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PREVIEW: Merrimack Opens NE10 Football Schedule at AIC

Merrimack Football 2017
Photo: Merrimack Athletics

After nearly upsetting Division I Bryant University last Saturday in the season opener, the Merrimack College football team turns its sights to Northeast-10 Conference play when it visits American International College in both teams’ league opener on Saturday (Sept. 9) afternoon. Kickoff from Abdow Field is set for 12 p.m.

Inside the Series

  • Merrimack and AIC will face off for the 22nd time dating back to 1997, and the Yellow Jackets hold the upper hand in the series with a 14-8 record against the Warriors.
  • However, the Warriors have won the last two games in the series.
  • Last year, Merrimack roared back from a 13-point deficit thanks to stellar defensive play in the second half en route to a 16-13 win in the team’s 2016 home opener last September.
  • The year before that, Merrimack held AIC to just three points in a 20-3 road victory the last time it visited Abdow Field on Oct. 31, 2015. Merrimack scored 14 points in the third quarter to go ahead for good while the defense dominated the final frame
  • Before the last two wins, AIC had won nine straight contests between the two squads.
  • All-time, Merrimack has a 4-6 record in games played at Abdow Field.

Last Week at Bryant:

  • Merrimack gave Division I Bryant University all it could handle after leading the Bulldogs by eight (28-20) through three quarters of play, but the hosts scored 29 fourth-quarter points to rally and win, 49-41, at Beirne Stadium.
  • Bryant totaled 22 unanswered points over the first 7:17 of the fourth quarter to turn the tables on Merrimack’s upset bid.
  • The Warriors had, at one point, built a 16-point lead midway through the third quarter and led by a 28-12 margin with 7:37 to go in the third frame.
  • Merrimack did not relent in the waning minutes of regulation after graduate student CJ Scarpa tossed two of his four touchdowns passes in the final 5:28 of regulation before the Bulldogs held on to hold off the upset-bent Warriors.

2016 Rewind:

  • Merrimack fought valiantly through the 2016 campaign, and while the final record might not indicate it, there was plenty of progress made last fall as the Warriors continue to lay the foundation with a young roster that has plenty of promise.
  • Head coach Dan Curran and his coaching staff once again faced a strong schedule last fall, featuring a Division I opponent from the Northeast Conference for the third time in four years in Bryant University. Additionally, the Warriors hosted two nationally ranked teams in eventual NCAA Tournament participants Assumption and LIU Post over the course of the season.
  • Among the highlights from last season, Merrimack stormed back from a 13-point deficit thanks to a stellar defensive effort, a huge punt block and timely scoring down the stretch to defeat AIC, 16-13, at home. It marked the second straight year that the Warriors defeated the Yellow Jackets. Merrimack also defeated Pace twice over the remainder of the season, and enjoyed a tremendous halftime ceremony when it invited back the 2006 NE10 Championship-winning team for the 10-year anniversary of their league title.
  • Merrimack also saw four student-athletes earn NE10 All-Conference recognition last fall in Class of 2017 graduate Josh Hill, sophomore Enrique McFarlane, and freshmen Erick Browne and Sebastian Lucas.
  • Hill concluded his career in record-setting fashion, leading the conference with nine sacks – a new single-season high for the former all-conference second team selection. By doing so, it marked the second straight year that a Merrimack student-athlete led the conference in sacks. The two-time captain wrapped up his career with 176 tackles (104 solo) and 23 sacks, the latter mark ranking second in the all-time program record books, as well as six forced fumbles and 10 pass breakups. He also went on to play in the Tropical Bowl.

‘Mack Facts:

  • Merrimack certainly has players littered across the top of the NE10’s statistical rankings after Week 1.
  • Quarterback CJ Scarpa is the conference’s leader in passing yards per game (469.0) and passing touchdowns (4); running back Derrick Villardleads the league with two rushing scores and ranks fourth with 86.0 yards on the ground. Finally, redshirt junior Cody Demers ranks third with 127 passing yards, just ahead of sophomore Sebastian Lucas‘ 110 passing yards (5th/NE100).
  • The Warriors are also currently the conference’s leader in total offense (546) and points (41).
  • Last fall, Merrimack enjoyed one of its best seasons in terms of rushing the ball in quite some time; the Warriors averaged 168.4 yards on the ground per game, the third-highest figure in the conference and the 61st-best figure nationwide. The last time Merrimack had a most productive season in the ground game was 2011 (191.0).
  • Villard finished last year ranked third in the league in rushing average per game, garnering 65.4 yards per contest on the ground.
  • On defense, junior Enrique McFarlane was in the running for the league’s tackles per game title; had he not missed the last three games of the year he might have accomplished the feat after ranking fifth in the league with 8.4 stops per game.
  • Dan Curran enters his fifth season as head coach of the Warriors in 2017; he has led the program to several marquee victories over the last four seasons and has helped produce several All-Americans, all-region and all-conference performers in that span.

Yellow Jacket Facts:

  • AIC finished last season 4-7 overall with a 3-6 mark in conference play.
  • The Yellow Jackets struggled to score last fall, ranking ninth averaging only 12.3 points per game, but they did own the league’s best defense that allowed only 16.1 points per game and was the league leader in sacks with 28 as a team. They also had 19 interceptions (2nd/NE10).
  • AIC fell to Shippensburg University in its season opener last week, dropping a 41-7 decision on the road.
  • Quarterback Kwame Jarvais was 17-for-34 with 137 yards and a touchdown last week, while Samad Davila rushed for 70 yards on 15 carries.
  • Tommy Smith caught three passes for 42 yards and that aforementioned score, which was AIC’s only touchdown last week.
  • Isaiah Robinson and Jaysen Thompsen each shared the team lead with 10 tackles last week.
  • Art Wilkins is in his 24th season leading the Yellow Jackets. He owns a 144-96 record over that span.
Inside the Matchup:
Merrimack (0-1, 0-0 NE10) Category AIC (0-1, 0-0 NE10)
L, 49-41 at Bryant (9/2) Recent Games L, 41-7 at Shippensburg (9/2)
77.0 Rushing Offense 108.0
469.0 Passing Offense 137.0
546.0 Total Offense 245.0
555.0 Opp. Total Offense 451.0
2 Interceptions 0
1/1 Fumbles/Lost 2/1
33:52 Time of Possession 29:15
42% 3rd-Down Conversions 23.53%
29% Opp. 3rd-Down Conversions 38.10%
2/8 Sacks/Yards 2/15
5-6 (83%) Red-Zone Scores 0-0 (0%)
6 Touchdowns Scored 1

Mike McMahon is in his 12th year covering Merrimack College for The Eagle Tribune and is the founder and managing editor of The Mack Report. Mike also serves on staff as a senior writer at College Hockey News. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcMahonCHN

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