WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 2012 Gallaudet University football team will take to Hotchkiss Field this season as a close cohesive unit that is ready to put behind its hard-luck losses of the past two years and begin a new chapter in program history.
Gallaudet lost its first two games last season by one point in overtime and four points a week later. The Bison rattled off three straight wins before a three-point loss, 10-7, on the road against Norwich before adding two more wins. Eight points in the first three losses of the season kept Gallaudet from an 8-0 start. GU hopes this year's edition of Bison football will turn the tide and swing those close games in favor of the buff and blue.
"We have been upgraded at almost every position. This is a really close team, there is no separation on this team. This team has come together so far in this training camp," said third-year head coach Chuck Goldstein.
Here is a breakdown of the 2012 Gallaudet Bison football team.
Several new faces will lead the Bison offense led by the rushing attack of freshmen Braxton Baker (Webb City, Mo.) and BJ Flores (Raymondville, Texas). The lightning fast duo will share time at the fullback position and should help power the GU triple option attack.
A handful of veterans will line-up at the slot position led by junior All-Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) second team fullback Michael Hantge (Hutchinson, Minn.) along with junior Ryan Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) and juniors Nick Elstad (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Miguel Paniagua (Baton Rouge, La.). Hantge led the Bison with 636 rushing yards last season, ranked eighth in the conference, as he saw action in nine games and started eight. Bonheyo had 39 carries for 200 yards and a score while Elstad found the end zone three times on 58 carries and 177 yards.
Two different players are battling for the starting position under center at quarterback. The race is between sophomore Benjamin Coleman (St. Paris, Ohio) and Todd Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.), Ryan Bonheyo's younger brother. Sophomore Quentin Williams (Chesapeake, Va.), last year's freshman phenom, is still working his way back from his season-ending injury he suffered in last year's Castleton State College game. Williams was named the ECFC Rookie of the Year and selected to the all-conference second team as running back and return specialist. In only seven games, Williams scored seven rushing touchdowns and threw for one score.
Senior wide receiver Ryne Worsham (Chicago, Ill.) was tied for first in the conference with 11 receiving touchdowns last season and caught 44 passes for 784 yards in 10 games played. Worsham was named to the All-ECFC first team offense as he had a streak of one touchdown pass reception or more for five straight games. Senior Kevin Berrigan (Frederick, Md.) returns after a year hiatus and watch out for fellow senior Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.), Gallaudet's standout cornerback, lining up at the wide out position.
"Worsham has big play potential anytime he gets his hands on the ball. If our quarterbacks can throw the ball up in his direction he will go up and come down with it," said Goldstein.
Protecting the Gallaudet quarterbacks and making running holes for the fullbacks and slots will be the group of juniors Joshua Ofiu and Chris Langan (Burtonsville, Md.), sophomores Tyler Snider (Thornville, Ohio), Shawn Madden (Cincinnati, Ohio) and freshman Todd Collins (East Islip, N.Y.). Snider started nine games as a freshman for the Bison and earned all-conference honorable mention honors. The GU rushing offense averaged 225 yards per game, which ranked third in the ECFC and 27th in Division III.
Senior linebacker Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.) is the heart-and-soul of the program and its defensive leader. The three-time team captain became the first-ever All-ECFC first team defender last year as he led the conference with 103 tackles (72 solo) as the team co-captain had 11 or more tackles in six of the 10 games this season. He forced two fumbles, recovered one, and made one interception as he started in all 10 games. Pangia comes into the 2012 season well decorated as he has been named to three different preseason All-American teams.
"Our defense has been set around Tom for the last three years," said Goldstein. "He is the type of kid every coach wants to have on his team. We are excited for his final year, expect big things from him."
Gallaudet will enter the 2012 season without its other preseason All-American defensive end Matt Harris, who led the nation in sacks last year, as he did not return to school this year.
GU shutdown cornerback Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.) will cause problems in the secondary this year after teams elected to not throw his way a lot last season. The All-ECFC first team defender broke-up eight passes, ranked second in the ECFC, and picked off four passes, tied for third in the conference. Only 11-of-50 passes thrown his way were caught last year in the nine games he started.
Junior defensive lineman Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.) will anchor the front line alongside seniors Kevin Allen (Houston, Texas) and Jared Pearce (Reno, Nev.). Talaat was an all-conference honorable mention defensive selection last year as he led the conference in blocks (three), tied for eighth in sacks (3.5) and recorded 32 tackles (22 solo) with 13 tackles for a loss of 33 yards in 10 games started. Allen made 43 tackles (31 solo) with 3.5 tackles for a loss of 15 yards in 10 games last season. Pearce added 30 tackles (17 solo) with five tackles for a loss of 22 yards in 10 games played.
Sophomore linebacker Jaris Alleyne (Waldorf, Md.) is coming off a strong debut with the Bison as he finished fourth in the conference with 90 tackles, third in the conference with 35 assisted tackles and tied for fifth in the league in interceptions with three.
Senior strong safety Shelby Bean (Arvada, Colo.) was fourth on the team with 54 tackles (43 solo) with seven tackles for a loss of 17 yards and two interceptions in 10 games played. Sophomores Tobias Cantaberry (Genoa, Ill.) and AJ McCrea (Decatur, Ga.) will see time at safety and cornerback, respectively, and are ready to step into larger roles on the defense.
Goldstein hopes to have filled a void in the Gallaudet kicking game with the addition of freshman Chase Magsig from Michigan. Last year the Bison had only two field goal attempts and made one from 21 yards out. GU made 32-of-38 point after attempts (84 percent) while the opposition converted 28-of-31 PATs (90 percent) against the Bison.
"Chase's kicking ability will give us the opportunity to put more points on the scoreboard," said Goldstein. "He will make an immediate impact and help us try and win the battle for field position with our opposition."
Last year, Bean was thrown into punting duties and excelled as he All-ECFC honorable mention honors as a punter. He ranked third in the ECFC in punting yardage with 1,446 yards (34.4 yards per punt), third in punts downed inside the 20 and had no punts blocked all season.
"His experience we are comfortable he can secure and get rid of the ball quickly and help our defense with field position."
Williams was an All-ECFC second team return specialist last season as he fielded nine kickoffs for 293 yards and two touchdowns (32.6 yards per return average) and had an 85-yard touchdown against Catholic.
The return duties will be handled this season between several different Bison. Tatum will be the main punt returner while Elstad (eight returns, 138 yards), Ryan Bonheyo and Flores will field kickoffs.
The Bison will look to avenge two close non-conference losses in their first two games that are on the road. Gallaudet will travel to Westerville, Ohio, to face Otterbein University on Sept. 1 to kick-off the season at 1 p.m. GU returns to the nation's capital the following week and will make the short trek to Catholic University of America on Sept. 7 for a 7 p.m. night game.
"I think we will know exactly where we stand after our first two road games," said Goldstein. "Otterbein and Catholic are two quality programs and we showed last year that the Bison could hang with those talented teams."
Otterbein handed the Bison a heart breaking 28-27 overtime loss in the season opener last year at home. In week two, Gallaudet couldn't hang on against Catholic and lost another heart breaker 45-41 as the Cardinals scored three touchdowns in the final six minutes of play. Otterbein, who entered the 2011 season ranked No. 40 by D3football.com, struggled after the win over the Bison and finished 3-7. Like the Bison the Cardinals lost five games by a touchdown or less. Catholic finished its season 5-5 as it won three straight to start the season but concluded the year with three straight conference losses.
Following a bye week, the Bison will host Apprentice School for the season's first home game on Sept. 22, at 5 p.m. The Apprentice School finished the 2011 season with a 2-8 record with one of those losses coming at the hands of Gallaudet, the Bison won 14-3 over the Builders.
GU closes out the month of September at home with its first ECFC game as the Bison host Anna Maria College on Sept. 29 at noon. GU escaped Paxton, Mass., last year with a 48-40 triple overtime win over the AMCATS. AMC finished the 2011 season strong with two straight conference wins against Becker College and Husson University and finished 2-8 overall.
"Once we start ECFC play, I think we will compete at a high level because we have a lot of talent and experience coming back this year," said Goldstein.
The meat of the conference schedule begins in October with four games. The Bison travel to Husson on Oct. 6, for a noon game and return home to play the reigning ECFC champions Norwich University on Oct. 13, at noon. Norwich barely slipped by Gallaudet last season, 10-7, as the Cadets went 7-4 overall and were undefeated in conference play (7-0). The Bison will then travel to Leicester, Mass., to play Becker College on Oct. 20, at noon. Becker went 1-9 last season and lost 44-20 to Gallaudet in its homecoming game. Speaking of Homecoming, the Bison will host Castleton State College for the annual Homecoming game on Oct. 27, at 1:30 p.m. Gallaudet will be seeking to win its fourth straight homecoming game. Castleton (4-6) finished fifth in the ECFC last season (3-4), just one spot behind Gallaudet.
The final two games of the season will test Gallaudet as they face-off against the second and third-place teams in the ECFC last season. Gallaudet will host its final home game on Nov. 3 when Mount Ida College comes to D.C. The Mustangs went 6-5 overall and 5-2 in the ECFC last season and finished in third-place in the conference. Mount Ida handed Gallaudet its worst loss of the season last year, 28-12.
To conclude the regular-season, Gallaudet will travel to Throggs Neck, N.Y., to face SUNY Maritime (N.Y.) College on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 1 p.m. Gallaudet lost by a touchdown to the Privateers for a second consecutive season. Maritime was last year's ECFC runner-up with an 8-2 record and 6-1 conference mark.
The winner of the ECFC earns a berth into the NCAA tournament that begins mid-November along with the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III bowls for those teams that don't make the NCAA tournament.
Since the Gallaudet football program returned to NCAA Division III status in 2007 the Bison have been seeking a conference championship and a postseason game. Those goals remain as Gallaudet takes the field for the 2012 campaign. GU has taken steps each year since 2007 to improve the program and get it closer and closer to reaching those goals. Will one or both of those goals be accomplished this year? Bison Nation will need to wait and find out as Gallaudet prepares for another season.
"Our goal is win each day. We want to prepare ourselves and do the things that winners do, to put ourselves in the best position to achieve our goals," said Goldstein.