All in preparation for a senior season, in which Merrimack, selected to finish fourth (along with Bentley) in the NE-10 preseason coaches’ poll behind 13th-ranked New Haven, Southern Connecticut, and American International, is determined to put last year’s 6-4 finish in the rear-view mirror.
“This group has really meshed, we are ready for this,” said Voegeli, his voice rising with enthusiasm. He is passionate about taking a shot at the pros (“My dream since I was 7”), following the path of former teammate Shawn Loiseau, who is making his mark in the Texans’ camp on special teams. But his main focus is winning the NE-10.
And that starts Saturday afternoon, on the blue turf in New Haven. “It’s a great challenge for us,” said Perry. “ We want fast starts, to practice, to games, and to the season.”
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With the 6-4, 240-pound Ryan Osiecki (36 TD passes) at the controls for his final season, New Haven has reloaded after last year’s 11-2 run to the Division 2 national quarterfinals. Elsewhere, Rich Cavanaugh always has Southern Connecticut in the hunt, AIC is attracting attention even without back Rashaad Slowley, and Cory Bailey believes his Assumption squad will be a legitimate contender. The NE-10 has added a new wrinkle this season, with a championship game slated for Nov. 10.
“I love this league, it keeps getting better and better,” said Bentley coach Thom Boerman, who returns a veteran group on offense at every position except for quarterback, where junior Danny Guadagnoli steps in. “[The championship] ensures that the conference will be represented in the regional playoffs.”
There will be no shortage of contenders in the final edition for the New England Football Conference as a 16-member unit before eight programs break off into a MASCAC football league in 2013.
With sophomore QB Matt Silva (foot) healthy again and junior Melikke Van Alstyne (1,579 yards, 21 TDs) a few pounds stronger, Framingham State is the co-favorite in the Bogan Division with Bridgewater State, which has 18 starters back from a 7-3 campaign. In the Boyd, defending champion Western New England has an All-American in fleet receiver/special teamer Michael Graham; Salve Regina continues to build under Bob Chesney; and Endicott will be a major factor despite the graduation of defensive force Kevin Eagan and prolific QB Phil Konopka. “Everyone is getting better,” said Framingham State coach Tom Kelley. , who opens against Endicott Saturday.
In the NESCAC, Amherst (8-0) ripped off its second perfect season in three years, but 16-year coach E.J. Mills said this season “is a blank canvas.” That starts with a new quarterback, with junior DJ Petropulos and sophomore Max Lippe in the mix. John Ceccio, a four-year anchor at center, leads a veteran group. Sophomore backs Evan Bunker and Ben Crick form a lethal 1-2 running threat at Trinity, Williams will be “very good,’’ according to Mills, and sophomore QB McCallum Foote will have Middlebury on the move.
With the return of run-pass threat Kris Sabourin, Norwich is the overwhelming favorite in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.
Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.