Alex Hall's NH College Notebook: Szulc explodes in the early season as Panthers start strongBy ALEX HALL
September 17. 2017 12:29AM
Jacob Szulc does not think his performance is the lone reason why the Plymouth State University football team recorded 87 points over its first three games.
That does not mean his contributions have been insignificant.
The sophomore from Concord logged a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference-leading five touchdown catches alongside a team-high 10 receptions and 182 yards over the Panthers' 2-0 start to the season.
The 6-foot-2, 204-pound wide receiver opened the year by logging 88 yards and two touchdowns on four receptions in the Panthers' 31-7 triumph over Castleton University on Sept. 2.
Szulc was named to the MASCAC weekly honor roll this past week after tallying 94 yards and three touchdowns on six catches in Plymouth State's 27-0 victory at Mount Ida College Sept. 9.
The Concord High School graduate has already surpassed the amount of touchdowns he caught in 10 games last season (four).
"Obviously, he's been very productive," Panthers coach Paul Castonia said. "He's gotten open and he's got great hands so when the ball comes his way, he's pretty reliable."
Castonia credited Szulc for his ability to be in the right spot at the right time and pick up yards after he makes a catch. Szulc, who lines up at all four receiver spots, also has the height to go up and snag passes, making him a difficult assignment for defensive backs.
"He's tall and he's got a great reach so he's gone up and gotten a few balls and outjumped some people," Castonia said.
While his receiving numbers have been impressive, Szulc has also been focused on another part of his game.
"Definitely trying to block better this year than last year," Szulc said. "I was pretty awful last year in blocking so I've improved a little this year."
Szulc said the offensive line and running game played big roles in Plymouth State's offensive production over its first two games. The Panthers rushed for 259 yards on 81 carries in their first two games, which allowed them to set up the play-action passing game.
"We've been running the ball really good," Szulc said. "That's been opening up the play-action game a lot and we just have a lot of chemistry between our receivers and quarterback. We have pretty much the same core as last year so we all know how each other play and it works out good."
Szulc said he has really good chemistry with junior quarterback Zack Edwards. The two talk after almost every play to compare what they're seeing out of the defense, Szulc said.
"That's big because then we figure out what routes are going to be open or plays are going to be open not only for myself but other receivers," Szulc said.
Edwards entered Saturday's game at Western Connecticut State University with a 66.7 completion percentage, 417 passing yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Szulc, Edwards and the rest of the Panthers offense had plenty of time to dissect its opposition over its first two bouts. Plymouth State ranked third in the conference in time of possession per game (33:10) entering this weekend. Part of the reason behind that number is the play of the Panthers defense, which had surrendered just seven points entering Saturday.
"We have a really good defense so we get the ball a lot and get a lot of chances to score points," Szulc said.
While the Panthers have lit up the scoreboard early on this season, Szulc said there is one thing more enjoyable than putting up points.
"Scoring touchdowns is great but winning is a lot better," Szulc said. "That's pretty much all of our goals - to do whatever we can to help the team win no matter who is having a big game."
Salem State University sophomore Chris Jimenez was chosen as the MASCAC player of the week this past week. The goalkeeper from Nashua logged a combined 19 saves in back-to-back shutouts over a 2-0 week for the Vikings. The two shutouts marked Jimenez's first two career starts.
Colby-Sawyer College sophomore Sam Mitchell earned her second straight North Atlantic Conference defensive player of the week award this past week. The goalkeeper from Chester logged a combined 17 saves and three goals against over a 1-1 week for the Chargers.
St. Joseph's College of Standish, Maine, junior Jennelle Thompson was chosen as the Great Northeast Athletic Conference libero of the week this past week. The junior from Farmington averaged 7.25 digs per set over a 3-2 week for the Monks and earned a spot on the St. Joseph's Invitational All-Tournament Team.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute freshman Ryan Quinn was named the Liberty League performer of the week this past week. The North Hampton native won the Guy and Jeanne Kuhn Memorial Invitational last Monday with a score of 69 over the two-day tournament.
Southern New Hampshire University sophomore Jill Couto was named the Northeast-10 Conference athlete of the week this past week. The sophomore from Newton earned her first career individual victory and helped the Penmen place second at the Vermont Tech Invitational Sept. 9. Couto won the race in a personal-best time of 19 minutes, 14 seconds.
Franklin Pierce University made program history this past week when it received a regular-season regional ranking from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The association ranked the Ravens No. 10 in the East Region. The men's team also checked in at No. 8 in the East Region this past week, marking the first time in Franklin Pierce history both programs were regionally ranked during the regular season.
Emily Leverone was one of three former players inducted into the St. Joseph's College hall of fame Sept. 9. The Hampton native graduated from St. Joseph's in 2012 as the owner of 19 program records. Leverone is still the program's all-time leader in runs (168), hits (258), doubles (66), home runs (37), RBIs (211), slugging percentage (.829), on-base percentage (1.34), extra-base hits (113) and total bases (455).
Alex Hall compiles the college notebook for the New Hampshire Sunday News. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AlexKHall.