Local players lead Worcester State
Graham Asum understood the importance of last Saturday’s New England Football Conference matchup against visiting Westfield State.
His Worcester State squad had suffered a 50-14 beating the previous week at Western New England.
“We knew that we needed to make a statement against Westfield,” said Asum, a senior cocaptain from Marlborough, one of a handful of contributors as the Lancers (3-1) bounced back with a 27-20 NEFC Bogan Division victory.
Junior lineman Bryan Narcisse (Medway High) registered seven tackles and added 2.5 sacks, and sophomore end Zack Skerry (Milford High) contributed six tackles and 1.5 sacks. Senior quarterback Corey Spencer (Arlington Catholic) threw for 238 yards and a touchdown, with his fellow cocaptain, junior A.J. Scerra (Marlborough High), hauling in a game-best seven passes.
The Milford-Marlborough connection is special for Worcester State’s head coach, Brien Cullen, who is in his 30th season.
Cullen, a former captain at St. Mary’s High in Milford and Worcester State, was an assistant coach at Milford High under Dick Corbin and Dennis Breen . Cullen's brother, Tom, is the head coach at Milford High. Marlborough High’s head coach, Sean Mahoney, played and later coached for Cullen at Worcester State.
“I've seen our program grow and the university grow, and hopefully there’s some growing left to do,’’ said Cullen, who has 20 players from area communities on his roster, including Asum, whom the coach considers the best cornerback in the conference.
Contributors from the area on special teams include Asum (10 kick returns for 379 yards and a touchdown) and a trio of juniors: punt returner Rich Dube and punter Alex Blakeslee (both from Shrewsbury High), and placekicker Derek Muccini (Nipmuc Regional).
“Being a captain is very important to me, and when I can shut down guys on D and create some excitement returning kicks, it makes us a better team,” said Asum.
Adam Scerra, A.J.’s brother and a sophomore defensive back who is a transfer from Assumption, paces the Lancers in tackles (27). Narcisse and Skerry have 26 and 21 stops, respectively.
First-year starter Spencer has completed 77 of 117 passes for 894 yards and 7 touchdowns.
“Corey gets the ball to the right people in the right situations, and A.J. is our Wes Welker-type receiver. His brother shows the same athleticism,’’ said Cullen. The starters also include long snapper/linebacker Nick Doria (Arlington Catholic) and offensive linemen Tim Laramee (Shrewsbury High) and Mac Hanlon (Littleton High), all juniors.
Sophomore defensive end Tyler Asam , who made the transition from linebacker and fullback at Milford High to defensive end for the Lancers, has been injured and is expected to play Saturday. He was the Bogan Division’s Defensive Rookie of the Year last fall.
“Westfield was a pivotal game for us and we were up to the challenge,’’ said Cullen, whose team advanced to the ECAC Northeast Bowl last season, bowing to Salve Regina, and has designs on another postseason run.
“It shows we have the ability to get back there, but we need to stay healthy and keep improving.’’
Tufts, Amherst will renew soccer rivalry
The host Tufts University men’s soccer team and New England Small College Athletic Conference rival Amherst will put impressive marks on the line Saturday afternoon.
Ranked second nationally in Division 3, Amherst was 5-0-0 (3-0-0 NESCAC) prior to Tuesday night’s game at Curry, while Tufts was 4-0-2 (2-0-2) after double-overtime ties against Colby and Trinity.
Tufts sophomore forward Gus Santos (Framingham High and Northfield Mount Hermon School), last fall’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year and an All-New England selection, had unloaded a team-high 19 shots for the Jumbos, recording a pair of goals and two assists.
“He's drawn a lot of attention from defenders after a tremendous freshman season,’’ said Tufts coach Josh Shapiro, “and he's the most dynamic attacker in our conference.’’
Sophomore midfielders Kyle Volpe of Blackstone (St. Mark's School) and Michael Miele of Sudbury (Middlesex School) also suit up for the Jumbos.
Volpe, a starter who had one assist in four games, is sidelined with a leg injury. Miele has come off the bench to provide a physical presence.
“Kyle is a tremendous piece of our team and we really missed him against Colby and Trinity,’’ added Shapiro, “and Michael is a tremendous worker who brings an up-tempo style when we need it.’’
The Amherst starters include junior midfielder Brendan Caslin (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional). Also on the Lord Jeffs’ roster are senior forward Brian Morgan of Harvard (Bromfield School), sophomore keeper Matt Tower of Acton (Lawrence Academy), and a trio of freshmen: keeper Will Poss of Chestnut Hill (Phillips Academy in Andover), forward Nico-Pascual-Leone (Wayland High), and midfielder Forest Sisk (Lincoln-Sudbury).
Here and there
Stonehill College sophomore linebacker Michael Hogan of Westborough, a St. John’s High grad, made nine tackles Saturday night in a 26-24 win over Assumption, helping the Skyhawks (3-1 overall) go to 3-0 in Northeast-10 Conference play for the first time in six years. The 6-foot, 224-pound Hogan was a senior captain on the Pioneers’ Central Massachusetts Division I Super Bowl champions. Stonehill will play at unbeaten Northeast-10 foe Bentley at 7:30 p.m. Friday . . . Framingham super lightweight Danny O'Connor (18-1, 6 KOs) will fight an eight-rounder Saturday night against Josh Sosa (10-3, 5 KOs) at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino.