Jim Bower watched in frustration during most of the 2007 football season as his Maine Maritime Academy teammates played their New England Football Conference schedule.
After a productive start, including two 100-yard performances, the rugged fullback from South Paris was lost for the season because of injuries.
This fall, Bower is making up for lost time with coach Chris McKenney’s Mariners.
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound sophomore has emerged as the No. 4 rusher in all of Division III, helping MMA post a 4-3 record heading into Saturday’s New England Football Conference contest at Framingham State.
“He came back in great shape and he was pretty excited about the season,” said MMA coach Chris McKenney.
Bower has carried the ball 187 times, nearly 27 attempts per game, while rolling up 1,156 yards to spearhead the Mariners’ multifaceted option offense. He is averaging a healthy 6.8 yards per carry.
“When he does get the ball, he’s tough to bring down. He’s pretty rock-solid,” McKenney said, adding Bower has ample speed to take one all the way.
Bower has helped MMA rank No. 2 in Division III rushing with 346.3 yards per game. His success has come in part because of the Mariners’ balance.
Quarterback Tyler Angell (483 yards, 5 TDs) and halfback Nick Bourassa (390 yds., 2 TDs) also have been good run threats behind a strong, quick MMA offensive line.
“One of the keys is, we’re getting yardage from all the spots,” McKenney said. “When you’re getting it to the fullback and the quarterback and the halfbacks, each phase is going to open up a little bit.”
Bower has been a TD machine, crossing the goal line 18 times this season while averaging 16.3 points per outing, tops in Division III.
Despite the simplicity of the option attack, Bower continues to dominate from his fullback spot.
“Basically he’s on the same path and his arms are open and if he [Angell] gives it to him, he takes it and goes,” McKenney said.
MMA in Bogan title chase
The Mariners continue to battle for bragging rights in the NEFC’s Bogan Division.
MMA is tied with Bridgewater State and Fitchburg State for first place with a 3-1 division record. The Mariners (4-3 overall) and Bears (4-3) and MMA owns a win over Bridgewater State (41-31 on Sept. 27).
Fitchburg State is 3-4 overall.
If MMA can win its last three regular-season games, including its Nov. 8 season finale at home game against Fitchburg, the Mariners would capture the Bogan Division title and earn a spot in the league championship game against the Boyd Division champion.
“These next three games are very important,” McKenney said. “There’s many games left, so we take them one at a time. Our division has been real competitive.”
Five-time defending NEFC champion Curry (7-0, 4-0 Boyd) is in first place in the Boyd Division, but Plymouth State (6-1, 4-1 Boyd) is one game back. Those two teams clash Saturday in Plymouth, N.H.
Husson’s LaJoie racks up honors
Megan LaJoie of Husson University in Bangor has been piling up awards after her recent performance in Sunday’s game against Maine Maritime Academy.
The sophomore from Van Buren accomplished a rare feat Saturday when she scored five consecutive goals during the Eagles’ 8-0 victory over MMA.
LaJoie, who started the game as a defender, was moved to forward at the 25-minute mark. She scored the first of her goals within five minutes and finished with two in the first half and three after intermission.
The former four-time, All-Eastern Maine selection at Van Buren was an All-North Atlantic Conference first-team pick last fall as a freshman at Husson. LaJoie has scored 13 goals and provided five assists in 16 games for coach Keith Bosley’s Eagles.
LaJoie was named the women’s soccer player of the week by the NAC and the ECAC New England coaches.
Unity volleyball in nationals
Unity College has been selected to complete in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Volleyball National Championships.
The tournament begins today and runs through Saturday at Taylor University in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The Rams, coached by Unity College athletic director Chris Kein, take a 16-7 record into the tournament. They open with today’s 10 a.m. match against third-ranked Southern Virginia, which finished third at the nationals last year.
Unity is tied for sixth in the most recent USCAA national coaches rankings after winning the Yankee Small College Conference championship with victories over Central Maine Community College of Auburn and tournament host New Hampshire Tech.
The Unity roster includes Angela Jackson, Lauren Ferguson, Wendy Perry, Becky Cunfer, Meg White, Ashley Sutton, Katie Papoulias, Hannah Gauvin and Valerie Leclerc.
Perry, who hails from Lucas, Ohio, leads the NSCAA rankings in hitting percentage at .463 (128 kills in 214 attempts) and in service aces with 1.86 per game (110 total) in 59 games.
Jackson, of Ashland, Ohio, is ranked in a handful of categories. She is second in hitting percentage (.460), third in service aces (1.53 per game) and 17th in both kills (2.4 per game) and assists (3.64 per contest).
Cunfer and Leclerc are the Nos. 4 and 5 performers in hitting percentage at .401 and .367, respectively. Sutton is fifth in service aces (1.21 per game).
Cunfer (1.14) and Leclerc (0.97) also rank fifth and 10th, respectively, in blocks.