Road to Frisco: EWU Poses Tough Test, But NEC Champion Seahawks Have Yet to Back Down from a Challenge

After a win like the one that Wagner had last Saturday, the Seahawks could have flown all 2,600 miles to Cheney, WA without the help of a charter jet.

There is no hotter team in America right now. Riding a nine-game win streak, which includes the NEC’s first-ever FCS playoff victory, Wagner will look to continue its storybook season at Big Sky member Eastern Washington on December 1.

“I think anybody who’s still playing right now is a pretty good football team,” said 32nd-year head coach Walt Hameline in a recent Staten Island Advance story. “I said early in the season that we wanted to be playing meaningful games in November and now we’re playing in December.”

“I’m really happy for the kids, the coaches, the college and the program. It’s been a fantastic ride.”

The ride started in Boca Raton where Wagner opened the season with a 7-3 setback to FBS member Florida Atlantic. The next two stops saw the Seahawks incur two more losses. A 13-10 setback at Georgetown dropped Wagner to 0-2, and, one week later, Outer Bridge rival Monmouth thumped the Seahawks in the NEC opener.

At 0-3, however, Wagner did not put the bus in park.  Instead, they kicked it into high gear.

Starting with a convincing victory over Central Connecticut in the NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week on September 22, Wagner reeled off nine wins in a row for the first time since 1981.

The team earned its first NCAA playoff berth since 1988 and posted its first postseason victory since the 1987 NCAA Division III National Championship Game.

“We’ve been working for it since the day I got on campus here,” said senior quarterback Nick Doscher of the team’s recent ride. “This year we were 0-3 and a lot of people were counting us out, but the guys in that locker-room, we never doubted ourselves, we never doubted our coaches.”

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Doscher doesn’t doubt his team’s chances this week at Eastern Washington either.  Sure, the Eagles hail from the mighty Big Sky Conference and have a number of players left over from their 2010 NCAA FCS National Championship Team, but the quarterback doesn’t sound intimidated in the slightest.

“I know a bunch of people tried to write us off already this week,” Doscher told The Staten Island Advance. “But we’ve shocked some people this season so that’s the plan again.”

One reason why Wagner has been able to “shock some people” this season has been the team’s propensity to take care of the football.

Wagner is plus-11 in turnover margin for the season and has given the ball away a NEC-low six times.

Doscher’s play is at the center of that stellar effort.  The senior signal caller has not thrown an interception against a FCS team this season.  His last interception came at Florida Atlantic in August!

In fact, Wagner has committed only one turnover during its current nine-game surge.  A third-quarter fumble by Doscher in a Week 11 matchup against Holy Cross is the lone giveaway Wagner has made since Week 3 against Monmouth.

“We haven’t turned the ball over; He [Doscher] hasn’t thrown an interception so why does that happen?” said Hameline. “Obviously, he’s a great competitor and an outstanding player. He has a great understanding out there. He puts us in great situations and makes plays.”

While Doscher makes plenty of plays, Wagner’s defense does its share as well. 

The Seahawks have “athletes at every level” of their defense according to Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin.

Four of those athletes earned all-NEC honors, including cornerbacks Jarrett Dieudonne and Torian Phillips.  The latter, who started his collegiate career at Syracuse, was responsible for both interceptions of Colgate quarterback Gavin McCarney last week.

Both Dieudonne and Phillips will have their hands full come Saturday at The Inferno, though.

Eastern Washington’s passing attack averages 298.8 yards per game, 10th-most in FCS.  Junior receiver Brandon Kaufman, who stands at 6-foot-5, is a two-time all-Big Sky first team selection who made 65 receptions for 1,270 yards and 10 touchdowns during the 2012 regular season.

Despite the tall task that lies ahead, Wagner’s focus seems to be less on just how good Eastern Washington is and more internal.

“Going into every game, we try not to think about other teams and what other people say,” said first team all-NEC running back Dominique Williams.

“Our motto is ‘Play for each other.’ We have to stick to what we do best; that is playing hard, having fun and playing for each other.”

In addition to playing for each other on Saturday, Williams and the Seahawks will play for a trip to the Elite 8.

Postgame Press Conference (Nov. 24)

 

Here’s a Snapshot of Twitter Shortly after Wagner’s Playoff Win

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Top Pigskin Tweets

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Wagner Football Fans >>>>>>>>>

 

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Yes, the 31-20 win over Colgate was Wagner’s first playoff victory at the Division I FCS level, and this fan certainly wasn’t the lone #ProudSeahawk on Grymes Hill this past Saturday.

 

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Rooting for his NEC brethren, this Central Connecticut defensive lineman clearly understands the meaning of #NECpride.

 

Who Gets Game Balls? (FCS First Round)
The 12th Man

The Wagner fans were out in full force on Saturday, accounting for a sellout crowd that ranks as the second-largest in the history of Hameline Field.  There’s no question the Seahawks fed off the support.

Nick Doscher
As Staten Island Advance columnist Cormac Gordon wrote, “The numbers won’t blow you away.  Ninety-one yards rushing and 95 more throwing the ball aren’t exactly Drew Brees-ian for a quarterback in this era of fast-break football.   But don’t be fooled.  With plenty on the line, Nick Doscher had about as good a day as you could hope for.”

Mike Lombardo
When it comes to Wagner’s defense, take your pick. Anyone on the unit could make a case for a Game Ball after a showing like the one they had against Colgate.  If pressed to pick one individual, we’ll go with Mike Lombardo.  The linebacker made a team-high 11 tackles, including 2.0 sacks of the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. He also forced a fumble.

 

Wagner’s Run Makes Headlines

Wagner thinking like spoilers in NCAA game at EWUStaten Island Advance (Nov. 30)

Wagner College’s Nick Doscher reels in big oneStaten Island Advance (Nov. 25)

Wagner captures NEC title to clinch NCAA playoff berthStaten Island Advance (Nov. 17)

After Storm, Wagner Quickly Regains FootingNew York Times (Nov. 9)

Wagner College football team knocking on NCAA’s doorStaten Island Advance (Nov. 8)

 

The Overtime! Weekly ‘Twitter Take Five’

Following your favorite NEC athlete or sportswriter on Twitter is an enjoyable experience, but can also become an overwhelming one.

With so many people to follow and so much information to digest, it isn’t always easy to manage. Hence, the Overtime! Blog’s Twitter Take Five, a new weekly feature that selects five of the most intriguing/significant Tweets from across the NEC and presents them to our fans right here on the Official Blog of the Northeast Conference.

 

THE RUNDOWN…

Tweet No. 5 — Molly Z., RMU senior, #ColonialCrazy

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Looks like Molly is ready for a fun-filled day of hoops and free stuff at this year’s edition of Colonial Chaos.  For those of you who will be in Moon Township and are interested in attending it runs from 10:00 am until 6:30 pm in John Jay Hall before picking back up from 8:00 pm until 10:00 pm in the Sewall Center on Friday, November 30.

 

Tweet No. 4 – Ron Ratner, NEC Associate Commissioner, MBB PR contact

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Ron may know what every NEC men’s player’s favorite color is, but he is, by no means, a women’s hoops guru.  The good news is, one need not be a guru to recognize the fact that Tricia Fabbri’s Quinnipiac Bobcats and Joe Haigh’s Saint Francis Red Flash are playing good basketball of late.  Their records speak for themselves.  The Bobcats have yet to lose, having notched two wins over A-10 members and a season-opening triumph over 2012 WNIT Runner-up James Madison.  The Flash have won four of their first five under a new head coach, including two wins over Mid-American foes and a victory over MEAC preseason favorite Howard.

 

Tweet No. 3 – Bill Paxton, Writer/Blogger, Connecticut Post

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Paxton usually has his fingers on the pulse of Sacred Heart’s beat, and he was the first to send out this somewhat sad news. Yes, Mr. Cook is stepping aside to spend more time with his lovely children and grandchildren, but, yes, his departure leaves behind a huge void.  The knowledgeable, humorous and wise Cook was one of the MAAC’s founding fathers during his time at Fairfield before coming to Sacred Heart and overseeing the Pioneers transition into the Division I ranks during the 1990s. Under his guidance, Sacred Heart has won the Brenda Weare NEC Commissioner’s Cup each of the past five years.

 

Tweet No. 2 – Justine Miller, Team Manager, Mount MBB

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This team manager was fired up for some more mayhem on Monday night at George Washington and what she got was another victory.  The Mountaineers, whose fast and furious style of play has made way for the name “Mount Mayhem, have defeated an America East foe as well as the A-10 member Colonials.  Not a bad start to the Jamion Christian Era.

 

Tweet No. 1 – Kasey Schiavoni, FDU men’s soccer supporter

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Kasey fired off this tweet shortly after North Carolina ended Fairleigh Dickinson’s College Cup run in overtime of their Sweet 16 matchup. Sure, the Knights came up short against the defending NCAA champions in Chapel Hill, but they have nothing to hang their heads about.  Following a great regular season run, Seth Roland’s squad posted road wins over St. John’s and Saint Louis to reach the Sweet 16 for the second time in their head coach’s tenure.

 

– Nov. 30, 2012 –

Superstorm Sandy Hit Hard And the NEC Responded

One month ago, millions across New Jersey, Staten Island and Long Island sat hopelessly in the dark.  Superstorm Sandy had just torn through the area, leaving a path of destruction in its wake.

The unprecedented storm inflicted unprecedented damage upon the region.

Not only were power lines down, but whole homes had been washed away. Boats were thrown from marinas into folks’ front yards.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would eventually refer to the disaster as “our Katrina.”

With their fellow Americans hurting, a number of Northeast Conference schools and student-athletes extended a helping hand.

Close to Home
In numerous cases, the help wasn’t going to complete strangers, but to friends, neighbors and family members.  With NEC members Monmouth and Wagner lying in two of the hardest-hit areas, the destruction of Sandy hit extremely close to home.

Take the Monmouth football team for instance.  Senior guard Mike Murphy is from Toms River and his grandparents live on the Barrier Islands.  Tight end Evan Ruane was staying with his grandparents in Sea Bright, but was forced to evacuate.  Then, there is wide receiver Neal Sterling, who grew up four blocks from the beach in Belmar. His house was unscathed, but he woke up to ply wood drifting down his street. 

Sportsnet New York (SNY) produced and aired a feature video on the three Monmouth gridders on November 9.  It can be viewed by clicking here or by visiting SNY.tv.

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Needless to say, the effects of Superstorm Sandy forced the cancellation of Monmouth’s home game against Central Connecticut, which was set for November 3.  It was the first time a Northeast Conference football contest was canceled since the Saturday after September 11, 2001.

Monmouth did return to Kessler Field for game action on November 10, hosting Saint Francis (PA) in the NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week.

In the SNY feature piece, Ruane noted how returning to his teammates on the gridiron helped him cope with the disaster.

Wagner, which saw many of its Staten Island neighbors suffering in the aftermath, also used football to help cope.  In addition to practice, conditioning and film study, the Seahawks made aiding relief efforts a team activity.

Amidst the chaos, Wagner played and won its most-meaningful football game in 25 years.  The Seahawks went on the road and posted a 30-0 shutout of NEC preseason favorite Albany in a battle for first place on November 3.

The New York Times chronicled Wagner’s unorthodox week leading up to the Albany game in a feature story that ran on November 8.  Read “After Storm, Wagner Quickly Regains Footing” by Jonathan Zeller

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Twitter Activity Tells Some of the Story

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Pitching In
While the students who were directly affected by the superstorm embarked on the long recovery/rebuilding process, others from around the Northeast Conference participated in organized relief efforts.

Eight of the Northeast Conference’s members took it upon themselves to spearhead programs aimed at helping those in need.

Bryant – The Bryant Bookstore joined forces with the school’s Student Arts and Speakers Series (a student group) to sponsor a food and toiletry drive to benefit the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties of New Jersey. Read more about Bryant’s effort.

Central Connecticut – The CCSU Fashion Club along with other organizations conducted a clothing drive on the New Britain campus on November 15.  As the news post advertising the clothing drive stated, “Our brothers & sisters in New Jersey and New York need our help!!!”  Read more of CCSU’s effort.

Monmouth – With its West Long Branch campus right in the middle of the fray, Monmouth began a relief effort of sorts before Sandy even made landfall.  The Hawks’ $58 million Multi-Purpose Activity Center, which is home to Monmouth men’s and women’s basketball, served as an official evacuation shelter for Jersey Shore residents who were forced to leave their homes in anticipation of Sandy.  Read “More Than 1,000 Expected At Monmouth University Shelter”

In the days following the storm, the Monmouth University community came together to form “Hawks Fly Together for Relief,” an initiative aimed at “promoting a unified campus and a unified fundraising effort.” Read more on the initiative.

The aforementioned Monmouth football team volunteered its services to unload a truckload of 1,500 turkeys at the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  Their work was part of an annual food delivery that Stop & Shop makes to the Jersey Shore-based organization.  Read “Football team helps to sack hunger with turkey delivery”

Mount St. Mary’s — The Mount St. Mary’s Athletic Department donated all ticket revenue and proceeds from the men’s basketball home opener against Hartford, on Tuesday, November 13, to Catholic Charities USA for their hurricane relief efforts.  The Mount also collected numerous donated goods at the game, including non-perishable foods, hygiene products and first aid items.  Read more of the Mount’s effort

Quinnipiac – First-year Bobcats banded together and organized a clothing drive for the men’s basketball team’s home opener. Freshman Erica Miccoli was part of the group that collected clothes and donations to support those impacted by Hurricane Sandy.  Read more of Quinnipiac’s effort

Sacred Heart – The SHU Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in collaboration with Student Government sweaters, sweatpants, scarves, coats, gloves, hats, boots, and blankets to be donated to people affected by Hurricane Sandy.  The Pioneers began the drive at their home volleyball match and football game on November 10 and continued it throughout the following week.  Read more about SHU’s effort.

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St. Francis Brooklyn – Superstorm Sandy came and St. Francis Brooklyn responded by launching the Terriers for Terriers Relief Effort.  TFT’s aim is to provide critical resources to those in the SFC family impacted by the horrific storm. Read more of SFBK’s effort.

Wagner – Seahawk-spearheaded relief efforts were plentiful on Grymes Hill in the days after Superstorm Sandy hit.  First, there is the overarching effort led by Wagner Cares (wagnercares.org).  As a direct result of the devastation that has occurred this past week from Hurricane Sandy, the Wagner College community has united to provide relief efforts to the many victims using a student-inspired initiative known as Wagner Cares. Before Wagner College students began their return to campus, post-Hurricane Sandy, many became very interested in volunteering to help hurricane victims. At the same time, Gregory Balaes (’13), President of the Student Government Association, contacted President Guarasci with the Wagner Cares concept and website.  Read more on Wagner Cares.

Wagner’s women’s soccer team is making an effort to pitch in from the pitch. On December 1, the team will host a game day at Hameline Field, in which participating teams will be paired (by age and gender) against each other for one full match. Entry fees and raffle proceeds will benefit the victims of Sandy. Read more.

The aforementioned Wagner football team has done its part as well.  You can learn more about the team’s effort by reading the feature story “Bridgeton athletes at Wagner help Staten Island recover from damage from Sandy” and by watching the brief YouTube video below.

 

Boston College Falls Victim to NEC’s Phenomenal Fall

With Wagner hosting and winning a FCS playoff game and Fairleigh Dickinson facing North Carolina with a spot in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Elite Eight on the line, Thanksgiving Weekend 2012 will certainly be a memorable one for NEC fans.

There were also some happenings on the hardwood that undoubtedly left NEC loyalists with a warm, fuzzy feeling heading into this holiday season.

On the other hand, Boston College fans probably aren’t feeling the same way right now.

The ACC member saw its men’s and women’s basketball teams suffer losses at the hands of NEC schools. 

At the Washing Dental Thanksgiving Tournament out in Seattle, Sacred Heart make Black Friday event darker for the Eagles.  The defending NEC champion Pioneers topped BC, 54-48, behind Washington native Morgan Merriman’s 22 points.

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Fewer than 48 hours later, Bryant men’s basketball stormed Chestnut Hill and stunned the home crowd at Conte Forum. Bryant sophomore Dyami Starks scored 17 points in the 56-54 victory.

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Sacred Heart and Bryant Make Headlines

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BC basketball stunned by BryantBoston Globe (Craig Forde)

Starks scores 17 to lead Bryant over Boston College, 56-54Providence Journal (AP)

Merriman leads SHU women to upset of BCConnecticut Post (Staff Report)

Super Sunday for BryantProvidence Journal (Jim Donaldson)

Bryant stuns Boston College 56-54Yahoo! Sports

 

What Was Twitter Saying? 

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Play of the Day from Bryant’s Big Win

 

– November 26, 2012 –

NEC Football Champion Wagner Earns NCAA FCS Playoff Home Game, Patriot League Winner Colgate Headed to Grymes Hill

Wagner’s road to Frisco will begin right on Grymes Hill against a fellow Empire State inhabitant. 

When the 2012 NCAA FCS playoff bracket was unveiled during a Selection Show on ESPNU, the NEC champion Seahawks learned they would be hosting Patriot League champion Colgate in a first round affair on Saturday, November 24.  The game will air live on ESPN3.

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Fresh off its first-ever NEC title, Wagner (8-3, 7-1) is the lone first-time qualifier in the 20-team national championship field.  The Seahawks clinched the NEC’s automatic bid when they outlasted Duquesne, 23-17, on Saturday, November 17.

Albany (9-2, 7-1) earned a share of the title alongside Wagner, but the Seahawks held the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Danes thanks to a 30-0 Week 10 win in Albany.

The Great Danes did not receive an at-large berth into the field and will see its season come to a close.  The Danes, who have tied Robert Morris with a NEC-record sixth conference crown, had notable non-conference wins over Colgate and then-No. 23 Maine. 

Read the NCAA.com Press Release Here

The Overtime! Weekly ‘Twitter Take Five’

Following your favorite NEC athlete or sportswriter on Twitter is an enjoyable experience, but can also become an overwhelming one.

With so many people to follow and so much information to digest, it isn’t always easy to manage. Hence, the Overtime! Blog’s Twitter Take Five, a new weekly feature that selects five of the most intriguing/significant Tweets from across the NEC and presents them to our fans right here on the Official Blog of the Northeast Conference.

THE RUNDOWN…

Tweet No. 5 – Chad Clair, Saint Francis (PA) alumnus

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Yes, it is that time of year. The NEC Volleyball Championships are hours away, and Saint Francis (PA) has been invited to the party.  The Red Flash will hold the No. 4 seed in the two-day, four-team single-elimination event.  Saint Francis will draw top-seeded LIU Brooklyn and its 16-0 NEC record in the semifinal, which will air live on NECFrontRow.com.

 

Tweet No. 4 – Jennifer Loh, Wagner student

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We thank Jennifer for sending us this great photo from Wagner’s picturesque Grymes Hill campus, but we have one question to ask – isn’t every day at “Swagner” a beautiful one?

 

Tweet No. 3 – Larry Licata, CCSU fan

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Larry Licata obviously loves the fact that his Blue Devils are taking advantage of their freebies. In Thursday night’s 86-71 win over Brown, CCSU went a perfect 13-for-13 from the charity stripe.  Guard Kyle Vinales, who poured in 28 points, was responsible for six of those makes.

 

Tweet No. 2 – Joe Haigh, Head Coach, Saint Francis (PA) WBB

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Jimmy V? Dora the Explorer? Whoever said it, we get the point.  In his first year as the Saint Francis (PA) head coach, Joe Haigh’s Flash haven’t come close to giving up yet.  They’re 2-0 with wins over MEAC preseason favorite Howard and Patriot League member Bucknell. Most recently, the Flash trailed Bucknell at the half, but didn’t give up.  They managed to overcome their shooting struggles and grind out a 62-54 win.

 

Tweet No. 1 – Erik Abarca, FDU Soccer fan

 

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Mr. Abarca fired off this tweet on Monday, November 12 only minutes after NEC men’s soccer champion Fairleigh Dickinson found out it would face Big East member St. John’s in the first round of the NCAA College Cup.  His prediction of an upset wasn’t a pipe dream by any means.  FDU, which entered the matchup having won four NCAA Tournament games under head coach Seth Roland, stunned host St. John’s, 1-0.

 

– Nov. 16, 2012 –

 

Afternoon Assessment – Reviewing the State of NEC Football Following Week 11

What to Take Away from the Weekend
It all comes down to this.

Albany took care of business during its trip to the Steel City, staving off Duquesne, 38-31, while Wagner enjoyed a feel-good come-from-behind home win over Patriot League member Holy Cross.

The results mean both teams will be riding high into a decisive Week 12 of NEC football.

The conference crown and accompanying NCAA FCS playoff bid are both at stake with Wagner facing the shorter path to both. 

The Seahawks can clinch both with a win over Duquesne OR an Albany loss to Central Connecticut.  In order for Albany to claim sole possession of the title and the auto playoff berth, it must defeat Central Connecticut and hope Duquesne can score a road win over Wagner.

With postseason fate and title aspirations on the line, Week 12 is of the “can’t miss” variety. Luckily, the Wagner-Duquesne game will be streamed live (FREE OF CHARGE) on NECFrontRow.com. beginning at 12:00 pm on Saturday.

Who Gets Game Balls?
Dominique Williams
He was his team’s leading rusher AND receiver as the Seahawks came back to post a victory over Patriot League foe Holy Cross.  Racking up 224 yards from scrimmage, Williams allowed Wagner to win its seventh in a row.  His 177 rush yards were the third most by an individual in a NEC game this season.

Jon Morgan
This Albany linebacker continued to do in Week 11 what he has done all season long – make plays.  His punt block allowed Albany to score a late first-half touchdown. Earlier in the game, he intercepted a pass as the Danes held Duquesne scoreless for the first 18:43.

Anthony Abeid
With Saint Francis looking for its first win ever at Monmouth’s Kessler Field and starting running back Keion Wade unavailable, Abeid provided the spark the Red Flash needed.  He ripped off two long runs in the first half, one going for a touchdown and the other setting the Flash up at the Monmouth 1.

 

Pigskin Tweets of the Week

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Benzing certainly “walked the walk” and did his part in Central Connecticut’s Senior Day contest against Bryant. The sophomore receiver made his first ever touchdown catch, a 31-yard play that gave Central a 17-7 lead early on in the second quarter.

 

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After spending the first two years of his collegiate career at Florida State where he saw game action at both cornerback and receiver, Alexander transferred back to his native Keystone State to compete for Saint Francis.  The senior receiver has made a number of electrifying plays, including a 16-yard TD reception this past Saturday at Monmouth, since returning to the Altoona area.

 

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Those who watched the NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week between Saint Francis and Monmouth can relate to what this Flash fan is tweeting. Rookie Anthony Abeid provided a spark off the bench, rushing for 119 yards and a touchdown. He won the Ruby Tuesday Player of the Game honor and the NEC Rookie of the Week award for his efforts.

 

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Yes, the NEC-TV Featured Game of the Week can be seen across the national via Fox College Sports, and across the globe via ESPN3.

 

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This 2011 all-NEC punter knows exactly what has to happen for his Great Danes to guarantee themselves a second consecutive trip to the NCAA FCS playoffs.

 

Three Points of Prep for Week 12
Where Will They Wind Up?:  Two of the greatest running backs in the 18-year history of NEC football will play their final games on Saturday, November 17.  Duquesne’s Larry McCoy and Bryant’s Jordan Brown will each graduate as one of the top-six rushers in conference annals.  McCoy (4,474) currently sits second on the league’s all-time rushing chart behind former Monmouth star Dave Sinisi (5,049), and he will probably wind up staying there unless he can muster up one final 600-yard performance on Saturday.  Meanwhile, Brown (4,207) sits sixth overall and can move into the Top 5, at the expense of current Rmu running backs coach Myles Russ (4,271), by gaining 65 yards this weekend.

A Special Silver Anniversary?: It has been 25 years since Wagner won the 1987 NCAA Division III National Championship, and on Saturday, the Seahawks will have a chance to clinch the program’s first-ever Northeast Conference crown.  A win over Duquesne will do the trick, most certainly sending Staten Island into a frenzy.

A Fourth for the Flash?:  Saint Francis (PA) has enjoyed a watershed season under third-year head coach Chris Villarrial.  The Flash have won four games, the most since the program moved up to the FCS ranks.  They could set a program record for NEC victories by picking up a fourth when Sacred Heart comes to town for the 2012 finale.