WASHINGTON, D.C. – The 2010 Gallaudet University football team is ready to take the field and prove last year’s 6-4 record and second place finish in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) was no fluke. The Bison will bolt out of the gates this season with a new head coach as Chuck Goldstein takes over for Ed Hottle who left after five years at the helm. Gallaudet finished the inaugural season of the ECFC on a roll with three consecutive victories and will bring that streak into 2010. The Bison finished tied for second in the conference but lost out on a tiebreaker to send them to the first-ever ECFC championship game. The winning record was the first against a complete varsity schedule since 1930 for GU.
All of the success, awards and accolades earned by the Bison to go with the national rankings in various team statistical categories was not enough to impress the national Division III football website – D3football.com – or the ECFC coaches as the Gallaudet was selected low in both preseason polls. The conference coaches picked Gallaudet to finish fifth out of eight teams and D3football.com pegged the Bison as the 234th best team in the nation out of 238. The prediction by the national website said Gallaudet would win three games, two of which would be conference games. The low predictions are nothing new to the Bison football program that returned to Division III status in 2007 after years as a club program. Gallaudet made great strides last year and hope they have turned the corner on bringing the football program back to prominence regardless of what naysayers think.
Goldstein served as the team’s offensive coordinator last year and implemented a new offensive scheme as he introduced the triple option to the Bison. The triple option forces defenses to stay on its toes as the offense has multiple rushing options on a single play.
“This offense is unique. It is not a traditional offense. It gives us an advantage as we can control the tempo of the game. We want to try and slow the game. The triple option is tough to prepare for,” said Goldstein, who is no stranger to this offense as his alma mater Salisbury University is one of the top triple option programs in Division III.
It took awhile for the Bison offense to embrace the new scheme last year and forced Goldstein to take baby steps in teaching the triple option to the players. The GU players were quick studies as the Bison averaged 290 yards per game on the ground which was the ninth best rushing offense among NCAA Division III programs (235 teams). A year later and 10 games under their belts the Bison are poised and ready to advance their offensive scheme in 2010.
“It is not a new offense now. The whole team is on the same page,” said Goldstein. “We improved every game last year running this offense. We have a lot of returners that know the system.”
Under center and leading the offense is senior quarterback Jimmy Gardner (St. Augustine, Fla.). The honorable mention all-conference quarterback led the Bison in rushing as he carried the ball 218 times for 794 yards (79.4 yards per game average) and scored nine touchdowns. The starter also aired the ball out 53 times for 184 yards and one touchdown.
“We expect big things from Jimmy this year. He is a team captain and the leader of the offense,” said Goldstein. “He knows this offense inside and out and understands what needs to happen on the field.”
In essence the focus of the triple option is the fullback and for the Bison that lead goes to junior Mike Gimeli (Deerpark, N.Y.), who was the second leading rusher for Gallaudet last year with 750 yards on 150 carries and found the end zone five times. Gimeli, like Gardner, was an all-conference honorable mention selection on offense last year.
Sophomore running back Phillip Hayes (Baton Rouge, La.) led the team in scoring last year with 10 rushing touchdowns and racked up 561 yards on the ground. Hayes was named to the all-conference offense second team as a wide receiver and was an honorable mention pick at running back. Senior Cole Johnson (Eden Prairie, Minn.) started every game last year and totaled 418 yards on the ground and scored four touchdowns. As a team the Bison rolled up 2,903 rushing yards last season and returns 94 percent of that rushing attack in 2010.
Sophomore Ryan Bonheyo (Frederick, Md.), a Division I transfer from Towson University, and freshman Michael Hangte (Hutchinson, Minn.) will see some carries this season, as they impressed the coaching staff during training camp.
“We will establish the run but we need to hold onto the ball. Hopefully then we can open up the passing game,” said Goldstein.
Sophomore Ryan Worsham (Chicago, Ill.) is a returning starter at wide receiver and will be looked upon to lead and teach newcomers Nick Elstad (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Josh Hanna (Lower Burrell, Pa.). Sophomore Gabriel Paulone (Fishers, Ind.) will also see time at wide receiver and has experience as a quarterback. Gardner’s other back ups at quarterback include sophomore Anthony Palmer (Unadilla, N.Y.) and freshman Darius Flowers (Springville, Ala.).
One of the key ingredients in making the triple option work is a athletic and strong offensive line. Gallaudet returns two key cogs in senior captain Michel Daze’ (Frederick, Md.) and junior Ryan Mahoney (Branson, Mo.) who will anchor the tackle positions. Mahoney was an all-conference honorable mention at left tackle last season. Freshman Chris Langan (Burtonsville, Md.) will line-up as the starting center his rookie year alongside junior guard Caleb Hinton (Knoxville, Tenn.) and sophomore guard Joshua Ofiu (Anchorage, Alaska).
One of the biggest surprises for Gallaudet last season was the emergence of the defensive unit which by the end of the year was ranked in the top 30 in four different defensive team categories among all NCAA Division III programs. The Bison were the fourth best defense in the country against the pass as they only allowed 109 yards per game and sixth overall in total defense (245.30 yards per game). GU was ranked 29th in pass efficiency defense (100 yards per game) and 30th in scoring defense (16.5 points per game).
Defensive Coordinator John Davis enters his third year with the program, second consecutive at his current position, where he also serves as Assistant Head Coach to Goldstein. Davis said he knew the defensive unit was going to be good in 2009 once he saw how they responded in the first game of the year against the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
“The players were working on fundamentals in a dog fight of a game. I have seen those traits in practice so far this year but you don’t know until your first live action,” said Davis.
Upfront the Bison are big, tough and deep on the defensive line as they return three starters in senior captain Ricky Bailey (Willingboro, N.J.), junior John Van Wey (Alexandria, Va.) and sophomore Kevin Allen (Houston, Texas). Allen and Van Wey were selected all-conference last year as Allen was selected to the second team defense his freshman year while Van Wey was an honorable mention selection. Van Wey led the Bison in sacks (7.5), tackles for loss (16) and fumble recoveries (two) and was third in tackles (47). He was nationally ranked in tackles for loss (31st overall) and sacks (tied for 49th). Allen had a tremendous rookie campaign as he started all 10 games and finished fifth on the team with 42 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss. Coach Davis is excited to see the addition of junior Shawn Holder (Lemon Grove, Calif.) with the returning starters as the Bison will be able to shuttle in six to eight different players on the defensive line. Freshman Adham Talaat (Springfield, Va.) is another exciting addition, as the 6-foot-6 lineman checks in at 285 pounds and should make an immediate impact.
Sophomore Tom Pangia (Hammonton, N.J.) had a very decorated freshman season as the 5-foot-11 linebacker earned the 2009 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III Northeast Region Rookie of the Year and shared the ECFC Rookie of the Year award while being one of two freshmen selected to the all-conference defense first team. He led the Bison with 66 tackles, the most by a freshman in the conference, and was ninth in the ECFC for tackles for a loss (0.70 per game) for 15 yards. Pangia also snagged two interceptions.
“Tom is at a point where he will stay stagnant or make the jump to become an elite player at the Division III level,” said Davis. “We think he can make that jump. He has become a leader for us.”
Pangia will be flanked by some new faces in the 4-4 defense, especially at the outside linebacker spots where the Bison will have two new starters this season. Two transfer players in junior Ty Primous (Lynwood, Ill.), a transfer from Joliet (Ill.) Junior College, and sophomore Javarous Faulk (Macon, Ga.), a transfer from Saint Augustine College (Division II), will be a big addition to the linebacker corp. Senior Dmitry Rossoshansky (Chicago, Ill.) and sophomore Clayton Grossinger (Frederick, Md.) return and freshman Matt Harris (Lynchburg, Va.) enters with speed to burn as the Bison will be quicker at linebacker in 2010.
Gallaudet’s secondary was delivered a blow this off-season when all-conference first team safety Jared Vollmar went down with an injury and will not play this season. The Bison turn to senior Justin Wilson (Carmichael, Calif.), who is also the team’s special teams kicker and punter, to anchor the defensive backs. Wilson was selected to the all-conference offense and defense second teams last year for his dual positions. On defense, Wilson is the team’s top cover guy. Wilson will be paired up with sophomore defensive back Tony Tatum (Gardendale, Ala.), who is also a standout on the hardwood at Gallaudet with the men’s basketball team.
“Tony was the surprise of training camp,” said Davis. “He made every play and is very coachable. He is everything you could ask for in a cornerback.”
To give the Bison more depth in the secondary, senior Neal DiMarco (Queens, N.Y.) and sophomore Shelby Bean (Arvada, Colo.) moved from linebacker to safety this year. The pair brings two different styles to the table and both are getting used to the new position, as they will help one of the top pass defenses in the country.
Davis is not worried about where the Bison ended up ranked nationally in the various defensive categories, as he and the rest of the coaches prefer to let the statistics fall where they may.
“We challenge ourselves every game. We set our goals each game and if we meet those goals we will win football games,” said Davis.
The special teams unit is led by aforementioned Wilson, who was named to the all-conference offense second team as a kicker last year. He was a three-time ECFC Special Teams Player of the Week last season as he finished fourth in the conference for scoring (kick) with 30 points (3.3 points per game) as he converted 24-of-28 extra-point attempts and two field goals with a long of 35 yards. Wilson was also sixth in the conference in punting with a 32.8 yards per punt average.
“Special teams is an important part of the game,” said Goldstein. “It sets my mind at ease when you have someone as special as Justin leading that unit. He is a senior leader with a lot of experience.”
A new addition to Gallaudet’s special teams is freshman long snapper Steven Barber (Denver, Colo.) who offers a lot of experience and skill at his position.
Coach Goldstein will turn to speedsters Hayes and Tatum to head up the return game for the Bison on special teams this season. Hayes recorded 11 kick returns in 2009 for 189 yards as he averaged 17.2 yards per return.
“If we can get some points from special teams that would be a great bonus,” said Goldstein. “We have some skill guys that can help our field position.”
The 2010 season kicks off for the Bison on Saturday, September 4, on the road in Kings Point, N.Y., when Gallaudet goes up against the United States Merchant Marine Academy in a non-conference game. Last year the Mariners pulled away from the Bison in the second half en route to a 38-14 victory. GU remains on the road the following weekend when it will travel to The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Media, Pa., to play its club team. The Bison home opener is September 18 at home against the George Mason University club team.
“We need a quicker start to the season. We stumbled out of the gates last year but by the end of the year we won three straight,” said Goldstein. “The first half [first three weeks] of the schedule we hope will prepare us for conference play and in the end help us bring home a championship.
The road gets a lot tougher on September 25 when the Bison begin its second year of conference play in the ECFC. Gallaudet will welcome Castleton State College to Kendall Green. The month of October starts with back-to-back lengthy road trips to Husson University in Maine on October 2 followed by a bus ride to Vermont to face defending ECFC champion Norwich University the following weekend. In two weeks the Bison will tally nearly 2,500 miles. To put that in perspective the 2,500 miles logged on those two trips would be the same amount of miles it would take to drive from Gallaudet to Las Vegas.
“We have a tough stretch during the middle of the schedule which includes back-to-back road trips to Norwich (Vermont) and Husson (Maine). Those road trips are going to really test us mentally and physically,” said Goldstein. “We have to play well on the road this season.”
The Bison posted a 2-3 record on the road last year as GU lost its first three road games of the year in 2009.
GU finally returns home on October 16 to welcome Mount Ida College to campus before hitting the road once more with a trip to Leicester, Mass., to go up against Becker College. Homecoming Weekend brings Anna Maria College to campus on October 30 with an expected kick-off time of 1:30 p.m. The Bison wrap-up the regular-season on Friday, November 5, with a night game with SUNY Maritime at 7 p.m.
“The ECFC is a great conference for us. It is a very competitive conference from top to bottom. Anybody can win any week,” added Goldstein.
This year’s team has adopted the team motto of “Finish the Mission” and hope to accomplish their goal with a conference championship. The pieces are in place on offense, defense and special teams for the Bison to prove they were no fluke. If the Bison are successful at finishing the mission they may want to amend the motto to include the fact that they are not a one-hit wonder.
“Our goal is to win the conference championship. Last year, the goal was to compete and now we want to take the next step and win the conference,” said Goldstein.