Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The drive to Williams

When I was assigned the play-by-play duties for Middlebury football on ESPN 1490, I knew that covering Division III football would be fun because of the competition, the academics, and a couple of players I bumped into the previous year. Being a history buff and one who enjoys good scenery and a good story or two, the road trips were going to be fun as well.

Two weeks ago I was in Williamstown, Mass., the home of the Williams Ephs. Once the sun comes up in central and southern Vermont, the drive is one of the most spectacular you will ever see. Now going through Rutland isn’t the fun part, but when you get outside of Rutland it is nothing but wide open spaces, and more trees than even a transplanted Vermonter could imagine. During the fall, the natives complain about slow drivers on Rte. 7 who are trying to look at the leaves while driving and dodging moose, but I am convinced even they sneak a peek here and there to remind them they deal with the nasty winters in exchange for some colors.

The first real city one sees outside of Rutland is the historic city of Bennington, Vt. Bennington is the site of one of the Battle of Bennington, one of the more memorable battles during the Revolutionary War. At the site of the Bennington Battle Monument, American colonists stored important food and weapons which the British tried to, but were not able to capture for their own troops. You can see the 306 foot high monument for many miles outside the city. Williamstown itself is about a stone’s throw from Bennington. Having never made the trip, I was surprised to see the Williamstown sign about five minutes outside Bennington. Williams College was founded in 1793 and is one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the USA. Williams holds the distinction of not only holding the first organized baseball game in 1859, but Williams was the first college whose graduates wore caps and gowns.

Being a football historian, I was interested in one of the great traditions in college football: The Walk. The walk takes place if Williams defeats their longtime rival Amherst. The players will walk up Spring Street to Saint Pierre’s Barber Shop where owner Roger Saint Pierre has cigars lined up, and the upperclassmen will shave the heads of the freshmen on the squad. When I walked into Saint Pierre’s, I was actually going to get my hair clipped while talking about the history of The Walk. Well, there was one small problem in they don’t take credit cards, and I was dumb enough to leave my debit card at home. I did end up spending a good 45 minutes talking to Roger about the tradition, its evolution, and looking at the wall of pictures that adorn the walls. When I asked Roger how he got involved in this, he laughed and shook his head a bit. He said it was unintentional, but it snowballed. He said about 40 years ago, after a win against Amherst, the players asked if they could walk up to the shop and celebrate. Well, the beer flowed, the heads were shaved, and a tradition was born. Roger said this is one of the greatest traditions in all of college football, and one he is pleased to be a part of. Roger said to me, “Well, things have changed though. It used to be that the kids would come in here, have a few beers, and do their thing; but that was years ago and the state is a little tight on those things nowadays.” When I asked why the tradition is so important to the team he thought for a second and said, “For the seniors, I think it is their way of holding on to their college football careers for just one more minute. You see, these are all kids who are not on athletic scholarships, and most likely won’t play football again. If they can hold on for just one more second, it seems to complete their careers and they are ready to move on.”While Roger was talking, I was looking at the pictures on the wall and just picturing what it would be like to be in that small barber shop with 80 guys smoking stogies and shaving the heads of their freshman teammates into outrageous styles.

Thinking about it made me wish I was about six inches taller, 50 pounds heavier, and had SAT scores about 600 points higher so I could take part in such a tradition. It seems simple, but it is one of those things that make a memorable experience even more memorable.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

NESCAC this week.........

Here are my fearless, if you want to call them that, predictions forthe weekend in the NESCAC. Now, I tend to write more about the NESCAC because it is a conference I cover for ESPN Radio up here in the woods of Vermont. It is a good conference with some quirks, but the level ofplay is pretty good. The one thing I don't like is the fact they don't play outside of their own conference and do not play in the playoffs. I will spout off more on that later.

Bates at Middlebury: Bates is a perennial loser, and Middlebury's defense has been tough this year, with the exception of last week's 40-9 loss at Williams. Middlebury's defense will do well against theBobcats, but the offense has to start kicking it up a notch or two. Prediction: Middlebury 10 Bates 3.

Hamilton at Colby: Hamilton scored their first points of the year lastweekend, and their defense looked as good as it has all year. Colbyhas the weapons on offense, but haven't been consistent of late.Prediction: Colby 17 Hamilton 0.Williams at Tufts: This is by far the game of the week in the NESCAC. Williams has a potent offensive attack and their defense isn't half bad either. Jon Dreckenhan and Brendan Fullmer will give the Tufts defense fits all afternoon. Prediction: Williams 35 Tufts 21.

Trinity at Bowdoin: Let's see here, perennial power Trinity againstBowdoin, a team that has only scored 13 points this season. Trinity 49Bowdoin 10.

Amherst at Wesleyan: I actually like this Wesleyan team as they aremuch improved from last year. Zack Librizzi has put up good numbersand is running that wide open offense very well this season. Freshman Danny Granatell had a fantastic game last weekend with seven receptions for 111 yards and I think that is what the kid needs to getgoing. Amherst will put their share of points on the board with their strong offense, but in the upset special of the week: Wesleyan 24 Amherst 20.

Now for my feelings on the NESCAC and not playing out of conferencegames and not going to the Division III playoffs. I understand thefact that NESCAC schools have strong academic traditions, and league officials don't want teams to take more time out of the classroom than need be. Ok fine, I can deal with that, but doesn't their current schedule and not playing outside the conference do a disservice to the teams? Take for example Middlebury College and not playing outside of the NESCAC. There is a fantastic rivalry up here between the Panthers and Norwich University that has not been played in years. Norwich and Middlebury are the only two schools in Vermont that play at any levelof college football. This was a rivalry that packed the respective stadiums, and was a game the entire state got involved in. Rivalries like this are what makes college football what it is today. Bring it back!! Let the teams play at least one game outside of the conference so rivalries like this can be played and continued. Especially in a state where there are only two college football teams, I think this rivalry needs to be brought back so at the bare minimum, there can be some bragging rights in the Green Mountain State.

When it comes to the playoffs, how can a team like Trinity prove theyare as good as they really are if they don't go up against competition outside their conference? This is a team who has won 33 of their last 34 games and are one of the best teams in New England. How can theyprove they are one of the best in the nation if they don't face outside competition? To me, this is a joke, and a couple of coaches I have spoken with want to have the ability to prove themselves at a national level. If other schools with equal academic traditions inDivision III football can make the playoffs, why can't the NESCAC?

That's all for me, time to prepare for the Middlebury/Bates game. For those outside of Central Vermont, you can catch the game on the web Alan O'Donnell will have the color commentary, I will have play-by-play duties. Pre-game at 12:30, kickoff at 1:00 Eastern Time.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not a pretty weekend

This weekend wasn't the best for Middlebury College football, or college football in general. The Panthers were crushed 40-9 down in Williamstown, MA, and the Miami Hurricanes proved to the college football world why they are the biggest joke in the game.

Middlebury took it on the chin with a 40-9 defeat at the hands of Williams. Tiger Lyon looked a little unsettled at quarterback throwing for only 74 yards and three interceptions. I do have to say though that the Williams offense is just incredible. Jon Dreckenhan and Brandon Fullmer are two of the best receivers, if not the best in the NESCAC. Fullmer had two touchdowns and 105 yards, while Dreckenhan had 74 yards and had a couple of impressive catches. The Ephs offensive line was able to hold the Panther defense sackless and in check for the entire game. The game plan of coach Ritter was questioned by a few after the game as they thought he should have opened up the offense a bit more in the second half. As one fan told me, "Everyone knows what play is going to be run when they break the huddle; the offense is just too predictable." Next week the Panthers are at home against Bates.

Now to the Miami/Florida International game. What an incredible joke and travesty that was. Miami proved to the world they have no talent and have a team made up of a bunch of thugs. Guys swinging helmets, stomping on opposing players, players using the brawl as a rallying cry, and the Miami TV clown roaring saying things like "That is what happens when you come into our house!!!" is disgusting and reprehensable at best. Larry Coker should be fired, the players involved in the brawl should be suspended for the rest of the season, and the NCAA should look at the possibility of cancelling the rest of Miami's season.

The football team has guys on scholarship who have criminal records longer than my arm, and those guys are only there for football. I doubt many of those clowns know what the inside of a classroom looks like. I am sickened by the actions of both teams, but Miami's helmet swinging display made me ill. Here is the funny thing, the players involved were suspended........FOR ONE GAME!!!!! Lord, that isn't a suspension, that is like putting your kid in the corner for five minutes as punishment. Miami and the ACC should be ASHAMED for their lack of discipline and something needs to be done by the NCAA.

Yes, there is some blame to be laid on Florida International. They were the guys who roughed up Miami's holder and started the whole debacle. There have been punishments laid down by coach Don Strock with two players being tossed off the team. The thing I am reacting the most to is Miami because of their long and notorious history of on and off field transgressions. Like I said above, if you can play football, you get into Miami. Criminal record? No problem!! GPA of 0.27? Can you run the 40 in 4.3? Come on over!!!! Unbelievable. This program needs to be blown up and started again from scratch. Would you ever see this happen in the NESCAC? Not in a million years which is another reason I love Division III football.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Now I know the Panthers are for real.....

Ok, I know I said last week that the Middlebury Panthers are for real, but this week I really mean it. No really, I mean it.

Chalk another one up for the Middlebury defense as they chalked up a 7-3 victory over Amherst to go 3-0 for the first time since 1993. Kevin Ryan had another two sacks to not only break the team record for sacks THREE games into the year, but is within three sacks of breaking the NESCAC record as well. Did I say this is only three games into the season? Scott Secor was a monster on special teams, Erik Woodring was all over the place, and Alex Buggy did some damage as well. Folks, this is a defense that is third in the NATION in total defense. I am not kidding when I say my voice was shot after they shutdown Amherst on the last drive of the game.

This week, the defense needs to keep up what they have been doing, but the offense needs to kick it into gear in a big way. Williams is the team that ended Trinity's 31 game winning streak and has a very strong defense as well. Special teams and defense help, but the offense needs to start putting some points on the board as well. If the offense doesn't start scoring some points, I have a feeling they could lose to Williams. The game is on the road in Williamstown, MA and the Ephs are deadly on their home field. Take into consideration this is homecoming weekend, the Ephs have to be favored coming into Saturday. Of course, we all know what the defense can do, and if the offense starts hitting on all cyclinders, Middlebury could very well be 4-0 at the end of the weekend. I am not throwing out a prediction yet.....

Catch the game on ESPN 1490 starting at 1:00, kickoff is at 1:30. Also, you can catch the game on the web at All games are now being sold on CD for $20.00 a game, and $100.00 for the season which includes the weekly coaches show that airs on Thursday nights. Drop me a line here, or call 802-388-9000 to order.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Middlebury College football is for real

After doing the play-by-play for the first two games of the Middlebury College football season, I have come to a conclusion that this team is for real. The Panthers defeated Colby 23-0 on Saturday, a game that Kevin Ryan set a NESCAC record for sacks in a game with SIX!!! Six sacks is a career for most guys and this man did it in a game. Overall, the defense is playing out of their minds, and is now the top rated defense in the conference.

On the offensive end, Stefan Hrdina is on his way to NESCAC first team as he piled up a very workmanlike 94 yards against Colby, while Tiger Lyon continued to make smart decisions at quarterback. I am liking the way the offensive line is protecting Tiger and giving Stefan some room to run.

On special teams, Steve Haushka has been punting and kicking very well. Haushka has been putting his punts inside the 20, and has put a few kickoffs through the end zone leaving opponents in poor field position.

This week will be a test as they play a very tough 2-0 Amherst squad. Amherst has a strong defense and a triple threat in Mark Hannon who can catch, is the league's leading receiver, and has a 64 yard punt return for a touchdown. If Middlebury is to win, they will have to cover Hannon like a blanket, and the offensive line will have to protect Lyon. Look for a good game with my prediction being Middlebury on top but only 13-7 in what should be a tight defensive game. Catch the action on ESPN 1490 at 12:30 Eastern Time, kickoff is at 1:00. The broadcast is also available on the web at

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why does this keep happening?

Another day, another shooting in our schools. For those who haven't heard, three kids are dead, seven others injured when a man looking to get revenge for an incident that took place some 20 years ago, took hostages, then executed three young girls. This happened at an Amish school in rural Pennsylvania.

This is just flat out disgusting. People actually wonder why I firmly believe there should be strong gun control laws. Well folks, this incident, along with the Essex shooting and last week's shooting in Colorado are why guns should be melted down and used as manhole covers. I simply don't buy into the argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Give me a break, the lunatics who go and kill CHILDREN have the tools to go and kill whomever they want because we believe we should have the right to bear arms. Our founding fathers did not have killing CHILDREN in mind when they said militias have the right to bear arms.

What do we do about this? Nothing will happen because the right wing feels guns are good, no one should get in the way of barring citizens from having these toys of death.

Schools are supposed to be a place where children feel safe and can learn. Kids should not have to be afraid to go to school fearing they may be shot. Take the gun issue aside, why are these lunatics targeting kids and schools? These are precious, innocent children with full lives to lead who are being killed and there is no explanation. I hate this. I hate hearing about kids dying because we as a country cannot control guns. My wife and I want kids, but I am scared to death about what they will encounter in school. What a world we live in.......

Sunday, October 01, 2006


The marathon for the weekend is almost done and I am in the final stretch. Thursday night I had the coaches' show with Middlebury head coach Bob Ritter, then the real fun started. Friday night I did color for the Milton/Colchester game, then left at 5:30 Saturday morning for Waterville, Maine to do the Middlebury/Colby game. Right after that one, I booked it out of there and bombed my way back to Colchester in a record four hours and 45 minutes to do the second half of the Ice Storm/Lake City game. Total time in the car, nine hours and 53 minutes, 740 miles, abour 20 bucks in tolls, some really bad food, and good riddance to Lake City.