When 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior tight end Jared Prugar goes out for a pass in the Ithaca College offense he may look like most other Division III tight ends.
But inside the soul of a tailback lurks and opponents are finding out Prugar still has ball-carrying skills.
Prugar leads Ithaca (3-0) in receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose yards with 13 catches for 316 yards — a whopping 24.3 yards per catch — and two TDs.
“I think defenders aren’t expecting a tight end to run and that’s something I can use to my advantage,” Prugar said this week in a telephone interview. “Once you get the ball in your hands it’s all the same. You still have the instincts to make people miss and try to run through them.”
Back when he was an oversized tailback at York High, Prugar at times dominated in Western Class B. As a senior in 2009 he rushed for over 1,250 yards and scored 29 touchdowns, and was named Campbell Conference Player of the Year. He also showed his versatility by throwing three TDs.
Tailback still looked like his path after his freshman season at Ithaca.
He was one of just five players from his class to letter with the varsity program, played in seven games and gained 133 yards on 46 carries.
“After the season Coach (Mike) Welch came up to me and talked about switching over to tight end,” Prugar said. “We had a lot of depth at tailback but not as much at tight end.
“At first I wasn’t really sure about it. I had always been the one to run the ball and I hadn’t done much blocking.”
Prugar spent most of his sophomore season learning the new position, playing fewer snaps than he had as a freshman, catching three passes for 6 yards.
Last year he became more involved in the offense, finishing with 21 catches for 263 yards and five TDs.
This year he has become a primary target, with six catches in each of the Bombers’ first two games.
In Ithaca’s second game, Prugar gained 165 receiving yards. That effort earned him Empire 8 conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“In terms of statistics I’d never really had games like that before,” Prugar said. “Nothing really changed as far as game plans; it was just me and (QB Phil Neumann) able to find the reads and me getting open.”
His sole catch in last week’s 24-20 win at Buffalo State was a 63-yard touchdown.
On the play, Prugar said he ran a wheel route and got past the unsuspecting safety along the sideline. Neumann’s pass hit him in stride and he outraced the defense to the end zone.
This week Ithaca received votes in the D3football.com and American Football Coaches Association polls for the first time.
Ithaca has made the NCAA Division III playoffs six times in Welch’s 20 years as head coach, but the current seniors have not had a postseason game.
“Yeah, I think we can make it this year,” Prugar said. “I think we’re in good shape and our conference (Empire 8) gets an automatic bid, and we’re considered one of the stronger conferences so we sometimes get an at-large. We have a chance to get in.”
Clark University senior captain Nathan Buck of Portland (Portland High) was the top collegiate finisher in last Saturday’s Worcester City Championship. He covered the 5-mile course in 27 minutes, 6 seconds — more than 30 seconds faster than his time a year ago when he was second and well ahead of the second-place collegian (two unattached runners finished ahead of Buck). Seven Worcester-area teams competed. The meet was won by Worcester Polytechnic Institute for the 20th straight year. Clark finished second.
• Brandeis University senior Amelia Lundkvist of South Portland (Cheverus) was recently named the University Athletic Association Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week. The team co-captain earned the honor after finishing second overall and the top collegian among 207 runners at the UMass Dartmouth Corsair Invitational, Sept. 21. Lundkvist ran a lifetime-best 18:14.77 over the 5K course. With three runners in the top five, Brandeis finished a close second to Rowan.
Amherst College junior Garrett “Bubba” Van Wie of New Gloucester (Phillips Exeter) helped lead the No. 3-ranked Jeffs to a 3-1 win at Bates on Sunday. Van Wie has one goal and two assists for Amherst (7-0-1, 5-0-1 NESCAC). All of Van Wie’s points have come in visits to Maine: an assist against Bates, and a goal and assist against Bowdoin.
• Jack Martell of Gray (Gray-New Gloucester), a freshman defender for Bates, has started all six games for the Bobcats (1-3-2). Bates has struggled to score, with only three goals in six games. Former Waynflete standout Peabo Knoth from Portland has two goals and one assist in his freshman season, including a goal and assist in a 2-0 win against Maine Maritime to open the season.
• Eastern Connecticut State freshman goalkeeper Greg Walton of Brunswick was named the Little East Conference goalkeeper of the week after a pair of 1-0 shutouts against Salem State and Keene State, the latter his fourth straight shutout and fifth of the season in eight starts.
• Roger Williams College senior forward Trevor Hoxsie of Scarborough had both goals in a recent 2-1 win at Wheaton College. Hoxsie has a team-leading 10 goals with three assists for the Hawks (8-2). A team captain, Hoxsie is coming off a 12-goal junior year when he was named the Commonwealth Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year. Hoxsie has been helped this season by freshman and fellow Scarborough High grad Trevor Sparda (1 goal, 3 assists). Sparda’s goal produced a 1-0 win against Framingham State and was assisted by Hoxsie.
Wheaton College sophomore goalie Lauren Thacker improved to 4-0 with a 5-1 win against Worcester Polytechnic, her fifth start of the season. Thacker is allowing 0.49 goals per game with a save percentage of .889. Wheaton is 6-4-1, 1-0 in the NEWMAC.
Two former Katahdin field hockey club teammates squared off Saturday when 17th-ranked MIT beat Worcester Polytechnic, 2-0. While neither player factored in Saturday’s scoring, WPI sophomore midfielder Shannon Rice of Bath (Morse) and MIT first-year Jane Coffrin of Cape Elizabeth are both starters. Coffrin has played defense for the Engineers (9-0), and Rice has one goal with two assists for WPI (4-5).
Earlier in the week, MIT beat Endicott 4-2 in a nonconference game despite two goals from Emily Sawchuck of Cumberland (Cheverus).
Bentley University sophomore Malcolm Oliver of Damariscotta (Lincoln Academy) finished 14th at the Northeast 10 Championships held at Bretwood Golf Course in Keene, N.H., with a two-day, 11-over par score of 78-77-155.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: