Plymouth State Football opens 43rd season
PSU visits Castleton for 2012 debut
|GAME #1:||Plymouth State University (0-0) at Castleton State College (0-0)|
|Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, 1:00 p.m., Spartan Stadium, Castleton, Vt.|
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The 43rd season of varsity football at Plymouth State University debuts this Saturday as the Panthers travel to Castleton State College for a non-conference match-up.
The Panthers and Spartans will kick off Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Spartan Field. PSU is optimistic this fall with 13 returning starters and more than two dozen players back who have seen significant playing time. Led by head coach Paul Castonia, Plymouth State is looking to bounce back from a 4-6 campaign after four straight winning seasons from 2007-10. Castleton begins its fourth year as a varsity football program, and returns solid veterans on both sides of the ball, including an all-star quarterback. The Spartans also finished 4-6 in 2011.
|Head Coach Paul Castonia|
Saturday's game marks the third meeting in football between Plymouth State and Castleton, with the Panthers winning the first two games. PSU took the first game in 2010 at Castleton, kicking a go-ahead field goal with six minutes remaining and holding off two late Spartan rallies. The Panthers won last year's game in Plymouth, 28-20, behind 151 yards rushing and two touchdowns by Andrew Foglia (Montauk, N.Y.)
PSU will play its home opener at Currier Field a week later, Saturday, Sept. 8, a non-conference meeting against Mount Ida College. After a New England Football Conference crossover game at Maine Maritime Academy on Sept. 15, the Panthers will play their final seven games against NEFC Boyd Division foes.
The NEFC schedule wraps up on the first Saturday of November. The Bogan Division champion will travel to the Boyd Division winner on Saturday, Nov. 12, for the NEFC championship and automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
Plymouth State Football -- 2012 Outlook
Castonia welcomed back a large group of veterans into preseason camp. The defense has seven returning starters, including four seniors on the line, while the offense also has six starters back, including three on the line and the top running back.
"We should be improved over last year," said Castonia, now in his 10th season on the Panther sideline. "We have excellent experience along both interior lines which should benefit us, and we have a number of guys who got knocked around a little last year who I expect will be better and who we will be able to count on this season."
"We plan on being competitive every Saturday," said Castonia. "If the returning guys can take a step forward, set the right tone, stay healthy, and continue to improve, we'll be in a decent spot."
The Panthers have had one of the strongest running games in the nation the past few years, and based on the returning experience, look for more of the same this season. Senior Andrew Foglia (Montauk, N.Y./East Hampton) is back to lead the way after rushing for 815 yards and six touchdowns last fall in his first season as a starter. Graduate student Dustin Matthews (Elliot, Maine/Marshwood) is a solid veteran at fullback, rushing for four touchdowns, and juniors Jake Tyler (Maynard, Mass./Maynard) and Zac Iovanella (North Andover, Mass./North Andover) also have experience carrying the ball.
The quarterback position is open, according to Castonia. Senior Chris Rigoli (Wantagh, N.Y./Seaford) has the most experience of the veterans, starting five games last season. Tyler and Iovanella could also take some snaps or a newcomer could step up. "We need a find a quarterback who can be effective both throwing and running the ball."
PSU lacks experience in the receiving department, with senior Nick Cavallo (Salem, N.H./Salem) the only veteran returnee. Foglia and Matthews are solid receivers out of the backfield, but Castonia will be looking for some newcomers to emerge.
The offensive line returns three veterans who should power the Panthers when they have the football. Seniors Dave Button (North Adams, Mass./Drury) and Mike Miller (North Andover, Mass./North Andover) are three-year starters, and sophomore Jeff Nossek (New London, Conn./St. Bernards), a starter at tackle last season, will slide over to tight end this fall, joining senior Eric Rajkowski (East Kingston, N.H./Exeter). Sophomores Donnie Morse (Barrington, N.H./Dover) and Jake Harris (Braintree, Mass./Braintree) can also help out.
"We've had success is recent years because of the solid foundation we've had on the O-line," said Castonia, "and hopefully that will continue."
The strength of the defense lies on the line, with four senior starters returning in ends Matt Fiore (Merrimac, Mass./Pentucket Regional) and Wyatt Huston (North Scituate, R.I./Ponaganset) and tackles Paul Capaldo (Melrose, Mass./Melrose) and Peter LaBreck (Thornton, N.H./Plymouth). Fiore was a Second Team NEFC All-Star last year after making nine tackles for loss despite missing two games; Huston led the group in tackles with 40; and LaBreck posted a team-high three sacks. Senior Vinny Manfrate (Salem, N.H./Salem) has also seen plenty of playing time and can fill in.
"All of those guys have seen a lot of action," said Castonia."We look forward to them leading our defense this season. There are some question marks at linebacker and in the backfield but we're feeling good about the line."
Senior cornerback Ray Boulay (Keene, N.H./Keene) is the only returning starter in the Panther defensive backfield; he has made 59 tackles and three interceptions in the past two years. Senior Louis Montegari (Wanaque, N.J./Lakeland Regional) played well as a starter last year before suffering a season-ending injury, and sophomores Chris Smith (Merrimack, N.H./Merrimack) and Sean Kunkel (Haskell, N.J./Lakeland Regional) gained experience as rookies.
Castonia is looking for improved play from the linebacking crew, led by sophomores Mark Hennessy (Westford, Mass./Westford Academy) and Baylor Conde (Richmond, Va. /James River), who were third and fourth on the team in tackles last season. Junior Josh Morgan (Foster, R.I./Ponaganset), who has been on the offensive side of the ball the past two years, will look to help out at linebacker this year, and senior Matt Bailey (Tewksbury, Mass./Tewksbury) returns after a year off.
The Panthers will have a new look after the graduation of Christian Mulcahy, who handled punting and placekicking duties for PSU while earning All-Star honors as a kick returner. Cavallo took over in the spring and is the likely candidate to be the punter and kicker. Boulay and junior Jake Matthews (Windham, N.H./Salem) have been returning punts, with Boulay handling the kickoffs.
The NEFC Championship has been claimed by five different teams the past five years, with four of them coming from the Boyd Division – Curry in 2007, PSU in 2008, Endicott in 2010 and Western New England in 2001.
"That tells you something about the balance in this league," said Castonia, "and some other teams have also been very competitive, like Salve Regina and UMass Dartmouth. And the Bogan Division has some outstanding teams as well. Last year, the Bogan champion (Framingham State) pushed the Boyd champion (WNE) to overtime in the championship game. We expect another tough battle this season."
CO-CAPTAINS: PSU has four co-captains who will lead the team this season – DB Ray Boulay (Keene, N.H./Keene), DL Matt Fiore (Merrimac, Mass./Pentucket Regional), DL Wyatt Huston (North Scituate, R.I./Ponaganset) and graduate student Dustin Matthews (Elliot, Maine/Marshwood).
COACHING STAFF: Head coach Paul Castonia (Trinity '86) is in his 10th season in charge of the Panthers, with a PSU coaching record of 46-45. He has five assistants returning from last year – Devin Zeman (Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers), Lou Desloges (Running Backs), Tom Pabst (Offensive Line), Eric McCarthy (Receivers), and Tom Bolio (Tight Ends), and new members of the staff include Zach Parsons (Defensive Backs) and Bob Johnson (Defensive Line).
PSU FOOTBALL HISTORY: PSU enters the 2012 campaign with the 14th-highest career winning percentage (.637) among NCAA Division III football programs. Plymouth State was a member of the NEFC from 1971-91, winning or sharing nine titles in those 21 seasons. The Panthers won or shared eight straight NEFC championships from 1981-88, led by former Heisman Trophy candidate and Sports Illustrated cover man Joe Dudek. PSU was also a member of the now-defunct Freedom Football Conference from 1992-2003, winning FFC Championships in 1994, 1995 and 2001. PSU rejoined the NEFC in 2006 and won its 10th NEFC title in 2008.
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