Stonehill Named "Team of the Year", Gaines Earns Defensive Player of the Year Award, Talley Coach of the Year and Oct. 18 clash with #3 New Haven is "Game of the Year"
BY Paul Falewicz
2012 was a very competitive season in the NE-10. Four teams had a shot at winning the league but as predicted by the coaches, New Haven was the team to beat and they lived up to the expectations. Many players had solid seasons but here are my award winners.
Offensive Player of the Year
Joe Clancy, QB, Merrimack
Joe Clancy had been on the sidelines for the past three years waiting for his chance to take over the explosive Merrimack offense. He had seen some time the past two years and knew that he could succeed when given the chance.
Clancy was clearly the top offensive player in the NE-10 this year. He took the chance to play and lived it to the fullest. He led the league in completions (323), attempts (510), completion percentage (63.3), passing yards (3,945) and touchdown passes (31).
He passed for more than 300 yards in nine of his 10 games this year. His season low of 274 yards against Southern Connecticut is a solid game for most college quarterbacks. Clancy also helped to rewrite the record book for the NE-10 as he attempted 81 passes against AIC and threw for 553 yards and seven touchdowns against St. Anselm.
His final two games were simply amazing. He threw for 415 yards against Assumption and 465 yards against St. Anselm. Both games saw him complete 60% of his throws and five touchdown passes in each of the games.
Clancy had big shoes to fill as he stepped in for James Suozzo this season. He now leaves bigger shoes for future Merrimack quarterbacks to fill.
Defensive Player of the Year
Jareed Gaines, DB, Stonehill
It seemed that #26 for Stonehill was in on every tackle this season for the Skyhawks. It was almost true as Jareed Gaines led the Stonehill defense in tackles and was second in the NE-10.
Gaines recorded double digit tackles in seven of the 10 games this year including 14 in a game against AIC in October. That was right in the middle of five straight games in which he had 10 or more tackles against some of the top teams in the league.
Gaines led the NE-10 in solo tackles with 63 and was tied for the top spot with three forced fumbles. He was tied for third in the league with 9.5 tackles for a loss and fourth with 10 pass breakups. He was also credited with two sacks this year.
Gaines was the anchor of a defense that helped Stonehill finish with a winning record in the NE-10 for the first time since 2007. He will finish his career third in school history in tackles and also in the top five for solo tackles and tackles for a loss.
Coach of the Year
Robert Talley, Stonehill
Stonehill had usually been an easy game for most teams in the league but head coachRob Talley changed that mentality this year. He had a team that nearly knocked off a nationally ranked team and was a play or two away from beating some of the top teams in the NE-10.
Stonehill was picked to finish near the bottom of the NE-10 this year but clearly exceeded expectations. They knocked off teams that they never had beaten before and played each game tough week in and week out.
Talley has done a solid job building the Stonehill program to where they are today. He has used solid recruiting classes to get the team competitive each week and has seen some of the best players in school history excel under his tutorage.
Team of the Year
They were picked to finish seventh in the league and did not want to listen to the critics. They knew that they had a good team and wanted to make some noise in the league.
That is exactly what the 2012 Stonehill football did. They made some noise and finished fourth in the league with a 5-3 league record and were 5-5 overall. The Skyhawks played two nationally ranked teams and played both of them toe-to-toe.
Bloomsburg and New Haven both made trips to Easton, MA to face Stonehill and both walked away impressed with the heart and desire of the Skyhawks. A strong second half in the opening game against then # 22 Bloomsburg gave them a lot of confidence that they could play with anyone in the country.
The following weekend saw Stonehill win their first game of the season against a team that they had never defeated. Southern Connecticut had dominated the series but it was time for Stonehill to get their first win over the Owls. A win at St. Anselm and over Assumption had the Skyhawks 3-0 in the league as they headed into a huge game with rival Bentley.
But a rainy night made it tough for both teams and Stonehill fell for the first time in the league. Another tough Friday night foe followed at AIC and Stonehill struggled against them on the road. They rebounded nicely with a last second win over Merrimack at home before they welcomed the nation to the Stonehill campus.
A nationally televised game against New Haven had the campus ready to show how far the program had come over the years. They played New Haven tough until a late drive by the Chargers was the difference in the game. One final road trip to Pace finished the regular season in style as they earned the fourth seed in the first ever NE-10 championship weekend.
They fell to Southern Connecticut to close out the season but it was a solid season for Stonehill. They overcame a lot of shortcomings on the football field to be competitive in each game and aside from a play here or there, they might have had a chance to win a couple more games.
Game of the Year
New Haven 45 Stonehill 41
Junior quarterback Logan Meyer shined in front of a standing room only crowd and millions more on CBS Sports Network. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)
When you get a chance to showcase the league on national television, you are hoping for a game to remember. On a chilly Thursday night in October, the NE-10 exceeded those expectations and then some.
The game was billed as a match-up between an up-and-coming squad in Stonehill and a nationally ranked team in New Haven. Both teams went at it for 60 full minutes in front of a standing room crowd and the game was not decided until the final play of the game.
New Haven welcomed back quarterback Ryan Osiecki from injury. He had missed the previous four games after being knocked out of the game against Saint Augustine's. His first pass of the game was dropped but rebounded nicely to finish the game strong.
Stonehill opened the scoring early in the first quarter. Quarterback Logan Meyer found John Gomes in the end zone to take a 6-0 lead. New Haven answered on their next drive with a 26 yard touchdown run by Mike DeCaro and the shootout was just getting started.
Both teams battled for the rest of the first half and matched each other on the scoreboard. One team drove the field and the other responded on their ensuing drive. New Haven scored the final points of the half and took a 21-16 lead into the locker room.
The Skyhawks were the aggressor in the third quarter and seemed ready to upset a top ten team in the country. Meyer hit Nate Robitaille for a touchdown late in the third quarter and Stonehill was within two points to offset an Osiecki to Jason Thompson touchdown three minutes earlier.
The Skyhawks earned the respect of many opponents in 2012, none more so than #3 New Haven after going toe-to-toe with the Chargers on national television. (PHOTO BY Richard Orr)
Meyer continued his great night as he threw two touchdowns passes in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. First, he hooked up with Gomes for their second touchdown of the night. Then he found Robitaille again for their second touchdown of the night and Stonehill was up 41-31 with ten minutes to go in the game. The crowd was sensing the upset but it was just the beginning for the New Haven offense.
Osiecki led the team down the field in three minutes and found Thompson again to cut the lead to three, 41-38. Stonehill was not able to move the ball and run out the clock. They got a first down but several incompletions forced them to punt the ball back to New Haven.
The Chargers took over on their own 14 yard line and had 4:47 to drive the field. A penalty on the first play did not get the drive started on the right foot but New Haven worked out the kinks to get the ball moving in the right direction. Osiecki was masterful and spread the ball around all of his targets to get the ball inside the Stonehill 10 yard line.
A quarterback keeper was snuffed out by the Stonehill defense and New Haven faced a fourth down decision with 23 seconds on the clock. They had a dependable kicker in Chris Scifo on the sidelines but that was where he stayed. The Chargers went for it and Victor Jones used a strong second effort to get the first down.
After two incompletions, Osiecki found his favorite target Thompson in the back of the end zone in a throw that only he could chance. New Haven regained the lead with six seconds left.
The kickoff went out of bounds and Stonehill took over on the 35 yard line. A roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to midfield and one final chance for the Skyhawks to pull the upset. Meyer's throw to the end zone fell incomplete and the game was over. New Haven survived a scare and won their second game in five days on the road to stay atop the NE-10 standings.
Stonehill had showed the league and the entire nation that the program was making strides in the right direction. New Haven showed that they are able to take a team's best shot and still come out on top.
The game showed the entire country that NE-10 had made strides and is making some noise on a national level.