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Norwich Football Struggles Through One Win Season


Injuries to key players, a young team, and several nailbiters created the environment where football ended their year with just one win.

Senior all-star QB Mitchell Theal (Elma, New York) suffered a career-ending injury in 2022, leaving the Cadets without his services. Despite losing his Freshman season due to COVID-19 restrictions, two years as starting QB was enough time for Mitchell to cement his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in Norwich football history.

During his 18 career games, Mitchell threw for 3,614 yards (6th in Norwich football history), tossed 32 passing touchdowns (4th), completed approximately 58% of his passes (1st), and had 276 career completions (5th). In 2021 Mitchell threw the 4th most yards in the conference, and in 2022, he was its 2nd leading passer.

Starting in his place, Sophomore QB Aidan Sullivan (Elliot, Maine) led the Cadets in game one before suffering a season-ending injury. During his limited playing time, Aidan was 13/22 for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Freshman third-string QB Ryan O’Keefe (Scarborough, Maine) took over against Husson and led the Cadets for the remainder of the year. Steadily growing more confident and comfortable as the season progressed, Ryan threw for 1,694 yards and 11 touchdowns with a nearly 55% completions rate. He also tossed 14 interceptions, and scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Two other players saw limited time at QB. Sophomore TE/QB Riley Geyer (Augusta, Maine) was 6/12 for 44 yards with both a touchdown and an interception, and 35 rushing yards. Another Sophomore, Cooper Galvin (Orlando, Florida, saw action against Salve Regina, going 5/6 for 41 yards.

Junior running back Jehric Hackney (Jericho, Vermont) was another key player the Cadets lost this season. In 2022, he was the team’s leading rusher, gaining 479 yards on 102 carries with a pair of touchdowns. This year, he went down against VTSU (formerly known as Castleton) in game three. Even with the injury, Jehric was the second-leading rusher on the team, carrying the ball 35 times for 192 yards, an impressive 5.6 yards per carry.

Jehric earned over a thousand yards from scrimmage throughout his career: 945 on the ground and 101 receiving yards. He was also the primary Norwich kickoff returner, averaging 19.5 yards per return for a total of 955 yards.

Senior Justin Bryant (Elliot, Maine) stepped into the role of leading running back, rushing for 376 yards on 110 carries with a trio of running touchdowns. He finished with two games with more than 100 yards and also played a central role in the passing game, collecting 25 catches for 302 yards (third-highest on the team) and two touchdowns. In total, Justin led the team with 678 total yards from scrimmage.

Justin’s career saw 865 yards earned on the ground and another 388 receiving, for a total of 1,253 yards and eight touchdowns.

Two other running backs played a key role in the running game as well. Freshman Jeremiah Claiborne finished third on the team with 134 yards on 29 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore Mike Cascarano filled out the rushing trio, carrying the ball 22 times for a total of 63 yards.

Two undergraduate running backs also played a substantive role in the running game. Freshman Jeremiah Claiborne (Redlands, California) finished third on the team with 29 carries for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sophomore Mike Cascarano (Lake Worth, Florida) was the team’s fourth-leading rusher, earning 63 yards on 22 carries.

On the receiving end, veteran senior WR Trevor Chase (Elliot, Maine) once again led the Cadets with 47 catches, 623 yards, and six touchdowns. He gained 60 or more yards receiving in six of the ten season’s games, finishing 3rd in the conference for regular season receptions, 4th in receiving touchdowns, and 5th in receiving yards.

Trevor finished his illustrious career with 255 total catches, 3,241 yards, and 33 touchdowns, all three all-time Norwich records.

Senior Andrew White (Walpole, Massachusetts) rounded out the top four receivers on the team with 17 catches for 169 yards. He concluded his college career with 51 carries, 477 yards, and a pair of touchdowns.

Overall, Norwich finished 8th in the conference for points per game (15.8), total offensive yards per game (272.9), rushing yards per game (85.3), third-down conversion rate (27.4%), and first downs per game (13.8). They finished fifth for passing yards per game (187.6) and third for fourth-down conversion rate (46.2%).

The Cadets ran for 100 or more yards in three games this year, against St. Lawrance, VTSU, and MIT. They also threw for more than 170 yards in seven of them ten games, including a five-game span where they reached more than 200 yards.

Sadly, the defense was not exempt from crucial injuries. Sophomore defensive lineman Imari Milton (Miramar, Florida) was a wrecking force through the first half of the season before not playing in the latter half due to injuries. In just six games, Imari finished with 23 tackles, four and a half tackles for loss, and a sack.

Another Sophomore defensive lineman, Maddox Reed (Spring Hill, Tennessee), also played a key role. Maddox played all ten games and finished with 28 tackles, five tackles for loss, and two sacks.

Four defenders on the team ended up with over 70 tackles: Junior Jeremy Henault (Goffstown, New Hampshire) with 82, Junior Simon Taraska (Willowick, Ohio) with 75, Senior Declan Kapusta (Walhalla, South Carolina) with 72, and Senior Ethan Amburn (Suffield, Connecticut) with 71.

For the two seniors on that list, they ended their storied careers with terrific statistics. Ethan finished his college playing days with 217 tackles, 13 passes defended, two recovered fumbles, and one forced fumble. Declan ended with 114 tackles, four tackles for losses, three sacks, and a forced and recovered fumble each.

Besides Maddox and Imari, the Cadets saw five players obtain one or more sacks: Junior Eli Leblanc (Hollis Center, Maine) with a team-leading two and a half, Freshman AJ Aldrich (White River Junction, Vermont) and Declan each with one and a half, and Sophomore Marcello Misuraca (Wilmington, Massachusetts) and Junior Shayne Leddy (Spring Lake, New Jersey) each had one.

The team finished the season with 47 and a half tackles with loss, with Maddox and Imari again among the team leaders. Alongside them were Eli at four and a half, Jeremy at four, Shayne and Senior Stefan Romero II (New York, New York) at three and a half, and AJ rounding out the list with three.

Finishing third in the conference as a team with eleven interceptions, Norwich saw four players with a pair of interceptions. Freshman Iva Hayes (Miami, Florida), Ethan, Sophomore Devin DeJesus (Chelmsford, Massachusetts), and Stefan each finished with two interceptions. Meanwhile, Junior Garrett Mack (Lewiston, Maine), Henault, and Senior Zach Kirka (Potsdam, New York) had one apiece.

Norwich held both VTSU and Maritime to under 100 yards rushing, overall finishing seventh in the conference for running yards allowed per game. They also kept all but three teams under 200 yards passing, finishing fourth in the NEWMAC.

Overall, Norwich gave 21.5 first downs per game, good for 6th in the conference. They allowed the second-highest third-down conversion percentage in the conference, the second-worst regarding opponents scoring, and the worst team in the NEWMAC regarding fourth-down conversion rate.

Senior Kicker Zach Buchy (Suffolk, Virginia) went twenty out of twenty-one on PATs for the year and made 2/3 FGs, hitting field goals against WPI and Coast Guard Academy. He finished his career with 73 total points.

The one-win total is deceptive, as Norwich faced a demanding schedule and played in several tight games. The team played their opening span of three games on the road before finally returning home for their first game in front of a home crowd in week four.

Of the initial eight games of the season, the Cadets only played at home twice, robbing them of home-field advantage. They ended up with only four games at Sabine, playing the other six away.

Additionally, a few key points in several close games would have resulted in a much better record. Three, four, or even five wins could easily have been experienced, as Norwich suffered four losses by a touchdown margin or less. Furthermore, games against MIT and Maritime College were decided by only three points.

Another defensive stop, a successful conversion on a critical down, or a breakaway play could have easily swung any one of these games.

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