Colleges

NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE FOOTBALL NOTES

Tufts takes its shot at tripping up Trinity

KELLY JOHNSON/HARVARD
Harvard junior Tanner Lee (left) and Assumption senior Andrew Benson (right) earned this week’s Gold Helmet awards from the New England Football Writers.

His first few trips back to his alma mater, Trinity, first as an assistant at Tufts, and then as head coach, there was some nostalgia for Jay Civetti.

“There were a lot of great memories for me there,” said Civetti, a 32-game starter on the offensive line for the Bantams from 1997-2000, serving as captain his senior season.

“Trinity has gone through a lot of transition, facility-wise, but it is the same footprint.”

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And the footprint on the field is as impressive as ever.

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The third-ranked Division 3 program in New England, Trinity has trampled its first three NESCAC foes: Bates (38-7), Williams (38-13), and Hamilton (37-6).

Junior QB Sonny Puzzo (8 TD passes, no picks) pilots an attack that features sophomore back Max Chipouras (NESCAC-leading 126.0 yards rushing per game).

Tufts has not been as dominant in its second 3-0 start in two seasons, but the Jumbos have exhibited grit in wins over Wesleyan (17-14), Bates (12-7), and Bowdoin (41-21). Senior Chance Brady is averaging 115 yards rushing per game and sophomore QB Ryan McDonald is making plays with his legs and arm.

Saturday afternoon, Tufts will be after its first win in Hartford since Oct. 24, 1998, when Civetti was in the trenches.

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“For the first time since I have been the coach at Tufts, our kids are not afraid of anybody,” said Civetti. “They have so much confidence in each other, they have played so hard for each other, regardless of whom we are playing, or how they are playing.”

A year ago, Trinity prevailed in overtime at Tufts, 34-27, its eighth straight win in the series.

“We’ve got the players in the right place, I have all the respect in the world for Trinity, they have earned that, but I think that we are pretty good, too.”

Strong safeties

Tanner Lee did not wow colleges with his 5-foot-10-inch, 180-pound frame, or speed. A junior defensive back out of Spanish Fort, Ala., and Daphne High, Lee was one of Harvard’s final recruits for the 2014 class.

“Just a really tough, instinctive player,” said Harvard coach Tim Murphy. “Sometimes, at that point, you take a kid just based on character . . . and it always seems to work out.”

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Lee emerged as a playmaker in the Crimson secondary first as a nickel back, and now, as a starting safety. Making his first career start in Saturday’s 29-13 win over visiting Cornell, Lee recorded two interceptions. The first derailed a Big Red second-quarter drive at the Harvard 16, and the second came in his own end zone in the third quarter.

On Wednesday afternoon at Dillon Fieldhouse, Lee snared the first Division 1 Gold Helmet of his college career from the New England Football Writers.

Lee credited Murphy, along with defensive coordinator Scott Larkee and defensive backs coach Ryan Crawford for putting him in the right position to make plays. “I just always try to be around the ball and try to make plays.”

“He’s a dynamite Division 1 college safety . . . and those two big interceptions [last] Saturday were game-changing plays,” said Murphy, whose 15th-ranked Crimson (4-0) close out the non-conference schedule Saturday at Holy Cross (2-4).

Like Lee, Andrew Benson is stepping forward in the secondary at Assumption (5-1), ranked 18th in this week’s AFCA Division 2 poll. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior from East Bridgewater was all over the field in the Greyhounds’ 42-7 Northeast-10 win over host Bentley.

Benson collected D2-3 Gold Helmet honors after he racked up seven tackles, recovered a fumble, blocked a punt, returned a punt 30 yards, and took a pick-six 30 yards for his first touchdown as a collegian.

And like Lee, Benson “was on our last recruiting visit,’’ according to Assumption coach Bob Chesney. “We knew on character alone, he would make a huge impact on our team, and he has made a huge difference in our secondary,” the coach said.

With a handful of key players sidelined, the Greyhounds have received contributions from a number of local players. DJ DeGeorge (Lynnfield) has shifted from right guard to left tackle, with Patrick Corcoran (Milford) stepping in on the interior. With senior running back Alex Shain out, junior Dylan Oxen (Plymouth South) and freshman Doug Santos (Peabody) have been productive in the backfield. Sophomore Brandon Swain-Price (Stoughton) has 11 catches.

No. 3 Clemson explosive

Third-ranked Clemson put its explosive play-making ability on full display in last Friday night’s 56-10 win over Boston College at The Heights, particularly on the perimeter. “They had 11 plays for 362 yards. The other 53 plays, 125-plus,” said BC defensive coordinator Jim Reid, who lauded the work of his front seven. “We have some of our best football still to be played. The 3-3 Eagles have a bye this week before entertaining Syracuse Oct. 22nd (12:30 p.m.). That afternoon, former All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly will have his number retired . . . Sage Surratt, a 6-foot-4 senior receiver at Lincolnton High (N.C.), announced on his Twitter account Tuesday night that he has committed to Harvard. His brother, Chazz, is a freshman QB at North Carolina. Surratt is the state’s all-time leader in receptions (295), with 4,542 yards. Last week, Duxbury senior wideout Ryan Reagan, currently sidelined with a broken foot, announced his intention to suit up for the Crimson . . . Amherst had its 21-game winning streak halted with a 27-26 loss to Middlebury, but the Purple & White run defense has been impenetrable thus far, yielding 2 total yards in three games, including minus-13 last week . . . In a matchup with conference title ramifications in the MASCAC, Bridgewater (4-2 overall, 4-0) hosts Plymouth State (4-1, 2-1) Saturday at 4 . . . Mass. Maritime senior Shane Haggerty has 42 catches for 529 yards in five games. His QB? Haggerty’s younger brother, Chris, a junior and first-year starter.

This week’s New England schedule

Friday

NORTHEAST-10

Saint Anselm at Assumption, 7

Saturday

Louisiana Tech vs. UMass (Gillette), 3:30

UConn at South Florida, 7

CAA

Albany at Maine, 12

James Madison at New Hampshire, 12

Rhode Island at Stony Brook, 4

IVY

Yale at Fordham, 1

Harvard at Holy Cross, 1:05

Towson at Dartmouth, 1:30

Sacred Heart at Cornell, 1:30

Brown at Princeton, 3

NORTHEAST

Bryant at Saint Francis, 12

Wagner at Central Connecticut, 1

NORTHEAST-10

Bentley at American International, 12

Merrimack at Pace, 12

LIU-Post at Southern Connecticut, 12

MASCAC

Westfield State at Mass. Maritime, 12

Western Connecticut at Fitchburg State, 1:30

UMass-Dartmouth at Worcester State, 2

NESCAC

Bowdoin at Hamilton, 12

Colby at Amherst, 1

Wesleyan at Bates, 1

Tufts at Trinity, 1:30

Middlebury at Williams, 1:30

NEFC

Endicott at Maine Maritime, 12

Nichols at Salve Regina, 12

MIT at Western New England, 1

Curry at Coast Guard, 1:30

ECFC

Mount Ida at Gallaudet, 12

Norwich at Anna Maria, 1

Husson at Castleton State, 1

Becker at SUNY-Maritime, 2

Craig Larson can be reached at craig.larson@globe.com