Maine Maritime Academy of Castine makes its first-ever NCAA Championship appearance, while the University of Maine hopes to end the season above .500 during Saturday’s only college football games involving teams from Maine.
Maine Black Bears (5-5, 4-3 CAA) at No. 9/11 New Hampshire Wildcats (8-2, 5-2 CAA), noon, Cowell Stadium, Durham, N.H.: The CAA North Division title and the coveted Brice-Cowell Musket are up for grabs as the teams renew a rivalry that dates back to 1903.
The Wildcats are likely headed for the playoffs for the sixth year in a row, win or lose, while the Bears hope to take momentum into the offseason. UNH has won six straight meetings between the schools.
“They’ve been as consistent a winning program as there is in the country,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove.
UNH has possession of the Brice-Cowell Musket, a symbol of the rivalry that honors former UMaine coach Fred Brice and former Wildcats coach William Cowell. The flintlock rifle was made in the 1700s.
UMaine’s nine seniors have never seen it. Wide receivers Mike Brusko and Landis Williams, offensive tackle Tyler Eastman of Old Town, linebacker Brandon McLaughlin, defensive linemen Jordan Stevens of Temple, Eric Lee and Al Serena, and defensive back Troy Harris will play their final game as Black Bears.
“The musket and the [division] trophy, those things are tangible,” Cosgrove said. “then there’s also the intangible of Black Bear honor, Black Bear pride, which is felt by not only these young men but guys that have played here before and want to be part of that success.”
The Bears hope to keep the offense rolling behind sophomore quarterback Chris Treister, who combined with wide receivers Landis Williams (65 catches, 742 yards, 8 touchdowns), Mike Brusko (39-345-2) and Ty Jones (42-454-6) to torch Rhode Island by completing 40 of 46 passes for 468 yards and five touchdowns.
The Wildcats’ defense ranks first in the CAA in pass efficiency defense (104.53) and has allowed 19.1 points and 301 yards per game, led by linebackers Devon Jackson (81 tackles) and Sean Ware (80).
UNH also leads the league in turnover margin (plus-13), having made 18 interceptions and caused 11 fumbles.
“They run to the ball, they get to the ball and they take the ball away from you,” Cosgrove said. “They’re very aggressive in their pursuit of the football.”
The Bears’ defense has improved steadily but will be challenged by a UNH unit that has averaged a league-best 33 points, and 359 yards. The multifaceted Wildcats are led by running back Chad Kackert (642 yds., 8 TDs) and QB R.J. Toman, who has completed 137 of 251 passes for 1,749 yards with 12 TDs and 10 INTs.).
Tight end Scott Sicko (44 rec., 589 yds., 7 TDs) and wide receiver T.J. Wright (26-319-1).
UNH always has a wide assortment of plays and some tricks up its sleeve.
UMaine’s defensive stalwarts include sophomore LBs Donte Dennis (99 tackles, 4 INTs) and Vinson Givans (57 tackles), along with McLaughlin (61 tackles, 10 for a loss of yardage).
Bear tracks: Cosgrove’s nephew Jamie Cosgrove is a junior backup linebacker and special teams player for UNH.
Maine Maritime Academy Mariners (9-1) at Montclair State Red Hawks (9-1), noon, Sprague Field, Montclair, N.J.: MMA sails into uncharted waters as it makes its first NCAA postseason appearance against nationally-ranked Montclair State.
Coach Chris McKenney’s team earned its way into the tournament by scoring on the final play of the game Saturday to claim a tantalizing 48-42 victory over Curry in the New England Football Conference championship game. The Mariners have won seven straight.
The Red Hawks are ranked 24th in the D3football.com poll and 25th in the American Football Coaches Association Division III poll. They have rattled off nine consecutive wins after losing their opener.
Montclair, the champion in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, is making its ninth NCAA appearance, but the program’s first since 2003.
Today’s game pits Division III’s most productive run game with MMA (417 ypg) against a Montclair defense that ranks 19th against the run (82.5 ypg).
The Mariners will try to ride the blocking of the offensive line and the decision-making of senior QB Tyler Angell (72 ypg, 10 TDs) to an effective mix. Senior fullback Jim Bower (20 TDs) leads Division III with 163 rushing yards per game, while halfbacks Nick Bourassa (81.5 ypg) and Todd Murphy (51.7 ypg) provide balance.
Montclair counters with a defensive unit that ranks 19th while allowing only 82.5 ypg via the run and is 24th in scoring defense (15.0 ppg) and 26th in total defense (268 ypg).
Linebacker Brian Tweer has posted 76 tackles, including 14.5 for a loss of yardage, while LB Ed Kirschenbaum has 74 tackles. The Red Hawks have allowed one touchdown or fewer in four of their last six contests.
MMA also will have to come up with one of its best defensive efforts of the season. The Mariners have given up 29.4 points and 387 yards per game, surrendering 20 or more points on eight occasions.
MMA’s stoppers are linebackers Travis Fergola (85 tackles) and Wade Mondoux (81 tackles, 15.5 for a loss, 4 interceptions), along with cornerback Mike Riley (63 tackles, 7 INTs).
Montclair has been a solid offensive team with decent balance. Tom Rischer has thrown for 1,729 yards and 12 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. He has three receivers with more than 30 catches, paced by split end Byron Lewin (36 rec., 395 yds., 4 TDs) and flanker A.J. Letizia (32-534-2).
The Red Hawks’ leading rusher is Jeff Bliss (563 yds., 7 TDs, 2.8 ypc).