Postseason play isn’t supposed to be easy and it likely won’t be for the Husson University football team Saturday.

Coach Gabby Price’s Eagles, the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference champion for the second straight year and the third time in four seasons, will visit undefeated Springfield (Mass.) College in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Game time is noon.

Husson earned an automatic bid into the 32-school tournament field based on its ECFC title, while Springfield received one of two Pool B berths reserved for teams that either are independent or whose conference does not have an automatic berth.

Springfield is a member of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, a first-year football league that does not yet qualify for an automatic NCAA tourney berth.

Husson (9-1 overall and 7-0 in the ECFC) is ranked a season-high third in the latest New England Division III football poll while Springfield (10-0, 7-0 in NEWMAC play) has been seeded first in the region throughout the fall and garnered 14 of the possible 15 first-place votes in the latest ratings.

Springfield, which will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006, also is ranked third in the NCAA Division III East Region poll and is rated 20th nationally.

Husson is ranked sixth in the latest East Region poll.

Standing between Husson and an NCAA tournament victory is a Springfield team guided by NEWMAC coach of the year Mark Cerasuolo that boasts the top-ranked rushing offense in NCAA Division III.

The triple-option Pride have averaged 452.3 yards per game and 7.11 yards per carry with 54 rushing touchdowns in 10 games.

Senior fullback Jordan Wilcox — the NEWMAC offensive player of the year — leads Springfield’s ground game with 1,675 yards and 21 touchdowns (19 rushing) on 206 carries behind an offensive front that includes senior Christopher Hayden of Madison.

Senior quarterback Jake Eglintine has rushed for 810 yards and 13 touchdowns on 129 carries for the Pride while sophomore Hunter Belzo has added 566 yards and nine TDs on 69 carries.

“Certainly they’re a formidable opponent,” said Price. “They’re No. 1 in New England and they run a different offense than we’ve seen except for when we played Gallaudet.

Husson counters with a formidable rushing defense anchored by linemen Luke Washburn, Tarik Smith, Frank Curran and Austin Odd and a linebacking contingent led by Elvin Suazo Jr, and Christian Mowrer.

The Eagles have allowed just 77.4 rushing yards per game this fall, 14th best in NCAA Division III, and rank sixth nationally in total defense at 217.4 yards per game.

Husson is No. 1 nationally in turnover margin at plus-17, forcing 26 turnovers (nine fumble recoveries and 17 pass interceptions) while committing just nine giveaways (five fumbles, four interceptions).

Eagles’ junior cornerback Quan Soyini is among the nation’s leaders with seven interceptions.

And while Springfield may be tops in team rushing around the country, Husson features senior halfback John Smith, who has gained 1,917 yards and averaged 191.7 yards per game, both tops in NCAA Division III.

The Fayetteville, Ga., product also ranks second with 28 rushing touchdowns and tied for 14th with 7.23 yards per carry.

Husson’s offense is more balanced than Springfield, with the Pride averaging just 38.3 passing yards per game compared to 174.0 yards per game for the Eagles.

Husson junior quarterback Cory Brandon has completed 127 of 201 pass attempts for 1,618 yards with 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

“My feeling is that the one thing Husson does — and I can only speak for Husson — is that Husson plays hard,” said Price. “And when they play hard, great things happen.”

Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...