UNH’s Matt Evansstays on the ball
(inset) is the all-time leader in tackles at the University of New Hampshire, a football program rich in history dating back to its days in the Yankee Conference.
He is the reigning Buck Buchanan Award winner, annually presented to the top defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
There is little about Evans, whether it be a 16-tackle performance against Richmond, or a game-changing stop against another Colonial Athletic Association foe, that is a surprise anymore to UNH coach Sean McDonnell.
“It’s hard to explain sometimes when you coach a kid who just has great instincts and an ability to get to the ball,’’ said McDonnell of the senior linebacker from Hanover.
“He just loves the game and plays hard. He’s the best tackler we’ve ever had here.
With his 10 tackles in a 28-25 CAA win over William & Mary Saturday afternoon, the 6-foot, 225-pound Evans surged past 1981 grad Steve Doig
as the program’s career leader in stops with 437.
A model of consistency over the past three years, the Thayer Academy graduate has racked up 103 tackles this season — including an FCS-high 69 solo stops — for the 11th-ranked Wildcats (8-2), who have won five straight games. He is tied for the team lead with three sacks and has a team-high 8.5 tackles for loss.
“He doesn’t think much about how many tackles he has,’’ said McDonnell. “He just thinks about winning, and it’s great to see a kid be as humble as he is.’’
In his first season as a starter in 2010, Evans registered 156 tackles in 13 games, and then had 165 stops in 12 games as a junior last season. New Hampshire had a bye this weekend before closing out the regular season Nov. 17 against Towson State.
“It’s a tremendous honor,’’ Evans said of passing Doig on the career list. “The guy who had it before was a great player, so it’s great to be mentioned alongside him. It’s a personal accomplishment, but the team is obviously bigger, so it was good to get the win.’’
Evans has developed into an All-American defender, a serious candidate to be just the second player to repeat as the Buchanan Award winner, despite having physical attributes that would place most Division 1 linebackers at a disadvantage. He is undersized, but he plays the position well and makes up for his perceived lack of size with speed and a tenacity for getting to the football.
“When we first saw him at Thayer he was a little undersized for a linebacker, but we knew he could run,’’ said McDonnell. “He has great football instincts. His freshman year he didn’t know where he was going half the time, but he got there in a hurry. After that his understanding for what he needed to do just took off.’’
Just as Evans has overcome his lack of size to thrive at the college level, he hopes to take a shot at the National Football League after his stellar career at UNH is over. Pro scouts have been in Durham to look at a number of players, including Evans. He could emerge as a late-round draft choice, or be given a shot by an NFL team as a free agent.
“That’s probably the best shot I have is going the free agent route,’’ he said. “To catch on with an NFL team, if that happened, would be a dream come true.’’
Farley leads Lasellto NCAA tourney
Middleborough High graduate Mary Farley couldn’t have picked a better time to score her first goal of the season for the Lasell College women’s soccer team. The senior midfielder netted the game-winner in the 46th minute, one minute into the second half, in an eventual 2-0 victory over Simmons in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship Sunday. The Lasers won an automatic bid in the Division 3 NCAA tournament. Marshfield’s Ashley Parrelli made two saves to notch her second shutout.
“Mary’s goal to start the second half changed the whole complexion of the match,’’ said Lasell coach Vito LaFrancesca.
“It swung the momentum in our favor, and allowed us to settle in and play a more composed half.’’
Lastowka knows how to go the distance
Hanover’s Eric Lastowka admits that his overall golf game isn’t the best, but he sure knows how to drive. Last month Lastowka won the senior division of the Re-Max World Long Drive tournament in Mesquite, Nev. The 45-year-old Lastowka took home $50,000 in prize money for a 355-yard drive in the final round.
An engineer for Acushnet Co., which owns the Titleist and FootJoy golf brands, Lastowka had a 391-yard drive on the first day of competition, then drilled a 426-yarder in the second round.
“We had the wind in our face on the final day,’’ said Lastowka, who has been a professional long driver for 12 years and was runner-up in the open division in 2006.
Lastowka is a member at Harmon Golf Club in Rockland and owns a 5 handicap. He plays very few full rounds of golf, however, opting instead to train for long drive competitions.