At 6 feet, 5 inches, and a paper weight over 200 pounds, Mike Stanton was not lacking in athleticism, or physical tools.
Scouting Stanton on the basketball court his senior year at North Quincy High, Massachusetts Maritime Academy football coach Jeremy Cameron took note of his relentless competitiveness.
Stanton had directed a Wing-T attack at North Quincy. At Mass. Maritime, he was being asked to quarterback a no-huddle attack, taking few snaps under center.
Naturally, there were growing pains, often more mental than physical. And that’s not even taking into account the rigorous demands placed on any freshman student-athlete making the transition to academy life at Buzzards Bay.
“We put a lot on the quarterback,” said Cameron. “There’s not a lot of time [to make a decision], so he has to have a pretty good idea of what he is going to see.”
Translation: hours of film study, and preparation.
Stanton went to work, and now, as a 220-pound junior, he has a firm grasp of the offense, and “what the coaches are calling,” he said in a telephone conversion Friday morning after finishing a three-hour mechanics class. “The biggest thing is being able to see the blitzes.”
The on-field results have been impressive.
The past two weeks, in New England Football Conference victories over Nichols (41-13) and Coast Guard (42-38), Stanton was 39 of 53 passing for 630 yards and five touchdowns. Last Saturday, he set program records for completions (26) and yards (420) as the Bucs (2-1) charged back from a 28-9 third-quarter deficit.
In the third quarter, spurred on by a halftime pep talk from his former roommate, safety Mike Sylvia, Stanton had scoring passes of 18, 9, and 60 yards in a span of 6:30.
“I was a little down,” recalled Stanton. “He came over and said, ‘You’re a three-year starter, a leader, one of the best quarterbacks in the league.’ He really knocked me back to the way I should have been the whole game.”
By game’s end, Stanton had directed the Bucs to a school-record 695 yards of total offense. He was honored as the NEFC and ECAC Northeast Offensive Player of the Week, and collected the Gridiron Club’s Division 2-3 Gold Helmet from the New England Football Writers at Harvard, with his mother and grandmother proudly looking on at Dillon Fieldhouse.
“This year, the game has started to slow down for him,” said Cameron of Stanton, who is completing 71 percent of his passes, a dramatic increase from his first two seasons (51 percent). “He has come into his own, his approach to the game, studying film.” Sophomore quarterbacks John Trudel and Brad Skeffington have pushed him in practice.
Framingham State coach Tom Kelley, whose 3-1 Rams host the Bucs in an NEFC Boyd Division battle Saturday, acknowledges that Stanton is playing “with more of a swagger. He has really matured.”
Cameron recalled looking out his office window during the summer and seeing Stanton working with a few of his receivers, including junior Keith Caruso (Hingham) and sophomore E.J. Bennett (Wareham), on routes and timing.
The 5-9, 165-pound Caruso — whom Cameron labeled “the smartest player we have,’’ he knows how to set players up, and is an excellent blocker” — — has a team-high 22 catches for 321 yards. At 6 feet, 185 pounds, Bennett (17 catches, 3 TDs) is “very skilled, quick, and he has had three to four blocks that have really sprung our backs,” said the coach.
Stanton said he simply has to put the ball in the hands of playmakers like Caruso, Bennett, and junior back Stefan Gustafson (7.4 yards per carry), and let them go to work.
“Once everyone clicks, we are impossible to stop,” he said.
With senior tackle James Muirhead at the point of attack, Framingham State features the conference’s best defensive unit, yielding a measly 10 points per game. The Rams limited Bridgewater State to 30 yards rushing in a 16-0 blanking last week.
“Good defensive line, linebackers, and the best secondary we have seen,” said Cameron.
Kelley countered, “They create matchup problems for us.”
Which should add up to a tug of war in what has affectionately become known as “The Kelley Cup.” Tom Kelley’s oldest son, Mike, a 1999 graduate of Mass. Maritime and a member of the Bucs’ athletic hall of fame, is in his eighth season on Cameron’s staff. Kelley’s other son, Patrick, is a sixth-year assistant on the FSU staff.
“No text messages this week,” quipped the elder Kelley.
. . .
Lorenzo Warren and Jack Pizzotti each ran in for a score, and Bentley (4-0, 3-0 NE-10) downed Stonehill (3-2, 3-1), 17-7, in Waltham.
Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.