By Darin MacEacheron and Eric Belyea
The 2018 Springfield College football team is coming into the year with an undefeated season, a conference championship and an NCAA tournament berth hanging over their heads. After a devastating 23-21 first round loss to Husson in the NCAA Division III tournament last season, the Pride have bounced back and kept that loss in the past.
The Brotherhood has seemingly picked up where they left off starting this season with commanding victories over Western New England University, 42-21, and Kean University (NJ), 42-0. Offensively, Springfield’s team hasn’t changed one bit. They still run the deadly triple option with Chad Shade at quarterback and multiple combinations at halfback and fullback.
The triple option is clearly this team’s identity on offense but on the defensive side, it is much more simple.
“We run,” said head coach Mike Cerasuolo. “We might not be the biggest team out there as far as physically imposing but our kids run relentlessly to the football. We always tell them we can make up for any mistake technically or schematically with effort.”
So far through two games, the Pride’s leading tackler is sophomore linebacker AJ Smith who has accumulated 20 total tackles, with 15 of those being assisted tackles. No one is going out on the field and making big hits and spectacular tackles by themselves, it is just a classic team effort.
The offense is such a dominating force when they have the ball, it is easier for the defense knowing they won’t be on the field as much and that they will most likely be playing with a lead.
Player to Watch
The Pride lost two key players going into this season; Quarterback Jake Eglintine and running back Jordan Wilcox to graduation, leaving what would seem to be big holes in their offense this season. Although, that has not been the case.
Shade has taken the starting job and literally ran away with it. In the season opener against Western New England, he rushed for 247 yards and six touchdowns en route to taking home NEWMAC Player of the Week honors. Cerasuolo is very happy with the way Shade has taken over the offense as the full-time starter.
“Even though Jake (Eglintine) and Jordan (Wilcox) spent a lot of time together playing a lot of football together going back to high school, I think that once Chad got acclimated with the offense his freshman year, he has been ready to go.”
Shade has always been ready, appearing in games going back to 2016, even leading the team to a second-half, come from behind victory over WPI when he was a freshman.
“We were fortunate that Chad was getting a lot of reps throughout the course of last year and even though this might be his first full season starting, he has played a lot of football for us,” Cerasuolo said when speaking about Shade’s ability to run the offense. Shade will be the pulse of the Pride’s dynamic offense in 2018.
Although Shade is leading the team in total yards and touchdowns, the team is not short of offensive weapons. In their win over Kean, five different members of Springfield scored at least one touchdown.
“Our guys are very selfless, so it is not about who is scoring or anything along those lines, for us it is about the team and the Brotherhood mentality,” Cerasuolo said.
With the offense playing as strong as it has through the first two games of the season, it will be awfully difficult for opponents to stop them.
In the regular season last year, the Pride was dominant. Along with their unblemished 10-0 record, they outscored their opponents by an average score of 46-11. Springfield averaged 470 yards per game while only allowing 233.8 yards per game to their opponents. Although the Pride are only two games into the season, they are looking extremely strong.
Their offense is right back where they were last season as they are already averaging 439 yards per game and scoring 42 points per game. On the defensive side, the Pride have already pitched a shutout against Kean and are only giving up 10.5 points per game along with an average of 256 yards against.
Collectively, this team is looking really good and there is no denying it. Going forward, the Pride have one more non-conference game at Union College this weekend, then kick off NEWMAC conference play in Worcester against WPI. With their perfect record against conference opponents in 2017, paired with their early success thus far, the Brotherhood could duplicate their success from the 2017 season and have another shot at an undefeated regular season and postseason berth. Although it’s tempting to look ahead at repeating history, the Pride are just focused on their day-to-day responsibilities.
“Our focus right now is that our freshman have a meeting today at 4 p.m. and an optional nutritional meeting at 5:15 p.m. so that’s the next step for us,” Cerasuolo said.
Even though they aren’t looking ahead, do not be surprised if we see the Pride fighting for another zero in the loss column.