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Season Preview: Gallaudet goes on the offensive in 2013 as Bison compete for an ECFC championship

Season Preview: Gallaudet goes on the offensive in 2013 as Bison compete for an ECFC championship

WASHINGTON – The Gallaudet University football program has made great strides under the direction of head coach Chuck Goldstein, who enters his fourth year leading the Bison and fifth with the program. The Bison compiled a 7-3 overall record and 5-2 mark in Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) action last season.

Gallaudet won its final two games last season, which included a 29-22 win over the Mount Ida, the eventual conference champion, handing the Mustangs their only ECFC loss. The Bison won three of the final four games in the 2012 season and posted a 4-1 record on the road. In the previous three seasons the Bison have won one more conference game each season. If the trend continues in 2013 then Gallaudet will be on the doorstep of winning its first-ever ECFC championship.

The Bison graduated several key players from last year's team, especially on defense, but young and eager underclassmen have been training hard to step into these vacated positions.

Here is a breakdown of the 2013 Gallaudet Bison football team.

OFFENSE

Gallaudet was a top three offense last year in the conference as the Bison averaged 32 points per game and led the ECFC in rushing with 272.8 yards per game and 26 rushing touchdowns. GU returns one of the best offensive lines in the ECFC in moving defenders off the line. The Bison have several playmakers in the backfield that should give defenses fits this season as GU will try to score at will to help out its defense.

The Bison return four starters on the offensive line led by ECFC first team offensive lineman Chris Langan (Burtonsville, Md.), who enters his senior season and is one of six team captains for the Bison. Sophomore left tackle Todd Collins (East Islip, N.Y.) stepped in as a freshman last year and could be primed for an all-conference type season. Junior Shawn Madden (Cincinnati, Ohio) returns under center and is flanked by sophomore Leo Parnell (Boston, Mass.) at left guard.

GU quarterback Todd Bonheyo makes a throw during a night game last season. Sophomore Todd Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.), the 2012 ECFC Rookie of the Year, will start under center after starting eight games before going down with a season-ending injury. He finished with 772 passing yards, nine touchdowns and ran for 690 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. The Bison return another ECFC Rookie of the Year and a player who is returning from an injury suffered two years ago in sophomore Quentin Williams (Chesapeake, Va.). To refresh memories, Williams ran for 609 yards and seven touchdowns in only seven games played in the 2011 season before going down with a season-ending injury.

"You can count on both quarterbacks seeing action this season because both of them do many things well," said Goldstein. "Between the two of them we can mix it up and give defenses some different looks."

The Bison are deep at the running back position and will filter in and out fresh legs throughout the game. Sophomore running back BJ Flores (Raymondville, Texas) and senior team captain Ryan Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.) anchor the unit for the buff and blue. Flores in his rookie campaign carried the ball 85 times for 448 yards and three touchdowns. Ryan Bonheyo was second on the team with seven rushing touchdowns and 461 yards last year. Sophomore Braxton Baker (Webb City, Mo.) and senior team captain Mike Hantge (Hutchinson, Minn.) are two additional backs that are explosive through the line. Baker was second on the team with 98 carries and 488 yards last season and three scores. Hantge saw action in nine games and tallied 146 yards on the ground.

New faces you will see on offense in 2013 include running back Justin Ewing and Chris Papacek, who will add a new wrinkle to the offense.

There is an open competition currently at the wide receiver positions as Goldstein and his coaching staff look to find someone to fill the shoes of Ryne Worsham, an All-ECFC second team wide out who caught 23 passes for 344 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012.

DEFENSE

A rebuilding project is underway on defense as the Bison lost four all-conference first teamers including four-time All-ECFC first team linebacker Tom Pangia and 2012 ECFC Defensive Player of the Year Tony Tatum, who just completed his first season with the Utah Blaze in the Arena Football League. The Bison also need to fill spots left by Jared Pearce and Shelby Bean, both first team defenders, and all-conference second team lineman Kevin Allen.

Several key pieces return from last year's defense that allowed 19.7 points per game, 116 yards rushing per game and ranked first in the conference in sacks (32).

GU's defense makes a tackle against Norwich last season Senior Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.) will anchor the defensive line as the NFL prospect was a menace upfront as he made 7.5 sacks for a loss of 54 yards and 12.5 tackles for a loss of 75 yards to go with 45 tackles, five forced fumbles, four pass break ups and four passes defended. Talaat, who stands 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, earned all-conference second team honors in 2012.

"Adham is in the best shape of his life and we have high goals for him this season. We expect him to dominate every single play on the defensive line," said Goldstein.

Junior Jaris Alleyne (Waldorf, Md.), the lone All-ECFC first team defender returning this season, led the team with 73 tackles last year. Alleyne had nine tackles for a loss of 39 yards, two sacks for 15 yards, one interception returned 51 yards and forced a fumble and pass breakup.

The Bison secondary will have a new look with the loss of Tatum. Junior team captain AJ McCrea (Kennesaw, Ga.) will match-up with the opponent's top receiver after being picked on a year ago playing opposite of Tatum. Senior team captain Nicholas Elstad (Colorado Springs, Colo.) switches from offense to defense to help out at safety. Elstad was an honorable mention All-ECFC player last year at running back and an emergency quarterback at the end of the season. He is a leader that will help fill the void left by Pangia and Tatum.

Several new faces should have an impact on defense and they include junior college transfer Matt Taylor, linebacker Cornelius Smith and corner back Eric Givens.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Bison special teams, like the defensive unit, will need to find a new punt returner with the graduation of Tatum. GU was able to flip the field position a lot last season thanks to the returns made by Tatum. He was named the 2012 ECFC Special Teams Player of the Year as he field 22 punts and returned them 333 yards and two touchdowns. Goldstein will use a combination of Ryan Bonheyo, Williams and Givens in the punt return game and Ryan Bonheyo, Elstad and Williams as returners on kickoffs. Bonheyo returned 21 kickoffs for 476 yards while Elstad fielded seven kickoffs for 154 yards and one touchdown.

"Any time you lose an All-American and a two-time conference player of the year it is an area of concern," said Goldstein on the loss of Tatum. "We are confident in our players and I know one of these guys can step up and make some plays for us."

Sophomore kicker Chase Magsig (Hudsonville, Mich.) is back and gives the Bison a weapon to get points on the scoreboard when GU marches into enemy territory. There is a punting competition between Magsig and Taylor currently to replace Bean.

SCHEDULE

Gallaudet opens the season on the road against Shenandoah University on Saturday, Sept. 7, under the lights at 7 p.m. This will mark the first time the two teams have meet since the 2001 season.

The Bison will kick off their home schedule at Hotchkiss Field with back-to-back home games against The Apprentice School on Sept. 14 at 1 p.m. and University of Rochester (N.Y.) on Sept. 21 at 12:05 p.m. GU will then have a bye week before it dives into conference play.

Gallaudet starts play in the ECFC on the road as the Bison travel to Mount Ida on Oct. 5 for a noon start. Mount Ida is the defending ECFC champion. GU returns home to host Norwich on Oct. 12 at noon before heading to Vermont to take on Castleton St. College on Oct. 19 at noon. 

"Overall the conference has consistently improved year after year. We are going to be tested the first three weeks of the conference schedule in October," said Goldstein. "We will know where we stand early on in the conference. I think those are three of the top teams in the conference."

Homecoming will be held on Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. as the Bison host Husson University from Maine.

Gallaudet will start November on the road against Becker College on Nov. 2 at noon. The final home game of the regular-season will take place on Nov. 9 at noon when the Bison face-off against Anna Maria College before finishing up the season on the road at SUNY Maritime College on Nov. 16 at noon.

"This conference graduated some great seniors last season. Five teams will start with new starting quarterbacks this year," said Goldstein. "It is going to be interesting to see what underclassmen step up and fill these key roles."

SUMMARY

The team goal remains the same in 2013 as it did last year and years prior and that is a conference championship. The Bison have gotten close and the continued improvement shown in their conference records is an encouraging sign that the program is headed in the right direction. GU has been unlucky that past few years, losing its starting quarterback late in the season, and finished on the outside looking in at the ECFC champion. The Bison hope better luck along with new faces and experienced players back will be the right recipe for a championship.

"We just want to compete week in and week out. Our motto this season is one day at a time," said Goldstein. "If we can stay healthy this could be a very special team."