Baldwin Wallace Football Team Ranked 19th in d3football.com Division III Preseason Poll
The Yellow Jackets Set Their Sights on an Ohio Athletic Conference Title and a Berth in the 2012 NCAA Division III National Playoffs
BEREA, OHIO -- The 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. That success also is a large part of the reason the Yellow Jackets are ranked 19th in the d3football.com (www.d3football.com) Division III Preseason National poll.
Leading the way for the Yellow Jackets will be the return of 34 lettermen and 10 fulltime starters, including seven on offense, and both its placekicker and punter. In addition, the team returns two of the most explosive kick return specialists in Division III in junior speedsters Kevin Johnson (Maple Heights/ Cleveland St. Ignatius) and first-team All-OAC pick Josiah Holt (Elyria/ Grafton Midview). A total of 195 student-athletes are expected when preseason camp opens on August 15. Head Coach John Snell 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.
“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) and Andrew Dziak (Maple Heights/ Parma Padua), senior running backs Tim Miker (Parma/ Senior) and Tyler Lohr (Kent/ Roosevelt), wide receivers Holt, senior Aaron Manders (Toledo/ Cardinal Stritch) and junior Gabe Adams (Hudson) and senior tackle Clay Wolf (Parma Heights/ Padua) and junior guard Jason Cook (Streetsboro).
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.
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 TD. He also has 21 career pass receptions with a score. With Miker sidelined last season, Lohr burst onto the scene and earned first-team All-OAC honors as he led the team with 924 yards in 190 attempts and seven TD. Also look for sophomores Sebastian Zuluaga (Naples, Fla/ Gulf Coast) and Nolan Sordyl (Gurnee, Ill./ Warren Township) to push for additional playing time. Zuluaga ran for 151 yards in 27 attempts and Sordyl had 50 yards in 14 attempts and four TD.
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. In addition, senior Aaron Manders has 23 catches the past two seasons with three TD, junior Brandon Mehaffey caught seven passes for 54 yards, Kevin Johnson had four grabs for 144 yards (36.0-yard average) and two TD and junior Mike McGervey had two grabs for 34 yards and two TD.
Defensively, B-W lost eight starters to graduation. It will be led by its three returning starters in senior All-OAC tackle Max Wagner (Mentor), junior tackle Addison Carbone (Hudson) and senior cornerback Brandon Russo (Olmsted Falls). In addition, senior end Joe Fitch (Elyria), a starter in 2010, is back. Up front, Wagner and Carbone will be joined by Fitch, juniors Sam Gordon (Broadview Hts./ University School) and Aaron Payne (East Canton) and sophomores Ethan Beastrom (Lakewood/ Lutheran West) and Luke Riemenschneider (Rocky River). 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.
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 Togler (Orrville/ Dalton), Mike Stacchiotti (Girard), Spyro Spondyl (North Canton/ GlenOak), Corey Meeks (Eastlake/ Willoughby South) and Dave Flegel (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.
In the secondary, Russo is the only returning starter but Tom Goebel (Parma/ Padua), Johnson, Kory Gillissie (Parma/ St. Ignatius), Zach Barley (Hudson) and Jake Brandy (Hudson) 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.
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.
BW opens its season on September 8 versus Bluffton University on Family and Community Night in Berea. The Yellow Jackets open OAC play on Sept. 15 versus Cleveland cross-town rival John Carroll University in the battle for the Cuyahoga Gold Bowl trophy in University Heights at 6:00 p.m. Both games will be televised by SportsTime Ohio (www.sportstimeohio.com).
FOR MORE BW SPORTS INFORMATION, please contact Sports Information Director Kevin Ruple by telephone at 440-826-2327 and e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant SID Jeff Miller by phone at 440-826-2780 and e-mail at email@example.com. 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.