Tuesday, August 28, 2001
|FOOTBALL AIMS TO CONTINUE CLIMB|
MULES RANKED IN PRESEASON TOP 25
The Muhlenberg College football team was ranked 16th in Division III by Lindys National College Football preview magazine. The magazine, which tabbed defending national champion Mt. Union as the preseason No. 1, ranked Centennial Conference rival Western Maryland fourth and identified the Sept. 29 Western Maryland-at-Muhlenberg matchup as one of the big games of the year in Division III.
The complete poll:
1. Mt. Union (Ohio)
Lindys also named senior Joshua Carter to its preseason All-America second team as an all-purpose player. Carter was named to d3football.coms preseason All-America first team.
MULES TABBED SECOND IN CC PRESEASON POLL
1. Western Maryland (12) ... 72 points
Mules Begin Season at Kings Point Saturday
The challenge for Muhlenberg in 2001 will be to keep that trend going. The Mules begin their season Saturday with a non-conference game at Kings Point.
The team returns only 14 of 24 starters, but welcomes back players with starting experience at nearly every position. The most notable exception is quarterback, where Muhlenberg will have to replace the schools all-time leading passer.
I am more excited for this season than any other before, said senior co-captain Doug Folger, a first-team All-Centennial Conference linebacker last year. This team can be as good as it wants to be. We have high expectations.
Its said that offense wins reputation but defense wins championships, and that was the case for Muhlenberg. While the Mules high-powered offense garnered most of the headlines the last four years, it was the improvement of the defense that ultimately led them to the ECAC title last fall.
Muhlenberg allowed 16.3 points and 319.2 yards per game in 2000, down from 22.3 and 404.4 in 1999.
Senior All-Centennial Conference tackle Ian Ximinies is the leading returning tackler on the line, with 37 stops, including 7½ for loss, a year ago. He is joined on the inside by fourth-year veteran Jon Buglione. The Mules also welcome back two ends senior Tyler Cathey and junior Michael Ferreira who did not play last year but were key team members in 1999.
The starting linebacking corps returns intact, with junior Beau Sherry (61 tackles) and senior Jon-Paul Skarpetowski (27 tackles, 7 for loss) flanking Folger (team-leading 81 tackles, 8½ for loss). Junior Christopher Brown (25 tackles) and senior P.J. Villani (11) add considerable experience.
The secondary has two big shoes to fill, one for an All-America cornerback and one for a four-year starter at rover. Returning starters are senior Erik Hammar (43 tackles, 2 interceptions) at free safety and junior Jordan Wright (3 interceptions, 8 pass breakups) at one corner. Seniors Kit Spicer (21 tackles) and Sergio Masvidal (8), who saw action in nickel situations last year, will compete for the open slots, as will junior Steve Doll (18 tackles, one interception) and sophomore Joe Getz (9 tackles, 2 interceptions).
A funny thing happened on the way to the championship ... Muhlenberg began using its running game more effectively. Over the first five games of the 2000 season, the Mules scored 15 touchdowns by pass and six by rush. Those numbers were nearly reversed for the final six games: 16 by ground and only seven by air.
One of the reasons for the reversal was the emergence of sophomore Matt Bernardo, who tied a school record with 16 touchdowns and rushed for at least 200 yards in two of his first three starts at tailback. Another was a powerful offensive line that included three All-CC players and one All-American. Returning starters Nick Tranguch (All-CC at left guard), Joseph Muccia (right guard) and John Blankenhagen (right tackle) are joined by former All-CC tackle Keith Mann, who missed most of 2000 with an injury. Junior Justin Hurlburt and sophomore Christopher Radomski also played quite a bit last year.
A strong rushing game will ease the transition for the new starting quarterback. The lone returnee with varsity experience is junior Justin Jones, who has 63 career attempts. So will an experienced group of receivers, headed by senior Centennial Conference co-offensive player of the year Joshua Carter (60 catches, 1,041 yards, school-record 14 touchdowns). Senior Wes Spence (18 catches) and junior Alfredo Mercuri (16) both saw starting time in 2000.
Carter, a two-time All-American as a kick returner, will once again lead the Muhlenberg special teams.
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Last updated August 28, 2001