Nichols College Football Program Is TVL-friendly
Josh Pierre-Charles is third in career rushing with 1,858 yards at Nichols College where he is being scouted by the NFL.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
Nichols College in Dudley has 11 players from the Tri Valley League on its football roster for 2021. A coincidence? Far from it.
Dale Olmsted, who has been directing the Bison for eight years, coached in the TVL for nine seasons at Millis High where he compiled a 27-7 record in his final three seasons and guided the Mohawks to three straight playoff appearances. He also was selected Coach of the Year five times — twice by The MetroWest Daily News, twice by coaches in the TVL Small Division, and once by The Boston Globe.
The 52-year-old coach, who has lived in Walpole for 43 years, not only knows the TVL’s players, but he has also developed strong relationships with the circuit’s coaches. And living in Walpole makes it easy for Olmsted to travel to all 12 of the TVL’s venues.
The schools include Medway, Bellingham, Millis, Dover-Sherborn, Dedham, Norwood, Ashland, Hopkinton, Norton, Westwood, Medfield and Holliston.
Olmsted is bullish on other conferences, like the Hockomock League and the Bay State Conference, but top-notch players from the TVL who commit to Nichols seem to adjust to the college quickly.
“Players from the TVL have a blue-collar work ethic,’’ Olmsted said. “They’re also fundamentally sound and many of them compete for traditionally strong programs.’’
Olmsted has another reason why the 55-year-old league is ripe with potential prospects for Nichols. “We’re a small college (1,325 enrollment),’’ he said. “So, it’s comforting for players who compete for small schools in the TVL to choose a college that’s small. TVL players see comfort in choosing Nichols because its size isn’t overwhelming.’’
Josh Pierre-Charles, an all-star running back from Millis, is a great example of a small-school halfback jelling at Nichols. He’s been a dominant Division 3 player.
“Josh’s career statistics are so good that the Houston Texans and Washington’s football team came to Nichols in February to check him out,’’ Olmsted said. “He’s a senior who’ll play in the fall, graduate in December, and possibly earn a pro-day invitation before next year’s NFL draft.
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Pierre-Charles is third in career rushing at Nichols with 1,858 yards. He’s fourth in rushing attempts (350) and third in career touchdowns (15).
“Josh is old-school and his work ethic is relentless,’’ said Olmsted. “He’s got speed, strength and excellent field vision. An explosive back, his hand-eye coordination enables him to catch passes consistently. Solid physically, he’s a very durable back who relies on swivel-hip moves.’’
Following is a capsule look at the other 10 TVL players on Nichols’ roster:
JOSH JONES (junior, defensive end) — A 6-foot, 230-pound lineman, Jones played at Bellingham High where he was a TVL all-star and a team MVP. As a Nichols sophomore, he played in all 10 games, compiling 18 tackles and 2 sacks as a positional third-down player. “Josh has a good sense of the game,’’ Olmsted said. “He’s got quick hands and feet, his football IQ is high and he’s got lots of potential.’’
ELIJAH BROWN (sophomore, defensive end) — The 6-2, 240-pounder played at Dedham where he was a TVL all-star. As a Nichols freshman, he saw action in five games. “Elijah is very coachable, a great kid who’s got size and strength,’’ Olmsted said. “His ceiling is high. We expect him to keep progressing and be a prime contributor in the future.’’
HAYDEN OLMSTED (sophomore, center) — The coach’s son, he initially attended Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., where he was a walk-on freshman. The former Millis High all-star, however, transferred to Nichols and now is a projected starter. The 6-foot-2, 285-pound center should get more opportunity with the Bison. “Hayden moves well, is adept at reading defenses, has a high football IQ and has experience calling the blocking schemes,’’ Olmsted said.
SHAMAR HALL (freshman, halfback) — A two-year starter at Westwood, the 5-foot-11, 210-pounder was used primarily as a blocking back. “Shamar is strong physically, a good athlete with good hands,’’ Olmsted noted. “We’ll utilize him on short-yardage situations. He’s kind of like James Devlin, who was used primarily as a blocker by the Patriots.’’
DAVID HARDING (freshman, defensive end) — The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder enjoyed a superb senior year at Holliston High. “David had a great playoff game against Stoughton,’’ Olmsted said. “We project him as an end on defense. He’s got a strong work ethic, he’s crafty and quick. He’ll bulk up and we see him doing good things in the future.’’
MARK JAMES (freshman, cornerback) — The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder was a three-year starter at Westwood where he was a captain and TVL all-star. “In pre-season, Mark was the most athletic freshman among our defensive backs,’’ Olmsted said. “He’s confident, competitive, quick and has good height.’’
JUSTIN KELLEY (freshman, linebacker) — The 6-foot, 200-pounder was a quality linebacker at Dedham High. Olmsted projects him as a reserve middle linebacker but has high expectations for him moving forward. “Justin has good instincts and a nose for the ball,’’ he said. “As a freshman, he’ll play on special teams but he should be in the rotation eventually. He’s got a bright future.’’
ETHAN MEISNER-NELSON (freshman, linebacker) — The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, who played at Norton, will see action on special teams but Olmsted believes he’ll be a starter eventually at outside linebacker. “Ethan has a great attitude,’’ he said. “A solid player, he moves well and is athletic.’’
KYLE MORAN (freshman, guard) — The 6-foot, 220-pound lineman played at Medway High. “Kyle is a bit undersized,’’ Olmsted noted. “But, he’s a hard-worker who will progress. Dependable and reliable, he’s a very coachable player from a good program.’’
CHRISTOPHER RYAN (freshman, wide receiver) — The 6-foot, 180-pound Ryan was a TVL all-star and a team MVP at Holliston High. “We expect a lot from him immediately,’’ Olmsted said. “He’s got strong hands, he’s quick, athletic and runs good routes. His hand-eye coordination enables him to be top-notch receiver.’’
Nichols has a three-game schedule for this spring but Olmsted is using the abbreviated season to gauge his squad for a 10-game season in the fall. “The three games are important,’’ Olmsted said. “They’ll be learning experiences and if we win them, we’ll know we’re heading in the right direction.’’
Nichols competes in the Commonwealth Coastal Conference, which includes Curry, Salve Regina, Endicott, Western New England, University of New England, Husson and Becker. During the 2019 season, the conference champion was Western New England. Endicott was second and Nichols tied for third. Western New England hosted Nichols in both teams’ openers on April 18, three days after Local Town Pages deadline.
“We’ll contend for the title in the fall,’’ said Olmsted, who twice has been named Worcester Area Coach of the Year. “We’ll be competitive. We finished 6-4 in 2019 and we’ve played at .500 or better in three of our last four seasons.’’
Olmsted, whose career record at Nichols is 21-39, leans on a balanced offense that focuses on a run-pass option. “That’s how we’ll approach opponents if we have the talent,’’ he said. “We may also employ a pro-style offense.’’
The attributes Olmsted prefers in prospective players are high character, mental toughness, size, speed, strength, leadership and a high football IQ. He also likes to recruit players from traditionally strong programs.
The 2021 recruits from the TVL no doubt give Nichols’ grid program many of those traits. After all, five of the last six Super Bowls have been won by TVL squads (Millis and Holliston two each and one for Ashland).