure and experience you will get. Great job kid, keep it up.

Here are the totals for this weekend:

Miles driven: 631

Road kill: It was a light week, even on the backroads of Maine with only eight that I could see. But, I did see someone with a dead moose in the back of his pickup on Sunday, but that doesn't count as road kill.

Coffee consumed: Six cups while on the road.

Minutes spent lost in Maine: 45