Football Team Seeks OAC and Division III Titles
BEREA, OHIO -- The 2012-13 Baldwin Wallace University football team hopes to build upon the success it had last season and compete for both an Ohio Athletic Conference title and a berth in the 2012 NCAA Division III National Playoffs.
Leading the way for the Yellow Jackets will be the return of 33 lettermen and 11 fulltime starters and both its placekicker and punter. In addition, the team returns two of the most explosive kick return specialists in Division III in sophomore speedsters Kevin Johnson (Maple Heights/ Cleveland St. Ignatius) and Josiah Holt (Elyria/ Grafton Midview). The duo represented two of the four sprinters on last spring's NCAA Division III All-American 4 x100-meter relay team. Overall, more than 200 student-athletes are expected when preseason camp opens today (August 15) in Berea.
Head Coach John Snell '87 enters his 11th season at the helm of his alma mater and has compiled a career record of 64-38 with a .627 winning percentage. He took his 2003 team to the Division III Playoffs and was hand-picked by the late and legendary Bob Packard '65.
"Our goals never change at BW," said Snell. "Each year we set out to win championships. Our first goal is to win the prestigious Ohio Athletic Conference title. Our feeling is that if we can win the OAC title, we have what it takes to also win the NCAA Division III national title. History bears out that fact.
"Last season, we had a solid season and made some excellent improvement on both sides of the football and on special teams," continued Snell, speaking of last fall's 8-2 overall record and the fact that his team is 15-5 during the past two seasons. "This season, we return a number of key student-athletes on offense who have the talent and ability to take us to the next level of success. With that said, we also lost some outstanding athletes to graduation off of our defense, and that's a major concern coming into this season."
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets will be led by senior quarterbacks Ryan O'Rourke (Avon/ Senior) and Andrew Dziak (Maple Heights/ Parma Padua Fransiscan), senior running backs Tim Miker (Parma/ Senior) and Tyler Lohr (Kent Roosevelt), senior tight end Josh Masters (Akron/ Archbishop Hoban) and a host of wideouts, including Holt, who earned first-team All-OAC honors, senior Aaron Manders (Toledo/ Cardinal Stritch) and juniors Gabe Adams (Hudson), Brandon Mahaffey (Elyria/ Avon), Mike McGervey (Canton/ St. Thomas Aquinas) and transfer Cory Lanterman (Streetsboro). In addition, juniors Jason Cook (Streetsboro) and Clay Wolf (Parma Heights/ Parma Padua) return as starters on the offensive line.
O'Rourke will return as the starting QB and Dziak alternates and causes opponents another problem in terms of containment. O'Rourke completed 129-of-221 passes for 1,611 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran the ball 47 times for 113 yards and another score. He has accounted for 3,124 passing yards and 28 TD in his three years in Berea. Dziak completed 7-of-15 passes for 122 yards and two TD and ran for 227 yards in 60 attempts and was second on the team with six rushing TD. He has eight career rushing TD and has thrown for three scores with no interceptions.
"We feel that we have a solid returning starter in Ryan O'Rourke and Andrew Dziak offers us another explosive weapon," said Snell. "Once we build the depth, we'll feel pretty comfortable at the QB position."
Miker, who missed all of last season due to an injury, ran for a team-high 595 yards in 129 attempts with seven TD as a junior and has 1,768 career rushing yards and 17 career rushing TDs. The 2011 team captain also has 21 career pass receptions with a score. He is coming to preseason camp healthy and ready to combine with Lohr to be a dynamic duo.
With Miker sidelined last season, Lohr burst onto the scene and led the team with 924 yards in 190 attempts and seven TDs and caught five passes for 28 more yards. He earned first-team All-OAC honors for his efforts and is a second-team OhioCollegeFootball.com (www.ohiocollegefootball.com) Division III All-Ohio selection.
In addition, for sophomores Sebastian Zuluaga (Naples, Fla./ Gulf Coast) and Nolan Sordyl (Gurnee, Ill./ Warren Township) to push for playing time. Zuluaga ran for 151 yards in 27 attempts and Sordyl, who was utilized mostly in short yardage situations, had 50 yards in 14 attempts and four TD. At times, Holt carried the ball. He ran eight times for 51 yards and a TD.
"We return a talented group of backs," said Snell. "Having both Tim and Tyler gives us a pair of proven runners who are among the top returning backs in the OAC."
Holt and Adams tied for the receiving lead a year ago as each caught 23 passes. Holt had 23 grabs for 245 yards and two TD and Adams had 23 for a team-leading 416 yards and an 18.1-yard average per catch. Both have the ability to catch the ball and then take it to the endzone.
Masters, who played QB as a freshman and sophomore before being converted to WR/TE, is a tall and capable target for O'Rourke or Dziak. He caught eight passes 64 yards and a score while alternating with graduated first-team All-OAC tight end Aaron Hurd a year ago.
Manders returns after making 23 catches the past two seasons with three TD. Mahaffey caught seven passes for 54 yards. McGervey grabbed two balls for 34 yards and two TDs.
Johnson and Lanterman give O'Rourke and Dziak more speed to burn. Johnson, who can play RB, WR and DB in addition to being an outstanding kick returner, had four grabs for 144 yards (36.0-yard average) and two TD. We'll talk more about him on defense and regarding kickoff returns later in this story. Lanterman, who transferred to BW from Division II Indiana University (Pa.), will play WR at BW but saw considerable playing time at IUP as a defensive back and punt return specialist. He had an outstanding spring running track for the Yellow Jackets.
"Our receiving corps is deep and talented," noted Snell. "We return at least seven guys who all gained experience last year. This is one of our deepest spots."
The offensive line returns Cook and Wolf and will need to replace three experienced starters who have graduated. Look for junior Alex Lovasz (North Ridgeville), James Brantley (Titusville, Fla./ Astronaut), Dakota Makowski (Canton/ McKinley), Sean Hemlick (Uniontown/ Lake), Brandon Slater (East Canton) and others to contribute and add depth and strength.
"The success our offense has this season will have to start up front," said Snell. "We have a group of veterans, led by Jason Cook and Clay Wolf, that we need to stay healthy and we'll need to work our younger guys into the mix. Any successful offense needs to have stability on its O-Line."
Defensively, B-W lost eight starters to graduation. How well veteran Defensive Coordinator Jim Meyer rebuilds his forces will have a great deal to do with the success in 2012.
The defense will be led by its three returning starters in senior All-OAC tackle Max Wagner (Mentor), junior tackle/ end Addison Carbone (Hudson) and senior cornerback Brandon Russo (Olmsted Falls). In addition, senior end Joe Fitch (Elyria), a starter in 2010, is back this fall.
Up front, Wagner and Carbone will be joined by Fitch, juniors Sam Gordon (Broadview Heights/ University School) and Aaron Payne (East Canton) and sophomores Ethan Beastrom (Lakewood/ Lutheran West) and Luke Riemenschneider (Rocky River) as well as others.
Wagner made 40 tackles, had 8.5 tackles for lost yardage and 5.5 quarterback sacks a year ago despite missing one game with an injury. Carbone had 26 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Fitch had 11 stops and two for lost yardage. Both Gordon and Payne also saw action as part of BW's rotation on the line.
For decades, BW has been known for its outstanding linebackers. This year, all three starting jobs are open as its top four linebackers from a year ago graduated.
This fall, look for seniors Brian Ellis (Fort Mitchell, Ky./ Dayton) and Ben Penman (Warren/ Harding), juniors Nick Milano (North Royalton/ Padua), Jon Hofer (Akron/ Springfield), Matt Torgler (Orrville/ Dalton), Mike Stacchiotti (Girard), Spyro Spondyl (North Canton/ GlenOak), Corey Meeks (Eastlake/ Willoughby South) and Dave Flegal (Akron/ Revere) to get the first shots to start during preseason camp, but also expect a number of sophomores and freshmen to push for playing time.
Ellis played in nine games in 2009 and had seven tackles and saw action in all 10 games last season and had 17 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a QB sack. Penman saw some playing time in last year's opener before being injured and missing the rest of the season. Also, Stacchiotti had 17 tackles, Milano had 14 tackles, Spondyl five, Flegel four, Meeks, three, Hofer two and Torgler one.
"We will be looking to build stability in our linebacking corps," said Snell. "The cupboard is not bare by any means, but when you lose four the quality that we lost, it's going to hurt. We have confidence in our returning guys that they will step up and play well."
In the secondary, Russo is the only returning starter but senior Tom Goebel (Parma/ Padua), juniors Johnson, Kory Gillissie (Parma/ Cleveland St. Ignatius), Zach Barley (Hudson), Jake Brandy (Hudson) and Lanterman all return with some varsity experience.
Russo returns after making 19 tackles with an interception and four other pass breakups. Johnson had 18 tackles, an interception and four breakups. In addition, Barley had 18 stops, Gillissie had 15 tackles, Goebel 12 and Brandy one. In addition, having the option to move Lanterman back to the secondary and/ or to play him in "nickel" and definite passing situation will help.
"Again, we graduated a really strong group, but return some players who are talented and have experience at the varsity level," said Snell. "This group also may be our quickest in some time with Johnson, Lanterman and Gillissie out there."
On special teams, Snell can rely on both Johnson and Holt to scare his opponents on kickoffs. The duo have combined for four kick return TD (Holt three and Johnson one) the past two years, and Gillissie ran a punt back for a score a year ago. In addition to Gillissie on punt returns, Snell returns LaGuardia, who also has the talent and speed to hurt an opponent, and can utilize Lanterman.
"We have some some of the best return men in Division III football," said Snell. "Kevin Johnson, Josiah Holt and Kory Gillissie have already proven they can be game-breakers. We also have a number of talented sophomores and newcomers who cannot wait to get a shot to show us what they can do too. It is a great situation to have this summer."
When BW goes to kick the football, it can call on junior Chris Mohler (Kent/ Roosevelt). He returns after making 27-of-32 PAT kicks and two-of-five field goals to place third on the team in scoring with 33 points. Snell also expects to have a battle in camp for the starting job this fall.
Junior Matt Harmon (Canfield) returns as the punter. A year ago, he averaged a solid, 38.0 yards per boot in 50 attempts and led the OAC by dropping 21 of his punts inside the opponents 20-yard line. He gets great hang time and opponents averaged just 5.3 yards per return on 20 of 21 returns. Look for Harmon to be another defensive weapon for Snell and his squad.
So, what does Snell think his chances are this fall?
"This isn't rocket science," said Snell. "Our goals at BW are the same every year. Our largest goal is to go undefeated and win the national title. Along the way, we know that means winning an OAC title and challenging our young men to get the very most out of their ability, first and foremost in the classroom and on the football field.
"We feel that we have a talented group of upperclassmen returning who have the potential to be strong leaders," said Snell. "We also have some talented underclassmen and incoming freshmen and transfers who have the ability to make us better every day.
"We look forward to opening preseason camp and the challenge of beginning our season on September 8 versus Bluffton University," finalized Snell.
FOR MORE BW SPORTS INFORMATION, please contact Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple by telephone at 440-826-2327 and e-mail at email@example.com or Assistant SID Jeff Miller by phone at 440-826-2780 and e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fans can access the latest BW athletics information at www.bw.edu/athletics and we invite you to join us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bwathletics.