Sept. 9 MVP: MassVarsity Pre-and-Post

Pardon the corny lede, but Holy Cross and Merrimack put championship efforts into the Football Championship Subdivision openers for both teams.

In the Warriors' case, it was the first-ever game as an FCS team against another opponent from that NCAA division. And, for a program that was supposed to need a lot of time to show it belonged, Merrimack did so immediately.

Trailing Central Connecticut St., 37-14, near the midway point of the third quarter, the Warriors were about in the position that most — including this website — expected them to be.

But the Warriors showed that, ahem, championship drive that gives one hope that coach Dan Curran and Co. are ahead of schedule.

Merrimack scored 23 straight points to tie it with less than a minute to go. The final eight points followed a successful onside kick that led to a Christian Carter 21-yard completion to Marquis Spence. On the two-point conversion, Carter ran it in to send the Warriors sideline into a frenzy.

In the end, Central Connecticut won on a field goal with four seconds left. And while the Warriors certainly did not look like a team playing for a moral victory, at the end of the day, that's exactly what they got.

As for Holy Cross, the Crusaders got an actual win, but in a manner that reflected the sort of all-out effort that Merrimack showed in its defeat.

We did not expect Holy Cross to beat New Hampshire. The Crusaders were coming off a physical loss at the hands of Navy. We felt that pounding would carry over into Saturday's game with New Hampshire.

But when we arrived at Fitton Field, we spoke to a few people who said that the Crusaders were far from beaten up, and in fact in the type of shape that did not have anyone around that team worried.

It showed, and the Crusaders had no physical drop-off from the first whistle to the last. When Liam Doran popped the ball free on the goal line to allow Joe Lang to fall on it for the game-winning points, it reflected the way the Crusaders practice situational football, and the total emphasis on conditioning coach Bob Chesney brings to the table.

We said in our pick 'em that we would not be surprised to see the Crusaders start off 0-4 with a brutal quartet of Navy, New Hampshire, Yale and Syracuse to open the season.

Now? Well, the Crusaders are 1-1 heading into a bye week to face a Yale team that will not have played any games by the time the two square off in New Haven on Sept. 21.

Advantage, Crusaders, as they will have two games under their belt and a well-rested team. Holy Cross came away with a 31-28 overtime victory over the Bulldogs last season in Worcester.

Holy Cross did not win its second game until late October last season. We do not want to get ahead of ourselves, but we feel the Crusaders could match that sooner rather than later.

Friday funday

Boston College finds itself in a primetime slot against Kansas this week, and this is starting to look more like a showcase game than anything else.

No offense to Coastal Carolina, but Kansas is coming off a 12-7 loss to a Chanticleers team that really would not pose too much of a problem for BC. Not to be too reductive about it, but BC really shouldn't have a problem with a team that can't beat Coastal Carolina.

The Eagles are coming off a win over an overmatched Richmond team and will be well-rested enough to take care of a clearly-inferior Kansas team.

A victory this week and the Eagles could head to Rutgers with a 3-0 record and a chance to beat a team in a primary recruiting footprint of New Jersey.

Again, not to get ahead of ourselves, but we see all of that happening.

Big step backward

Not much needs to be said about UMass' 45-20 loss to Southern Illinois.

Simply put, any and all momentum the Minutemen have built up with recruiting and a better-than-average showing against Rutgers in the opener can melt away with one loss like that.

It was not realistic to expect the Minutemen to be some type of dominant team right way in coach Walt Bell's first year. Of course not. But a four-score loss to an FCS team shows that there is a much longer way to go for this program to be competitive than we thought even one week ago.

Yes, the Minutemen seem to be recruiting better. But the big worry is losing some of these verbal pledges if the team continues to look like this when the actual games are played.

So far, we haven't seen any signs of that, but that's the worry when you get blown out by a lower-division team.

The hope is that the current class — by all metrics, a very talented one — still wants to stay together and build something from the ground up. If that remains true, then these losses are become a little easier swallow.

Falcon crest

It wasn't a win, but Bentley hung well with No. 22 West Chester in a 14-7 loss Saturday.

We thought the local programs in the Northeast-10 would be a little down this season, but both the Falcons and Stonehill had promising opening performances, as the Skyhawks rolled to a 33-14 win over Bloomsburg.

Bentley travels to American International for a noon start next Saturday, while Stonehill hosts New Haven (2:30 p.m.) in what should be a nice challenge for the Easton school..

Happy End-ing

Or beginning. Hard to find any fault with what Endicott was able to do in its 55-27 blowout of Framingham State Saturday.

The Gulls raced out from a 28-27 lead to score the final 27 points of the game.

Teams from around here don't normally do that to a program like FSU, but Endicott is looking every bit like the best Division 3 team in the state. It's early, but that performance opened some eyes.


Mansfield looks the part. So do King Philip and Franklin in the Kelley-Rex Division. Attleboro was also a team we had just on the outside of our MIAA 40-team preseason countdown.

You shoot over to the Davenport, and North Attleboro, Canton, and Milford did nothing to make us doubt them, even though the Red Rocketeers lost to KP. Like Attleboro, Stoughton was one of the last teams we left off the preseason countdown, and the Black Knights are junior-heavy.

It's always a crazy-good league, but you can see it being even better this year.

Just the beginning

We know we have talked a lot about Springfield Central on this site, but here's the scary thing about the Golden Eagles: for as good as they are this year, those around the program figured next year's team could be even better.

They may be right.

Quarterback William Watson III is only a freshman and was brilliant against a good Everett secondary. Running back Marcus Crawford is a junior. Wide receiver Joseph Griffin III is a sophomore, as is tight end Brendan Guy. Sophomore Myles Ward and junior Justin Gabriel also caught passes in Friday night's 40-12 rout of Everett.

Up front, Travis Gause (6-feet, 240 pounds), Jacob Delgado (6-1, 300), and Mekhi Abdul-Rahim (5-11, 235) will be back next year, too.

That's nine major contributors from an offense that moved the ball at will on Everett who will be back in 2020.

The defense, too, returns a boatload. Junior defensive end Terry Lockett is one who already owns a number of FBS offers. Classmate and outside linebacker Tyson Thornton might be the best player on the entire defense.

Linebacker Mesias Lee is a freshman. Another linebacker, Zach Jones, is just a sophomore. Defensive back Jose Nieves is a junior.

Yes, we are getting ahead of ourselves a little here, but goodness, this program is on a roll right now.

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