The 2012 season will be the first for the Springfield College football team as it joins this league as an associate member. The league, as it is incorporated in football, includes Hobart, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (or Kings Point), Rensselaer, Rochester, St. Lawrence, Union, WPI, and now Springfield College.
At the same time, 2012 will be the first time in nine years that Springfield College will not find itself an associate member of the Empire 8 Conference in football. That league included Alfred, Frostburg State, Hartwick, Ithaca, St. John Fisher, Salisbury, and Utica. This season, as Springfield departs, the Empire 8 is adding Buffalo State.
Springfield College is certainly not unfamiliar with members of its new football conference. For example, the Pride has played fellow New England-rival WPI 28 times previously overall. It has also played Union 15 times, Kings Point 11 times, and Rensselaer on six occasions over the years. Like Springfield, WPI and Kings Point were once members of the Freedom Football Conference in the mid-‘90’s to the early 2000’s before that league disbanded in 2003.
But, it’s now time to move on. And under Head Coach Mike DeLong, Springfield College certainly hopes to continue its overall level of success – especially within the past 17 years (or since 1995) when SC first began competing on the Division III level. In those 17 years, SC’s won-loss mark is 117-59, good for a .665 winning percentage. In that span, SC has appeared in post-season play nine times -- including five NCAA Tournaments (1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2006), and four ECAC Championship games (1995, 2004, 2009, 2010), all four of which SC won.
Also since (and including 1995), SC’s home record in the friendly confines of Amos Alonzo Stagg Field has now risen to 67-24, good for a winning percentage of .736.
Overall, in his 30 years as a head coach, all in New England, DeLong owns a most distinguishable record of 177-122-2 (.591). All but two of those years were at Springfield College (the other two were at Maine Maritime in 1979 and 1980). As a result, Mike remains the active leader in wins among all New England Division III coaches.
At Springfield College alone (28 years), DeLong is now 165-116-2, good for a .587 winning percentage.
As for a year ago, Springfield finished 6-4 overall, as it concluded its 11th winning season in its last 17. But last year also completed the reign of All-American Josh Carter, who essentially had been the starting quarterback for Springfield for the last four years. And what a QB he was, setting a bunch of individual records, including the career mark for total offensive yards, and tying the career mark for most touchdown passes in school history.
But although Carter was “the man” essentially from 2008 through 2011, back-up QB Austin Bateman was “the man” for a five-game period in 2010 when Carter was injured. And it is because of that five-game period, there is renewed light at the end of this year’s tunnel.
Now a junior, Bateman led SC to an impressive 5-0 record the last five games of 2010 when he was just a freshman, which included a victory in the ECAC North Atlantic Championship Bowl game over Mount Ida. Another one of those five victories was a 55-49 road win over powerful St. John Fisher, for which Bateman won a prestigious Gold Helmet award from the New England Football Writers Association.
Bateman is expected to re-take the QB reigns again this season. A gifted runner, Bateman would appear to be more in the mold of a Chris Sharpe, who ran for a school-record 35 touchdowns and for over 1900 yards as a junior in 2006 when he earned the Melberger Award and was named the Division III National Player of the Year. As a running back, Bateman ran for 7.4 yards per carry last year, including 179 yards on just 12 carries (14.9 yard average) versus Hartwick in a 62-41 victory.
Behind Bateman, there are a number of QB’s, including sophomore Rob Merckling, but there is not much experience at all. DeLong notes there will be a good number of quarterbacks seeking that No. 2 spot in early camp.
Over the years, Springfield’s bread-and-butter has been its outstanding running attack, and it should be no different in 2012. The leading returning fullback will be junior Brodie Quinn, although he played a limited role at that position last season as a sophomore due to injury. Quinn averaged 5.8 yards per carry last year, which included a 93-yard burst for a TD on the year’s third offensive play from scrimmage versus Frostburg State. Senior Joel Altavesta, who ran for 224 yards and two TDs in a back-up role, also returns.
At running back, a host of familiar names are coming back, including dependable senior Mike Davis, SC’s second-leading rusher a year ago with 635 yards and three TDs. He averaged 70.6 yards rushing per game and 5.9 yards per carry. In addition, although injured through much of last year, senior Andy Bean averaged a remarkable 9.5 yards per carry, rushing for 228 yards and two TDs in 2011.
Others returning who could make a difference this season include junior Alex Martin, junior Joe Stagliano, and sophomore Franco Bianchi. Yet another who shows promise includes Bryan MacDonald, a junior who is making the shift from the quarterback position.
In the sometimes overlooked split end position, senior Phil Baier promises to be an important weapon in the attack. Baier caught 20 passes for 466 yards and four TDs a year ago. He averaged an impressive 23.3 yards per catch, surprising unsuspecting defenders in the secondary. Junior James Poggio, who doubles as the punter, and senior Mike Escalante, also return as receivers.
At tight end, junior Sean Degnan could move in to replace Brian White The 6-5 Billy Walsh and Bill Bachand, also juniors, are also a possibility in that spot.
There could be an overhaul in the offensive line. The ever-present Sean Meagher, a First Team BSN All-American and First Team All-Empire 8 standout, has graduated. Also, the dependable Matt Dugan, has also graduated from his center position. Others such as Luke Osberg, Tim Tuttle, and Mike Mavropoulos, are also gone.
But the cupboard is not entirely bare for offensive coordinator and line coach Mike Cerasuolo. Those to be counted upon include returning starters Duke Ekblom, a senior tackle and co-captain, and guards Scott Leech and co-captain Mike MacDonald, both juniors. Others expected to help include junior Tom Murray at tackle and sophomore Joe Cianciolo at center. Sophomore Alvin Thomas could also come through.
Defensively, it would appear that coordinator Jack Holik may have his work cut out for him as graduation certainly took its toll on this side of the line. Fresh faces will be more the norm.
In the secondary, none of last year’s starters -- including safeties James Kikel and Matt Ramos, as well as cornerbacks Phil Davis and Will Turner, will be back. That foursome combined for 11 interceptions and 34 pass deflections, while Kikel led the squad with 105 tackles. Marc Riccio will also not be back.
Those depended upon will include junior Sam Weiss at free safety, junior Jason Woods at cornerback, and sophomore Rob Mendoza at strong safety. Junior Andre Martin and sophomores Shane Ireland and Mike Dublin, will also be in the mix, although Dublin could wind up at linebacker.
On the defensive line, expect youth to be served. But one of the youngsters who should be a bright spot is sophomore Max Nacewicz, who had seven tackles-for-loss for a team-leading 60 yards last year, and who had a team-best 4.5 sacks for 48 yards. His 41 tackles were the most among last year’s frosh.
Also expected to help will be junior end Max Ford and junior tackle Joe Knaub, as well as sophomore tackles Umberto DeMeo and Patrick Thompson.
The linebacking corps will be led by senior Kevin Shields, who was the team’s second-leading tackler last year with 96. He also had two interceptions and six pass deflections as well as three tackles-for-loss, one fumble recovery and one caused fumble while playing in all 10 games.
Senior Corey Kaiser was the team’s third-leading tackler with 56 a season ago, and sophomores Dan Macalena (34 tackles), Mike Chicoine (27 tackles), and Pat Tuths will also be counted upon.
Ricky Peacock, the placekicker, will return for his fourth year. Poggio, the punter, will be back for his third. Sophomore Chris Warren and Murray will take on the long-snapper duties.
The 2012 season begins on Saturday, Sept. 1 versus non-conference opponent Bridgewater State at home. Other non-conference opponents include Husson and Mount Ida.
The 2012 Springfield College Football Schedule
Sept. 1 -- BRIDGEWATER STATE -- Home -- 7:00 pm
Sept. 8 --at Husson -- Bangor, Me. -- 1:00 pm
Sept. 15 --MOUNT IDA -- Home -- 12:00 pm
Sept. 22 --ROCHESTER*% -- Home -- 1:00 pm
Sept. 29 --at Union* -- Schenectady, N.Y. -- 6:00 pm
Oct. 6 -- at Hobart* -- Geneva, N.Y. -- 12:00 pm
Oct. 13 -- MERCHANT MARINE*# -- Home -- 2:00 pm
Oct. 20 -- at St. Lawrence* -- Canton, N.Y. -- 1:00 pm
Nov. 3 -- RENSSELAER* -- Home -- 12:00 pm
Nov. 10 -- at WPI* -- Worcester, Mass. -- 12:00 pm
* = Liberty League game
% = Family Weekend
# = Homecoming Day
All times subject to change