2012 Mount Ida Football Preview
Under the direction of fifth year Head Coach Michael Landers the Mount Ida College football program has high hopes for the upcoming 2012 season with visions of NCAA post-season tournament play in their sights after a very successful 2011 campaign (6-5, 5-2 ECFC).
The Mustangs faced hosting Endicott College in the final game of the season reaching the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference's (ECAC) North Atlantic Bowl for the second straight year falling 31-22. Mount Ida ended regular season league play with a third place finish in their third season as a member of the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC).
At the end of the year two standout players, recent graduate and running back Johrone Bunch (Meriden, CT/F.T. Maloney) and current senior defensive end A.J. Knibbs (Spotswood, NJ/Spotswood), were honored with two very prestigious awards from the league.
Bunch landed his second Offensive Player-of-the-Year selection (2009, 2011) after an impressive individual output for 2011. Bunch totaled the most rushing yards in any season throughout his four year career with 1,582 on 286 carries breaking his old record of 1,506 yards that he set in 2009. He also broke the record for rushing touchdowns scored in a season with 14 cracking his old record of 13 that he conquered both in 2009 and 2010. Bunch led the conference in every rushing statistical category compiling 500 yards more than the second leading rusher in the conference (J. Spanopoulos-1,088) for the year. Bunch averaged 143.8 yards a game in 2011 good for 5.5 yards a carry. The game average was just shy of his 150.6 yards a game during the 2009 season. Bunch finishes his career with the Mustangs as the all-time leader in every rushing category. He was ranked fourth nationally throughout all of NCAA Division III teams in rushing. Bunch was also named to the 2011 New England Sports Writers Division II/III All-Star team for the second time in his career. Bunch was also featured in Sports Illustrated back in March as the first athlete from Mount Ida ever to be recognized in the prestigious sports magazine.
Knibbs was named Co-Defensive Player-of-the-Year for the ECFC after another spectacular season in his second year playing in the defensive end position. Knibbs was also honored with a defensive first team All-Conference selection for the second time in his career as well. Knibbs, who shared the honor with two-time ECFC Defensive Player-of-the-Year Keith Barnes from Maritime College (SUNY), was ranked eighth nationally and second in the conference with 11.0 sacks and has surpassed the all-time Mount Ida record by far with 21.5 sacks in his career. Knibbs recorded 41 total tackles, 37 solo tackles, 10 tackle assists, 14.0 tackles for a loss of 87 yards, five pass break-ups, nine quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick compiling another impressive season statistically. Knibbs was also selected to the 2011 New England Sports Writers Division II/III All-Star team for the second consecutive year.
Both Knibbs and Bunch were named Beyond Sports Network (BSN) All-Americans earlier in the year as well as an ECAC Division II/III All-Star selection. BSN promotes at the High School, College, and Professional level. The 2012 BSN All American Team is made up of the top athletes from the FCS, Division 2, Division 3, and NAIA.
The loss of arguably the best offensive player (Johrone Bunch) to ever come out of the Mount Ida College football program will create some challenges for Head Coach Landers and his staff in the backfield this season. Along with Bunch, wide receiver Nick Lynch (Hampton Bays, NY/Hampton Bays) will be a huge loss in the aerial attack in senior quarterback Scott Drosendahl's (East Aurora, NY/East Aurora) final season. Lynch hauled in a team-high nine touchdown catches compiling 529 yards receiving the process good for 15.6 yards a catch and 52.9 yards a game.
Defensively the Mustangs lost defensive back Mackenson Charles (Lynn, MA/Lynn Techincal), who commanded the backfield as the lone senior, was also honored with a second team all-conference selection. Charles created a lot of problems for the opposing quarterbacks with three interceptions and eight pass break-ups good for second on the team in picks. Charles picked off a pass against Norwich University during week four bringing it to the house for the first score of his career. He also led the Mustangs with two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Charles added 23 solo tackles and five tackle assists good for 25.5 total tackles on the season. Charles will be on staff this season to help out Head Coach Landers for 2012. Linebacker Kyle Lawson (Middlesex, VT/u-32), who will also be on the sidelines with a head set this season as an assistant coach, is another loss as one of the key leaders on the 2011 squad adding 45.5 total tackles and two sacks last year.
Head Coach Michael Landers made a significant change on his staff hiring Neil Hitchen as the new Offensive Coordinator for the 2012 Mustangs. Hitchen comes to the Mount with a plethora of coaching experience most recently at New England Football Conference (NEFC) member Bridgewater State University as the Pass Game Coordinator focusing primarily with the quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Senior quarterback Scott Drosendahl (East Aurora, NY/East Aurora) will lead the charge for the Mustangs again this season in his final year at the helm of the Mount Ida offense. Drosendahl, who broke two major career records (passing touchdowns (51) and passing yards/game (174.8); will be atop every passing statistical category by the end of the year not needing many stats to eclipse each mark. Drosendahl, who has always been in the shadows of Bunch, will have his time to shine this year with a whole new offensive scheme under the direction of Coach Hitchen. He threw 18 touchdown passes in 2011 averaging 143.8 yards/game adding 1,582 yards through the air. Drosendahl will be the biggest piece to the offensive puzzle for the year.
The Mount Ida offensive line will be anchored by senior center and four year starter Matthew Bonomolo (Pearl River, NY/Nanuet). Bonomolo, who was recognized by the ECFC for the first time in his career as an All-Conference Honorable Mention, is not your typical center due to his smaller size. But he is tough and smart as a seasoned veteran able to match up against any other opponent across from him. Senior John Zullo (Milford, CT/Jonathan Law) and junior Frank Civitello (West Haven, CT/West Haven) will return to the line and will be looked upon to keep Drosendahl clean giving him plenty of time to get rid of the ball. These two have spent their entire careers on the line and their veteran status will be a big factor throughout the year.
The receiving core will be led by second team All-Conference senior Matthew Valentini (Lake Hoptacong, NJ/Jefferson TWP) after turning in a solid 2011 individual performance. Valentini led the Mustangs with 47 catches good for 572 yards receiving and four touchdowns averaging 52.0 yards/game. He will be a key target for Drosendahl this upcoming season as a speedy, agile receiver with the moves to create big plays. Junior wide out Jordan Hyman (Middletown, CT/Xavier) returns for his third season as a Mustang turning in an outstanding year in 2011. Hyman hauled in 34 catches with four touchdowns good for 559 yards receiving and 51 yards/game.
Along with the return of the ECFC's Co-Defensive Player-of-the-Year, senior defensive end A.J. Knibbs (Spotswood, NJ/Spotswood), the Mustangs will look to young talent this season to fill out the defense. Mount Ida sophomore defensive back and return specialist Jovan Wilkins (Poughkeepsie, NY/Poughkeepsie), who was selected as a first team All-Conference player, will be looked upon to man the secondary for Mount Ida this year. Wilkins tied the all-time Mount Ida season record for interceptions (6) adding an impressive first year. Wilkins, who still has three years of play to go, only needs three more interceptions to set the career record for picks. Wilkins also led the entire ECFC in interceptions and was ranked 27th nationally (NCAA Division III). Wilkins was fifth on the team in defense adding 30 solo tackles, nine tackle assists, 34.5 total tackles, and five pass break-ups. Wilkins emerged early on as one of the top defensive backs on the team and in the ECFC for the year. Wilkins also was an honorable mention as a return specialist.
Junior defensive lineman Jon Proto (North Haven, CT/North Haven) returns for his third season after another impressive year in 2011. Proto was honored for the second consecutive season as a second team All-Conference player. Proto was second on the team in sacks behind Knibbs with three. Proto was seventh overall defensively for the Mustangs registering 26 solo tackles, nine tackle assists, 30.5 total tackles, a pass break-up, and a quarterback hurry for the year. Proto was a run stopping machine in the middle of the defensive line and will continue to be a huge asset for the Mount Ida defense for the remainder of his career.
The kicking game will be led by senior kicker Bobby Hemmann (Newington, CT/Newington) who turned in an outstanding season last year going 5-8 with his long coming from 36 yards out. Hemmann was 4-6 from the 30-40 yard range; he has the opportunity this year to cement his name in the record books in a few different categories and will be focusing solely on kicking instead of playing dual positions like in years past.