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UMass-Dartmouth at Western Connecticut State, Saturday, 5 p.m. Colonials seek 4-0 start

September 28, 2018

The start of 2018 is looking quite similar to 2017 for the WestConn football team.

That trend will end in Week 4 if Joe Loth and his group have their way.

WestConn has an opportunity to avenge a close loss and reach 4-0 for the first time since 2002 when UMass-Dartmouth visit the Westside Athletic Complex on Saturday at 5 p.m. It will be the first home game for the Colonials — six of the first eight games for WestConn come away from home.

Though slow starts have accompanied the Colonials at times — WestConn rallied to win its first two games — the offense has arrived by the end of the game. WestConn has averaged 35 points per game while yielding 23.7. Last season’s matchup was a defensive affair, though, as the Corsairs claimed a 17-13 win.

“We have a huge amount of resilience,” Loth said. “We were down our first two games really big and came back, and last week we played our first good first half and were able to hold the lead.”

UMass enters the game at 3-1, heading towards an improvement on its 4-6 mark from last year.

Replacing quarterback Quinn Fleeting was the biggest question mark heading into the season, but so far the results have been similar with David James behind center. He’s completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 648 yards and five touchdowns.

“It was a little choppy at first,” Loth said. “We really struggled in the first half against Dean and we improved against Plymouth and Salve Regina. We’re a work in progress and we’re trying to improve.”

FINISHING STRONG

Several locals have helped the Colonials jump out to the 3-0 start. Pomperaug graduate Kevin Maxen leads the team with 24 tackles (5.5 for loss) after being second in the category a year ago. Maxen took a long and winding road to becoming one of the top linebackers in the MASCAC, having graduated from the Panthers in 2011.

“It’s been fun for me coming in when I did a little bit later in life,” said Maxen. “Being in the senior class I’ve embraced it; these guys are great friends.”

He spent one season at Endicott, but a thumb injury threatened to derail his career. He spent two years at Community College in New Haven and got into coaching at Pomperaug, quickly falling in love with the job.

A piece of unfinished business remained. WestConn assistant Mike Lago was at Endicott with Maxen and convinced him to come to offseason workouts with the Colonials. The itch to get back on the gridiron after a lengthy layoff was there, and Maxen joined as a sophomore in 2016.

“My last year at Pomperaug I was really started missing (playing) more,” Maxen said. “I didn’t talk to a lot of people (at WestConn) because I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it or not. A lot of people didn’t know who I was until we did the bench press.”

He had the highest bench press and clean lift on the team, and has started the past two seasons. In that time he’s pursued his interest in strength and conditioning, interning at several colleges such as the University of Iowa. He will graduate in December and hopes to return to the sidelines somewhere, too.

“He is the epitome of a leader and he’s a classic middle linebacker,” Loth said. “He’s got a nose for the ball and he leads by example. I think that starts with leadership; he’s a kid that’s gotten better each season.”

The twist of fate didn’t turn out too bad.

“Absolutely,” Maxen said. “I joke about this with my friends all the time that if I didn’t leave Endicot who knows what would have happened. I wouldn’t know most of my friends, I might not have gotten into coaching. It all worked out.”

rlacey

@bcnnew.com; @ryanlacey11

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