Palisades’ Stanell Eyes Record Breaking Fall for Hamilton
Hyperinflation during the American Revolution made our currency useless. So much so that “it ain’t worth a Continental”, for generations, meant something with zero value.
But for the Hamilton Continental football team, senior running back and former Palisades star James Stanell is worth his weight in gold.
“James is a high character young man who works very hard to be a great football player. He has very good leg strength which makes him difficult to bring down and he always gets yards after contact,” observed second year Hamilton head coach Andrew Cohen. “This great combination and his very good speed allows him to run away from people and create big runs.”
Last season, Stanell finished first in the NESCAC Conference in total yards, first in return yards and second in rushing. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry in Cohen’s zone-read offense. Stanell accounted for over 75% of Hamilton’s ground game, and scored seven touchdowns in eight games.
“I didn’t learn about Hamilton until December of my senior year. I wanted to go to a NESCAC school because I knew that academics trumped athletics but the athletics were still very competitive,” Stanell stated. “I sent my film to Hamilton, and all of the NESCAC schools, and I fell in love with the place.”
Stanell, a first team All-Conference pick despite Hamilton’s going 1-7, also snagged 19 passes for nearly 200 yards. Good hands have always been a Stanell hallmark; he caught 19 balls for over 300 yards as a Palisades senior despite primarily being a running back.
“Back in high school, coach Tom Totes pulled me aside and said they were going to play me at receiver a little,” Stanell remembered. “They had (All-Conference) guys like John Gruver and Adam Gretzinger at the skill positions at Palisades. It worked in my favor that I learned to play receiver early on and that stayed with me the whole time.”
As much of a threat as he is on the ground and in the passing game, Stanell may be most dangerous as a returner. He took a kickoff 94 yards to pay dirt in Hamilton’s opener last season. Stanell has scored a touchdown via rushing, receiving and on special teams in two of his three seasons.
“It’s more of a learning experience on what kickoffs seem to do,” he explained. “They flow a lot smoother against a regular defense. Everyone is running at full speed so if you can get a time when people are all flowing on the right side of the field…watch out!”
When John Gruver set Palisades’ single-season rushing mark in 2008, it lasted all of one year. Stanell broke it in 2009, in a season in which he also intercepted four passes as a safety and led the Pirates to the PIAA playoffs.
Yet his favorite Palisades memory occurred in 2007: when the Bucs beat Saucon Valley in a 38-36 barnburner to clinch their first Colonial League title.
“That game was insane,” Stanell chuckled. “It was a great time.”
Stanell enters this Fall ranked fifth on Hamilton’s all-time rushing yardage list. He has an outside shot to graduate as the Continental’s career leader.
It’s impressive, but any graduate from Hamilton is impressive. Stanell is racking up these numbers in the Division III NESCAC, colloquially known in New England as “The Smart Kid Conference.” Every single team that Hamilton plays in 2013, including Hamilton itself, is ranked in US News and World Report’s Top 40 Liberal Arts Colleges.
“Freshman year was rough, but you learn to do the best you can at everything you do, and that really transfers over to anything you do,” Stanell described on balancing the academics and athletics. “This summer, where I am working, I’m doing the best I can do. I go to lift and am doing the best I can do. You’re forced to do it at Hamilton. You have to do the best you can at school, and then you’re expected to do the best you can at football. You don’t have much time in-between.
“You’ll see the kids on the team at the library every night. Everybody is struggling together. There is no group of kids that can goof off and there isn’t any temptation to not do your best academically. Everybody is in the same boat and that is real helpful as a whole, because you can help each other out that way.”
Hamilton is located 45 minutes east of Syracuse but Stanell is spending his summer “downstate”- in Manhattan interning for a health insurance company. An Economics major with a Philosophy minor, he hopes to work a few years and then obtain his M.B.A.
Look for the versatile Stanell to be worth a lot of Continentals this fall on the gridiron, and to his lucky employer when he graduates next spring.
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