The Colonial Athletic Association will announce its all-conference football awards this morning, and one of the biggest will go to Maine senior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski.
Named for the former University of Richmond athletic director, the Chuck Boone Leadership Award recognizes achievement on the field, in leadership, academics and community service.
“I think it’s a natural thing for him,” said Maine coach Jack Cosgrove, “but leadership is strengthened through success. And when you have success, it makes you feel like the things you’re doing and the things you’re saying are the things to be said and done, and therefore they carry a little bit more weight.”
CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager broke the news during the telecast of Saturday’s Maine-UNH rivalry game, won 24-3 by the Wildcats.
A more formal announcement will come this morning, along with the first, second and third all-conference teams and the CAA’s six individual awards: coach, special teams player, offensive and defensive MVPs and offensive and defensive rookies of the year.
Last year’s inaugural Leadership Award winner was New Hampshire offensive lineman Chris Zarkoskie. Yeager made a special trip to Durham to personally present the award at the team’s postseason awards banquet, and plans to do likewise for Wasilewski.
Each of the 11 CAA programs nominated one player for the award and submitted three letters of recommendation on his behalf.
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Cosgrove is sending his players home for Thanksgiving. There will be practice this afternoon and the team will reconvene on Sunday when the opponent for its Dec. 7 second-round game is known.
The Black Bears (10-2) drew the fifth seed in the recently expanded 24-team field and will host the winner of Saturday’s noon contest between New Hampshire (7-4), which tied for second in the CAA with Towson, and Patriot League champion Lafayette (5-6), the first team in FCS tournament history with a losing record.
The Leopards, whose offensive coordinator is former UMaine quarterback Mickey Fein, and the Wildcats haven’t met since the 1980s. They have three common opponents: Colgate, Lehigh and William & Mary.
Lafayette lost to Colgate and William & Mary but beat Lehigh 50-28 last weekend to earn the league title. (No. 9 Fordham, whose only loss in 12 games was to Lafayette, is ineligible for the crown because it started offering athletic scholarships two years before other Patriot League members).
New Hampshire also went 1-2 against the trio, but beat Colgate 53-23 before losing 34-27 at Lehigh and 17-0 at William & Mary. The Wildcats are 5-0 at home.
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In the final national rankings, Maine dropped to eighth in the FCS Coaches poll and 10th in The Sports Network poll. The Black Bears had been fourth in each. New Hampshire is 15th in both polls, ranked among the nation’s top 25 teams for a record 139th consecutive week.
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New Hampshire will focus entirely on Lafayette this week, but it did not escape notice that a victory would send the Wildcats north to Alfond Stadium, home of their archrivals.
“Anytime you play Maine, it’s almost like everything gets thrown out,” said UNH senior running back Chris Setian. “There’s a different kind of focus at practice and a different kind of focus in the film room. It would be exciting, but we’ve got to get there. Lafayette is the team we’re focused on now.”
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Don’t look for Cosgrove or any of his staff at Saturday’s game at Cowell Stadium. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from live scouting upcoming opponents. Any scouting must be done by video, Cosgrove said.
Another first-round game will take place in the Bronx, where Fordham (11-1) will host Sacred Heart (10-2). Jamie Ross, a Deering High graduate who lives in Cape Elizabeth, is a junior punter for Sacred Heart, the Northeast Conference champion and a first-ever FCS playoff participant.
Ross has punted 22 times, all in the last three games, for a 34.0 yard average. The Pioneers, who were 2-9 a year ago and 1-7 in the NEC, enter the tournament with a three-game winning streak.
Patriots fans will recognize the name of one of Fordham’s leading wide receivers: Tebucky Jones Jr. The son of the former New England safety has 76 receptions this season for more than 1,000 yards.
New Hampshire redshirt freshman Donald Goodrich is a Cheverus High graduate from York. Classmate Cam Shorey, a defensive end for UNH, is from Calais but played at Phillips Exeter Academy.
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James Madison University fired coach Mickey Matthews after 15 seasons, including the 2004 FCS national championship. The Dukes were 109-71 under Matthews, who had a year remaining on his contract.
James Madison was 6-6 this year and missed the playoffs for the fourth time since reaching the national semifinals in 2008.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Cosgrove, in his 21st season as head coach in Orono, during a Monday morning conference call. “Anybody that’s in this profession knows that expectations are always pretty high, and in certain places more so than others. Maybe I’m fortunate to be here as long as I am because they’ve been very patient with some of our growth and development.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:[email protected]Twitter: GlennJordanPPH