Montclair State picked to win NJAC

After capturing a share of the NJAC Championship en route to finishing the 2010 season with a 10-2 overall record, Montclair State University has been selected as the 2011 preseason football favorite in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. The Red Hawks will be seeking their 20th conference title since 1969. 

Montclair State was selected to finish first on five of the 10 ballots cast by the league head coaches. After posting an 8-1 NJAC mark to finish in a three-way tie for the conference crown with Cortland and Rowan, the Red Hawks received an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the NCAA second round. Under the direction of 29th-year head coach Rich Giancola, MSU has posted a 201-89-2 overall record. Giancola, who earned NJAC Coach of the Year honors from his peers last season, will field a 2011 squad which returns three of the major 2010 NJAC award winners, including the league Co-Offensive Player of the Year in senior quarterback Tom Fischer, the NJAC Special Teams Player of the Year in senior wide receiver and punt returner Dan Keegan, and the conference Defensive Rookie of the Year in sophomore linebacker Dan Avento. In addition, the Red Hawks return an additional six all-conference players from its  2010 NJAC tri-champion squad, including senior punter Joe Liscio, senior wide receiver Byron Lewin, senior offensive lineman Dan Aguilar, senior offensive lineman Jeff Angstadt, senior defensive lineman Alex Iachetta, and sophomore defensive lineman Bobby Skinner, 

SUNY Cortland, which claimed a share of the NJAC championship with an 8-1 league mark while garnering the conference’s automatic bid to the 2010 NCAA Tournament via tiebreaker, was selected to place second and received four first place votes. The Red Dragons finished 10-2 overall in 2010 while advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Under the leadership of 15th-year head coach Dan MacNeill, Cortland has posted a 97-52 overall record. Cortland returns nine all-conference players from its 2010 NJAC tri-champion squad, including senior quarterback Dan Pitcher, senior offensive lineman Billy Castro, senior linebacker Cody Allen, senior kicker Marc Corrado, senior defensive lineman Connor Tompkins, senior linebacker and fullback Bill Smith, senior cornerback D.J. Romano, sophomore punter Pete Furey, and the 2010 NJAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year in junior running back Justin Autera.  

Rowan, which also claimed a share of the 2010 NJAC crown with an 8-1 conference mark, was selected to place third and received one first place vote. The Profs, who finished 9-1 overall last year, return seven all-conference players from their NJAC tri-champion squad including senior tight end Kevin DelleDonne, junior defensive lineman Steve Williams, senior running back Steve Hevalow, senior offensive lineman Brian Cary, senior offensive lineman David Green, junior running back Kevin Corcoran, and senior linebacker Dean Hammel. Under the leadership of 10th-year head coach Jay Accorsi, Rowan has produced an overall mark of 75-24.     

Dan Garrett, the Cougars have posted a 33-20 overall record. The 2010 Cougars finished 5-5 overall, placing fifth in the league with a 5-4 mark in NJAC play. Kean returns six all-league performers from its 2010 squad, including senior defensive lineman Ray Wegrzynek, senior safety Jamahl Williams, senior quarterback Thomas D’Ambrisi, senior kicker Billy Daniels, senior offensive lineman Dave Vermeuel, and senior linebacker Richard Esdaile.

The College of New Jersey, which finished 5-5 overall in 2010, was selected to place fifth. Led by 35th-year head coach Eric Hamilton, the Lions have accumulated an overall mark of 201-135-6 during his tenure. Hamilton’s tenure at TCNJ currently ranks third in terms of most consecutive seasons coached at a NJAC institution, trailing only Kean and Rowan men’s soccer coaches Tony Ochrimenko and Dan Gilmore, each of whom is entering his 36th season this Fall. The Lions return four all-conference players from a squad which placed fourth in the NJAC in 2010 with a 5-4 record, including junior linebacker Gregory Burns, senior running back Joe Falco, senior defensive back Shawn Brown, and senior kicker Tyler Olsson. 

Brockport State, led by 16th-year head coach Rocco Salomone, was selected to place sixth. Under Salomone, the Golden Eagles have produced a mark of 95-69-1, including a record of 2-8 in 2010. Brockport returns three all-conference players from its 2010 squad, including senior running back Alex Hendrickson, senior defensive lineman Mike Kaiser, and the 2010 NJAC Offensive Rookie of the Year in sophomore wide receiver Jake Spalik.

William Paterson, which finished 4-6 overall in 2010, was selected to place seventh. Led by fourth-year head coach Jerry Flora, the Pioneers have produced a 13-17 overall record during his tenure in Wayne. Flora’s squad will return a trio of all-league performers from 2010, including senior safety Doug Dudek, junior wide receiver Chris Manfredo, and senior wide receiver Joe Muraglia.          

Buffalo State, which will take the field for its third season in the second stint of head coach Jerry Boyes, was selected to place eighth after posting a 4-6 overall record in 2010. In 18 total seasons as the leader of the Bengal program, Boyes has produced an overall mark of 95-76. Buffalo State returns four all-conference players from its 2010 squad, including senior safety Kevin Healy, sophomore wide receiver Mike Doherty, senior offensive lineman Aaron Roy, and senior linebacker Brandon Hodgins.

Morrisville State, under the leadership of sixth-year head coach Terry Dow, was selected to place ninth. The Mustangs have produced a 9-40 overall record since transitioning to NCAA Division III, including a mark of 2-8 in 2010. Morrisville returns one all-league performer in senior linebacker Anthony Brown. 

Western Connecticut State, under the guidance of 10th-year head coach John Burrell, was selected to place 10th. Under Burrell, the Colonials have notched a 37-53 overall record, including a mark of 0-10 in 2010. Western Connecticut returns one all-league player from its 2010 squad in senior linebacker Greg Galasso. 

The 43rd season of NJAC football will kickoff on Saturday, September 3 with six league teams in action, including the first NJAC contest of the year with Cortland hosting Buffalo State. NJAC programs will play nine conference games in an 11-week season. The winner of the NJAC championship receives the conference’s automatic qualification to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.

2011 NJAC Football
Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Montclair State (5)
2. SUNY Cortland (4)
3. Rowan (1)
4. Kean (dark horse)
5. The College of New Jersey
6. The College at Brockport
7. William Paterson
8. Buffalo State
9. Morrisville State
10. Western Connecticut
First-place votes in parentheses