SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (August 24, 2017) – The No. 24 nationally ranked Western New England University football team has been selected as the preseason favorite heading into the inaugural season of Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC Football).
Western New England earned the top spot in the CCC Preseason Coaches' Poll, garnering five of a possible six first place votes and 34 total points. Salve Regina University finished second with 28 points, while Endicott College checked in at No. 3 with 26 points and the final first place tally.
Curry College (16 points), Nichols College (12 points) and Becker College (ten points) rounded out the final three spots in the poll, which is voted on by all six head coaches in the conference.
Western New England is coming off consecutive New England Football Conference (NEFC) titles in the final two years of the league's existence. Last fall, the Golden Bears completed their second consecutive undefeated regular season, before defeating Husson University for their first ever NCAA Tournament victory. The 2017 squad has its sights set even higher with the first season of CCC Football, the re-branded NEFC, set to get underway.
13th-year head coach Keith Emery brings back 37 letterwinners and nine All-Conference performers from last year's squad. Senior quarterback Anthony Service (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y.), who earned All-New England accolades last fall, returns to lead the offense after setting multiple program records in 2016. Other key returning playmakers include senior running back Dante Aiken (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and senior wide receiver Mark Dietrich (Cheshire, Conn.). Senior Dillon Martin (Ashland, Mass.), a D3football.com and Lindy's Sports Preseason All-American, will anchor the offensive line.
The Western New England defensive line will be led by senior Sam Edouard (Roosevelt, N.Y.), who will serve as team captain in 2017. Edouard totaled 57 tackles (five for loss) last fall on his way to D3football.com All-East Region honors. Senior safety Sam Olsson (Milford, Conn.) will also play a key role for the Golden Bears in the defensive backfield.
Western New England opens its season at home on Saturday, September 2 against city rival Springfield College in the annual Pynchon SAW Game. The team's challenging non-conference slate also features a rematch with Husson at Golden Bear Stadium on September 23 and a matchup with St. Lawrence the following Saturday in Springfield. Conference play gets underway against Endicott on October 14.