Friday, April 18, 2014
BY MATT DIFILIPPO Staff Writer
Kevin Pressey found himself in a familiar position -- celebrating with his teammates after the New England Football Conference championship game went down to the final play.
STILL PLAYING: Former Lawrence High School offensive lineman Kevin Pressey will play on the defensive line when Endicott plays in the NCAA Division III tournament today.
Position: Defensive lineman
Major: Sports management
High School: Lawrence
But so much else was different.
A year ago, Pressey was a freshman offensive lineman, and he and his Maine Maritime Academy teammates whooped it up after winning the title with a touchdown on the game's last play. Last Saturday, Pressey was a sophomore defensive lineman at Endicott College. The Gulls were playing for the NEFC title against Maine Maritime, and Pressey watched as MMA barely missed winning the game on the final play.
"When Kevin went to Maine Maritime, he had some different ideas about what he wanted to do academically," Endicott coach JB Wells said. "After a year, he realized college is about what you want to pursue after college. He wanted a little bigger school, and he wanted to study sports management."
Endicott (9-2) will play at Cortland State (9-1) at noon today in Cortland, N.Y., in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament. Pressey, who came to Endicott partly on the recommendation of former Messalonskee High School standout Chris Duffy, has no regrets about that decision.
"I feel like I'm back in high school again," said Pressey, who was a sophomore at Lawrence High School when the Bulldogs won the Class A state title in 2006. "Tons of people come to the school and support us. The school here is great."
At Lawrence and Maine Maritime, Pressey was an offensive lineman and excelled in basic blocking schemes. At Endicott, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Pressey had the size and quickness to play on the offensive line, but struggled to master the new system.
"I guess you could say the offense here was trickier to pick up -- nothing I was really used to," Pressey said.
So around the fifth game of the season, a coach told Pressey the team could use his natural aggressiveness on the defensive line. The adjustment is more complex than it sounds. Offensive linemen are generally taught to stay with their man and hold their block as long as possible. Defensive linemen, of course, want to break free of their man quickly.
But for Pressey, it was a case of the position suiting his style of play. On defense, he could simply highlight all his skills without having to take on too much in the way of instruction.
"The size and the strength I have, I'm able to pretty much use that, pretty much just no holds barred," Pressey said.
"He's very aggressive," Wells said. "He's a very good athlete. He's quick. He's very strong. Week to week to week, he's gotten better. I think he's going to be a really solid contributor."
Wells said Pressey plays a handful of snaps each game, and Pressey's stat sheet shows nine tackles, including two for losses. Then, he learned his new school would be taking on his old one in the conference championship game.
"That was probably one of the biggest games of my life," Pressey said. "Granted, I was only there a year, but I became best friends with some of those guys. I even went to spring break with some of them."
Endicott trailed 28-17 in the fourth quarter, but scored a touchdown to go ahead 38-35 with under a minute left. Maine Maritime drove to the Endicott 29-yard line with time for one more play.
Endicott had five defensive backs on the play, and Pressey, the nose guard, told his teammates to make sure MMA didn't have another miracle finish.
"I made my move and I looked behind me," Pressey said. "When I looked behind me, I saw the receiver coming down with the ball. I just couldn't believe it."
The catch was ruled out of bounds, and Endicott had held on for the win and the school's first NEFC championship.
"I just went crazy," Pressey said. "Everything hit me at once."
The Gulls had a short time to regroup before preparing for Cortland State. Pressey said he has been telling his teammates all week to be ready for a different level of competition. Cortland State is allowing just 7.8 points per game, best in the nation in Division III.
Pressey said everyone on the team will need to play better than they ever have before, but he's also confident that can happen.
"When you start going against competition outside the NEFC, the competition skyrockets," Pressey said. "It's going to be a whole different world of football, but I think we can make it far in this tournament."
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243