Golden Bears open season on Friday, September 2 at Springfield College
NEFC Poll Release
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (August 15, 2016) – Coming off an undefeated 2015 regular season that saw the program earn its second New England Football Conference (NEFC) title, Western New England University has been selected as the preseason favorite in the NEFC heading into the 2016 campaign.
Western New England received five first place votes and 59 total points in the NEFC preseason poll, which is voted on by each of the eight head coaches in the league. The Golden Bears completed a 10-0 regular season (7-0 NEFC) last fall, which culminated in a 28-21 victory over Salve Regina University on November 14.
The Seahawks, who finished in a tie for second place last season with a 5-2 record in conference play, were picked second in the coaches poll with two first place votes and 56 points. Endicott College received the final first place nod, checking in at third with 50 points, while Curry College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tied for fourth in the poll with 31 points. The United States Coast Guard Academy (30 points), Maine Maritime Academy (20), and Nichols College (12) took the final three spots.
Western New England returns eight All-NEFC performers from last season's NCAA Tournament squad, including the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in senior cornerback Obi Etuka (Middletown, Conn.). Etuka, who has recorded an NEFC-leading 13 interceptions over the past two years, is just one pick shy of tying Western New England's program career record of 16.
Senior running back Nick Connell (East Marion, N.Y.), who was selected as Western New England's team captain heading into the 2016 campaign, will lead the Golden Bear offense this fall. Connell rushed for 1089 yards and 11 touchdowns last season on his way to All-NEFC first team honors.
Now in his 12th season at the helm of the Western New England football team, head coach Keith Emery (67-45, .598) and the Golden Bears open the 2016 campaign on Friday, September 2 with the third annual Pynchon SAW rivalry game at crosstown rival Springfield College. Western New England returns home the following Saturday to host Westfield State University, before opening its NEFC slate against Curry College on September 24 at Golden Bear Stadium.