One dose of maple in the offensive line and a sprinkling of sunshine on the roster is part of a two-game winning streak at Norwich University. More than that, it’s about confidence.
It has been some time since a Norwich University football team has won two straight games and it has cultivated a feeling of belief on the Northfield campus.
“Our kids feel like they can play with anybody,” Norwich coach Mark Murnyack said.
That is a good feeling to have with a 7-1 MIT team coming to town Saturday for a noon kickoff.
The other two Vermont teams are on the road. Castleton kicks off at Dean College at noon and Middlebury is at Hamilton at 12:30 p.m.
The Cadets have earned the right to feel that way. They have a 15-7 road win over Maine Maritime and a 31-0 thumping of Catholic University the last two weeks for a 3-5 record.
Yes, Maine Maritime and Catholic are winless, but the Cadets have also been in the games against the very best teams on their schedule.
The sunshine: Murnyack and his staff have done a good job of mining Florida in the recruiting effort.
Against Catholic, Aaron Conner, of Daytona Beach, Florida, earned the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week honor by rushing for 107 yards on just 11 carries. He got loose for touchdown dashes of 46 and 52 yards.
Tavares Ward, from Sunshine, Florida, had an interception, Lavontae Decius, from North Lauderdale, has been a big-play receiver and Jonathan Moltiner, from Boca Raton, has been outstanding as an inside linebacker.
There aren’t any Division III colleges in Florida, making it an attractive recruiting ground for coaches from the Northeast, where dozens of D-III schools dot the landscape.
Florida is also one of the best high school football states.
“In the long run, to be successful there, the kids have to come here and graduate,” Murnyack said.
Norwich has been very successful to that end, which plays well with high school coaches in the Sunshine State.
St. Johnsbury’s Tom Emery is the maple in the line. He has started every game his freshman season and has been the biggest in-state surprise.
“He has been our most versatile offensive lineman. We have had a lot of players in and out of the lineup there,” Murnyack said. “We have moved him from guard to left tackle to right tackle. We are really excited about him.”
Norwich quarterback Matt Dunn has been solid and has some big-play threats in his stable of receivers, led by Taj-Calvin Johnson, Decius and Manni Romero. Decius and Romero were both held out last week with injuries but are expected to be back against MIT.
MIT is coming off its only loss, 13-6 against WPI. The Engineers feature quarterback Ugdam Goyal, who has thrown 15 touchdown passes against six interceptions.
“He makes them go,” Murnyack said.
Murnyack said the Cadets will be playing “with a little chip on their shoulder” because there has been so much talk around New England about a game next week between MIT and Springfield with NEWMAC supremacy on the line.
In other words, an MIT victory in Northfield is a foregone conclusion to some.
“Our kids are like ‘what about us?’” Murnyack said. “They believe they can play with anybody in our league.”
The Catholic game was played in near white-out conditions on a snow-covered field. Emery, the guy from the Northeast Kingdom, was right at home.
Somehow, a kid from Florida made the snow his own playground and had the best game of his career.
It was a memorable day. A victory over MIT would be even more so.
Castleton has its own imposing obstacle Saturday. The Dean Bulldogs have been scoring a lot of points and are coming off a 53-21 pasting of Gallaudet.
It has been a down year for the Spartans, who sit at 1-7 and 0-4 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference. Dean is 3-5 and 2-2 in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference.
Castleton coach Tony Volpone’s chief concern will be slowing down quarterback Terrell Watts, who has thrown for 16 touchdowns against five interceptions. He passed for 306 yards and three scores against Gallaudet.
“We will have to tackle well in the open field, keep everything in front of us and not allow the big play,” Volpone said. “Their quarterback can throw and extend plays with his feet.”
The Spartans will go with Mitch Caron at quarterback with the intention of playing him the whole game. He and freshman Jake McCarthy shared time most of the year.
“Mitch is a senior and has been loyal to the program. He brings some things to the table we think we can use in this game,” Volpone said. “Jake has a bright future and we are excited to have him in the program.”
QUICK KICKS: Thunder Keck, once a Montpelier High student, is a linebacker on the Stanford University team that is at Washington on Saturday. Keck played his only year of football before college at Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. ... Hartford High graduate Tyler Hamilton and Burr and Burton alumnus Griff Stalcup will be on opposing teams Saturday in one of Division III football’s great traditions, a CBB Game. The CBB trophy is contested each year by the three Maine schools playing in the New England Small College Athletic Conference: Colby, Bates and Bowdoin. Stalcup will be wearing the Bowdoin uniform and Hamilton the garnet of Bates. Both teams are 0-7 so one will be coming off the field pretty happy.