SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (November 16, 2018) – The Western New England University football team will make its fourth consecutive and fifth overall appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament on Saturday with an opening round contest at No. 6 Frostburg State University.
Game Details: Saturday, November 17 | 12 PM | Bobcat Stadium | Frostburg, Md.
How They Got Here: Western New England went 8-2 overall and 5-1 in Commonwealth Coast Football play this fall, capturing the league title via the conference's tiebreaking procedures as the Golden Bears finished in a three-way tie with Endicott and Salve Regina. Western New England has won four consecutive conference championships since 2015, with two NEFC titles and two CCC Football crowns.
Frostburg State carries a No. 6 national ranking and a perfect 9-0 record into the first round of the NCAA playoffs. The Bobcats defeated in-state rival Salisbury last Saturday in overtime to clinch their first outright New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) title.
NCAA Playoff Experience: The Golden Bears are appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year and fifth time overall. Western New England is 1-4 in five games.
2011: Salisbury 62, WNE 24 (1st Round)
2015: Johns Hopkins 52, WNE 20 (1st Round)
2016: WNE 44, Husson 27 (1st Round)
2016: Alfred 30, WNE 24 (2nd Round)
2017: Delaware Valley 35, WNE 0 (1st Round)
Frostburg is making its second consecutive and third overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats reached the quarterfinals in their inaugural trip back in 1993, before accomplishing the feat again last fall. Frostburg is hosting an NCAA Playoff game for the second time in program history and first since '93.
Statistical Leaders: Western New England's high-powered offense has been fueled all season by junior dual threat quarterback Alec Coleman (Arlington, Mass.). In ten regular season contests, Coleman threw for 1,666 yards with 20 touchdowns (2nd in CCC FB) and just three interceptions, while also rushing 101 times for 818 yards (81.8 avg.) and 18 scores (T-6th in NCAA DIII). Junior running back Peter Hoff (Shelton, Conn.) has carried the ball 143 times for 709 yards (5.0 avg.) and eight touchdowns, while junior Jared Wolfe (Seaford, N.Y.) and sophomores Steven Fedorchak (Guilderland, N.Y.) and Adam Razza (Watertown, Conn.) have been Coleman's top receiving targets. Wolfe has a team-high 28 receptions, while Fedorchak has caught a team-high six touchdowns and Razza leads the squad with 496 yards.
Defensively, senior inside linebacker Mike Chirco (Weedsport, N.Y.) is Western New England's top tackler (78 stops) to go with 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception and a pass breakup. Freshman linebacker Joshua Salem (Dracut, Mass.) has been an immediate contributor with 62 tackles (3.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks), a forced fumble and three passes defensed, while senior Kurtis Jolicoeur (Windham, N.H.) is also a top playmaker with 53 tackles (15 for loss, 2 sacks), two forced fumbles, an interception, and three blocked kicks. The defensive backfield is led by senior Tommy Ganley (Delmar, N.Y.), who intercepted six passes and broke up eight, while the defensive line is anchored by seniors Ryan Smith (Weston, Vt.) and Sean Stergas (Cambridge, Vt.), who combined for 64 tackles (14 for loss) and 6.5 sacks.
Frostburg's offense runs through senior quarterback Connor Cox (Davidson, Md.), who threw for 1887 yards and 23 touchdowns with just two picks in nine regular season games. Cox also found the end zone six times on the ground. Senior tailback Jamaal Morant (Baltimore, Md.) carried the Bobcats' ground game with 749 yards and eight scores, while junior receiver Malik Morris (Carney, Md.) caught 31 balls for 824 yards and seven touchdowns.
On the defensive side, senior linebacker Dre'Quan Reed (Columbia, Md.) totaled a team-high 59 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss of 24 yards and five sacks. Reed also forced three fumbles, picked off a pass, and broke up another. Junior linebacker Wayne Palmer (Upper Marlboro, Md.) contributed 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions, while sophomore defensive lineman Zach Strand (Easton, Md.) was been a disruptive force with 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.
Coaching: Western New England is led by first-year head coach Jason Lebeau '10, who took over for Keith Emery in May. Lebeau had served as the team's offensive coordinator for the previous six seasons, helping the Golden Bears claim conference titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017. During his time as a student-athlete, Lebeau was a three-year starter on the offensive line for the Golden Bears and the team's offensive MVP his senior season. He is the youngest of all 32 head coaches in the 2018 NCAA DIII Tournament.
Frostburg head coach DeLane Fitzgerald is in his fifth season leading the Bobcats with an overall record of 40-13 (.755). He has guided the program to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances after inheriting a squad that went 1-9 in 2013.
Offensive/Defensive Rankings: Saturday's showdown will feature two of the top offenses in the nation, as the Golden Bears rank tied for 9th in scoring (44.8 PPG) and 21st in total offense (464.2 YPG), while Frostburg ranks 17th in scoring (42.1 PPG) and 62nd in total offense (414.8 YPG).
The Bobcats check in at 13th nationally in scoring defense (13.3 PPG) and ninth in total defense (229.2 YPG), while Western New England ranks 74th (20.3 PPG) and 65th (315.0 YPG) in scoring and total defense, respectively.
Up Next: The winner of the Frostburg/Western New England meeting advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament to take on the winner of the Johns Hopkins/MIT matchup.