By Shawn McFarland
Springfield College football’s season opener against the Golden Bears was a matchup which, for all intents and purposes, the Pride was not supposed to win.
Sure enough, they did.
The Pride’s now-undefeated season started with No. 24 Western New England, the crosstown rival that had Springfield College football’s number since 2014. The Golden Bears boasted an elite offense, led by second-team All-American guard Dillon Martin.
The Pride won the season-opener in convincing fashion, 35-21, and held the so-called dominant offense to a measly seven second-half points.
Then came Kean, a New Jersey powerhouse which had won at least seven games each of the last two seasons, and the ECAC’s Clayton Chapman Bowl in 2016.
The Pride dispatched them, almost too easily, 28-8 in their home opener. Jordan Wilcox rushed for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns, jumpstarting what has been a dominant season for the season fullback on the ground. He’s since racked up a total of 1,248 yards and 13 touchdowns, both of which lead the NEWMAC.
Kean was believed to be the program that Springfield was expected to have problems stopping. Springfield put those rumors to bed before they even had a chance to arise.
Last weekend Springfield saw Catholic come into town, the latest apparently fearsome opponent on the Pride’s schedule that was supposed to knock them down a peg. Catholic boasted an offensive line which towered over that of Springfield’s.
It didn’t matter. The Cardinals were the latest victims on No. 23 Springfield’s historic tear through the Northeast’s Division III football landscape, as the Pride rolled for a 68-20 win on Homecoming weekend.
Kanye West once rapped, “Who gon’ stop me now?”, and I’m sure there’s a similar feeling now swirling around the now-undefeated Springfield College football team’s locker room – a locker room that houses the nation’s best rushing attack, and one of the most fearsome defenses in Division III.
With two games left on the schedule, myself, the campus and possibly even Kanye himself are all wondering: who is going to stop them?
With all due respect to the Mariners of Maine Maritime, Springfield’s next opponent, it won’t be them. They’re 1-6 this season, and let Merchant Marine – a team which the Pride held to 13 points – drop 56 on them.
The Mariners are allowing 440 yards per game this season – 315.9 on the ground alone. That’s by far the worst in the NEWMAC. Second worst is Norwich at 262.7 rushing yards per game. The Pride ran for 360 yards against them and put up 42 points (and that wasn’t even Springfield’s best rushing game of the season, either) in week five.
Wilcox, Hunter Belzo, Tyler Hyde, Jake Eglintine and the rest of the Pride’s ball carriers might just shatter some records. We were all shocked to see 68 points sitting on the board following the win over Catholic.
The scoreboard operators at Ritchie Field in Maine might need to prepare to put triple digits up when Springfield comes to town.
That’s all being said without bringing up Springfield’s defense, a squad which, according to WPI head coach Chris Robertson, is the reason for the undefeated record – not the triple option.
Robertson would know too, as the Pride held his Engineers to just 10 points in a week four win. Springfield picked off WPI quarterback Blake Rice not once, not twice, but thrice, in a 42-10 thrashing.
But Dom Traversa, Nick Giorgio and the rest of the dogs on the defense won’t have to fret too hard against Maine Maritime, as the Mariners are averaging just 18 points per game.
The Pride’s final game of the season against MIT however, might be a different story. The Engineers are (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) supposed to pose a threat to the Pride.
MIT is 6-1, and is scoring at an impressive clip (31.4 points per game) and only gives up 13.7 points per game. The Engineers don’t have a Jordan Wilcox, but they do have sophomore John Robertson, who’s rushed for 798 yards and 10 touchdowns to date.
But how much of a threat is that? The Pride have shown they can shut down the run. The conference’s second leading rusher (behind Wilcox, of course) is WPI’s Sean McAllen. Springfield held him to just 83 yards, 47 of which came on a single rush.
Springfield’s defense will be in a much better spot come MIT than it is now, too. Defensive backs Johnny Bianchi and Marlowe Scott have both been out with nagging injuries. Both are expected back three weeks from now.
So, sure, MIT is the second best team in the conference at the moment. It, like Springfield, has waxed every conference opponent it’s faced, with a lone loss coming at the hands of out-of-conference foe Curry back in September.
Maybe MIT is the team that is going to topple the nationally ranked Pride, on the final day of the season on Stagg Field. Maybe the Engineers can do what the likes of Western New England, Kean and Catholic failed to do. Maybe, just maybe, Springfield will have finally run into the team that stops them.
But hey, haven’t we heard that before?