CMU has a hard-hitting humanitarian

More news about: Carnegie Mellon
Akwasi Brefo (43) averages nine total tackles a game for Carnegie Mellon and is one of the crucial reasons his team is off to its best start in six years.
Carnegie Mellon athletics photo

Akwasi Brefo has been making difference for the Carnegie Mellon football team all season.

During a 4-0 start for the Tartans, the junior linebacker has made his presence felt with a team-best 36 tackles. He has also racked up three sacks.

But the impact Brefo has made off of the field is something that will last long after his career with the Tartans is finished.

He was in Rwanda over the summer. It was part of a humanitarian trip in which he was able to help teach elementary school students how to use laptop computers.

"The government is working on overhauling the education system, and they purchased laptops for the students,” he said. “They were still in the boxes when we got there. We taught them the basics of computer use, and they also worked on programs that taught them about art and music."

The experience was rewarding. He was amazed by the progress the children made as time went on. 

"By the end of it, some of the kids had created their own games on the computers," Brefo said. "It was really neat. I gained a lot from the trip. It was great being able to help give the children an opportunity to learn something new."

What Brefo didn't realize was how much effort went into teaching students.

"It's a lot of work," Brefo said. "I didn't know how tiring teaching could be, but by the end of each day, I was drained. It takes a lot out of you, but the experience was worth it."

Speaking of drained, Brefo arrived back in Pittsburgh less than 24 hours before the start of a new school year. 

"I got back at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, and I was worn out," Brefo said. "For about two weeks I dealt with being jet-lagged. It was rough, especially with getting back to playing football again, but I eventually got back into my routine."

The thing about the trip, though, was that Brefo wasn't able to participate in preseason camp. But head coach Rich Lackner was understanding about the situation and never worried that missing football camp would have a negative impact on Brefo's performance on the field.

"He came back in great shape, which isn't a surprise because he has a tremendous work ethic," Lackner said. "The trip was something he felt compelled to do, and we supported him. He is a very upbeat and intelligent young man. He is someone on the team that other players look up to."

Once upon a time, Brefo was a long way from becoming a standout football player. Until he was 10, he lived in Ghana in West Africa and knew nothing about the game of football, at least not the American version of it.

Brefo was a soccer player and even continued playing soccer in high school. He and his family moved to Georgia when he was 10, and he started watching football games on television. 

In middle school, he got his first taste of playing football. It didn't go too well early on, although as he looks back at it, Brefo can only laugh at those early days of learning the game.

"My coach called me over during a drill and told me to block this other kid. I tackled him," Brefo said. "It was pretty funny. It took me time to learn how to play the game. The more I learned, the better I got at the game."

Not only did he become a star on the football field, but he also had success in soccer as well. Playing both sports proved beneficial to him.

"The agility and movement that comes with being a soccer player really helped me as a football player," Brefo said. "I felt like I was in the best shape of my life when I was playing soccer."

Four games into his junior season, he certainly appears to be at his best on the football field, tallying 20 more tackles than he had all of last season.

"The repetitions he has gotten have made a big difference," Lackner said. "He has great physical tools and has taken advantage of his opportunities to make plays. He also has a better understanding of what is expected of him."

Brefo said his focus has been key as well.

"I am lot more focused on what I have to do to make plays," Brefo said. "I've played hard and I'm taking advantage of the opportunity I have to show what I can do as a football player. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help my team win football games."

Not much was expected of Carnegie Mellon this year. The Tartans were 5-5 a year ago and haven't won a University Athletic Association championship since 2006. They haven't been to the postseason since 2006 either.

"It's a tremendous feeling to be unbeaten," Brefo said. "We have been focused, and we have pushed ourselves to be the best we can be. We have a lot of work to do, but we are definitely headed in the right direction."

Lackner said the leadership certain players have shown, including Brefo, has played a vital role in the strong start.

"We have super leaders on both sides of the ball," Lackner said. "We are doing a good job of taking care of the football and have done a good job of focusing on the task at hand each week. Our hard work has been paying off."

As great as 4-0 is, Brefo isn't satisfied. He knows the Tartans are capable of accomplishing so much more.

"We just have to keep going at it every week," Brefo said. "If we stay healthy and we continue to get better as a team every week, we are going to have a chance to win more games. We're looking forward to more success."

In the poll

As impressive as Mount Union has been offensively, the defense of the No. 1 Purple Raiders hasn't been bad either.

Mount Union blanked its second consecutive opponent on Saturday, hammering Marietta 52-0 under the lights in a OAC road game.

The Purple Raiders, who have the top-ranked defense in the nation, limited the Pioneers to 90 yards, including just 19 in the second half, as they improved to 3-0 overall and to 2-0 in the conference.

Nick Driskill had a huge impact on the defensive effort, racking up seven tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble. Frank Orteca tallied seven tackles as well and also recovered a fumble. Alex Nicholls finished with six tackles for a Mount Union defense that held the Pioneers to no rushing yards and came through with nine sacks.

The performance helped Mount Union win its 66th consecutive game in the regular season and head coach Larry Kehres won the 320th game of his career, pushing him past Pop Warner for fifth all-time on the career wins list in college football.

Baldwin Wallace nearly suffered an upset at the hands of Muskingum on Saturday. The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 14 heading into the game, needed overtime to edge the Muskies 13-6 on Saturday.

Josh Masters caught a 22-yard scoring strike from Ryan O'Rourke on Baldwin Wallace's first possession of OT and made sure Muskingum stayed out of the end zone by breaking up two passes and registering a sack.

The Muskies led 6-3 going into the fourth quarter but Chris Mohler's 23-yard field goal tied the game and forced an extra session. Baldwin Wallace is 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the OAC. It fell to No. 15 in the poll this week and has won its last four games dating back to the 2011 season.

For the first time since 2004, Wabash suffered a loss to Allegheny when Ryan Mong nailed a 28-yard field goal for a 20-17 win, snapping a 14-game home win streak.

The Little Giants, ranked seventh in the nation entering its game against the Gators were also beaten by Allegheny in overtime in 2004.

The Little Giants, now No. 17 in the country, struggled to stop the run, giving up 176 yards. They came into the contest allowing only 28.5 yards per game.

Wabash (2-1) was unable to force a turnover either and allowed the Gators to hang on to the ball for more than 30 minutes. 

Tyler Holmes was one of the few bright spots for Wabash. In his first game this season, the junior running back rushed for 108 yards and scored on a 27-yard touchdown to give Wabash a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.

Thomas More went into its game against Waynesburg ranked No. 23 in the country. A 14-10 loss on Saturday in a PAC tilt knocked the Saints out of the poll.

Thomas More (1-2, 1-1 PAC) led 10-7 in the third quarter after a 21-yard field goal by Tim Gormly, but Willie Leavell blocked a punt and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the deal on the mild upset.

Zach Autenrieb played well despite the loss. He tallied five solo tackles and picked off two passes as he did his best to keep the Saints in the game. Autenrieb now needs just two picks to tie the Division III record of 29.

Waynesburg led 7-0 after one quarter, but Thomas More tied the game in the second quarter on a Landon Savoy's 10-yard run.

Star power

Aaron Kingcade threw for a career-high 238 yards and one touchdown and also rushed for two touchdowns while the defense of Otterbein held an opponent to less than 10 points for the third consecutive game as the Cardinals topped John Carroll 21-7.

Otterbein is 3-0 overall for the first time since 2009. It is 2-0 in the OAC, and its three wins ties its victory total from a year ago.

Kingcade was 15-of-24 passing and rushed for 33 yards. He completed five of his passes to Steven Carpenter, who set a career-high in receptions and tallied 129 receiving yards. Carptenter highlighted his effort with a 69-yard touchdown reception.

Patrick Seesholtz played a vital role in the success of the defense, notching seven tackles, including four tackles for a loss. He also registered one sack and forced a fumble on a day when Otterbein limited the Blue Streaks to a 4-of-13 showing on third down.

Louis Danesi stepped up big defensively for Trine in its 28-13 win over Taylor on Saturday.

Danesi had 10 tackles in the victory, which was Trine's second of the season, and also sacked the quarterback twice. Three of his tackles were for a loss as the Thunder snapped a two-game losing streak. 

Danesi is third on the team in tackles with 31.

JaVontae Hence turned in a strong performance as well for the Thunder. He rolled up 216 all-purpose yards catching a 50-yard touchdown pass and returning a punt 79 yards for a score during a momentum-swinging third quarter in which the Thunder surged in front 14-10 after trailing 10-0 at halftime.

Despite playing without starters Tim McNerney (running back) and Gavin Donathan (defensive tackle), Washington and Jefferson won it's second consecutive game on Saturday with a 17-0 victory over Thiel.

It was the first shutout for the Presidents since 2011 when it slammed Juniata 40-0 in their season opener. Linebacker John Hunter helped fuel the solid defensive effort, tallying seven tackles and two sacks. One of his sacks came at just the right time as he registered it on a fourth-and-goal situation for the Tomcats in the fourth quarter.

Hunter helped the Presidents limit the Tomcats to just 168 yards of offense. The Presidents tallied five sacks in all and also came through with two interceptions in the win.

Alex Baroffio was called upon to play at quarterback after starting the game as a receiver. Starter Matt Biss went down with an injury, and Baroffio threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Creek just before halftime as the Presidents went in front 14-0.

Baroffio finished his day completing six of his 11 passes for 72 yards. He caught three passes for 34 yards.

Wittenberg continued its dominance of Wooster on Saturday, edging the Fighting Scots 17-7 for its 34th win in 47 meetings. The Tigers also won at Wooster for the sixth time in eight road games against the Scots.

Will Stocker and Jimmy Dehnke helped pave the way with strong rushing efforts. Stocker rushed for 119 yards, and Dehnke added 79 yards on the ground. Reed Florence, who completed 13 of his 25 passes for 148 yards and two scores, ran for 63 yards.

The Tigers, who trailed 7-3 at halftime, tallied 148 yards through the air and rolled up 251 yards on the ground. 

The Scots managed only 58 yards on the ground and 123 through the air.

Still perfect

As the season rolls ahead, the ranks of the unbeaten get smaller. 

In the OAC, four teams are still perfect in Mount Union, Heidelberg, Baldwin Wallace and Otterbein. That number will be down to at least three after this weekend because Baldwin Wallace will host Otterbein in a 1:30 p.m. game.

There are no unbeaten teams left in the MIAA. Albion and Kalamazoo have the best records at 3-1.

Only one team is still perfect in the PAC and that is Waynesburg, which will look to stay atop the conference when it faces Thiel in a 1:30 p.m. game on Saturday.

Wittenberg and Ohio Wesleyan are the only perfect teams left in the NCAC. The Tigers play at Case Western Reserve in a 1 p.m. game this week, and the Bishops host Hiram in a 7 p.m. tilt.

Carnegie Mellon remains perfect as well, sitting at 4-0 for the first time since the 2006 season. The Tartans will put their unblemished record on the line against national power Wabash in a 2 p.m. road game.


Tate Humprehy made his first career start at quarterback for Ohio Northern on Saturday and made the most of it, throwing for 177 yards on 15-of-23 passing as the Polar Bears beat Capital 28-14. The senior threw for two touchdowns and also ran for a touchdown in the win...Despite a 17-14 loss to Ohio Wesleyan, Case linebackers Kevin Nossem and Wade Self played well. Nossem and Self tallied nine and seven tackles, respectively, on a day when the Spartans fell to 2-2 on the year. Cornerback Brandon Flick racked up seven tackles as well...Heidelberg rolled up a school-record 695 yards of offense in a 52-6 drubbing of Wilmington and running back Cartel Brooks played a key role. Brooks rushed for a career-high 227 yards and three touchdowns. His 99-yard touchdown run was the longest in program history...In a 35-16 win over Central, Albion strong safety Wes Dolen picked off two passes to help the Britons secure the win at home. Albion has won three of its first four games, and Dolen has a total of three interceptions this season...Waynesburg didn't go over 200 yards rushing for the first time this season but it still managed to earn a 14-10 upset win over No. 23 Thomas More. Running back Dominic Moore led the attack with 106 yards, his second consecutive 100-yard game. The Yellow Jackets finished with 165 rushing yards...Carnegie Mellon got a huge lift from wide receiver Timothy Swanson in its 51-28 win over DePauw. Swanson caught four passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns, including an 83-yard scoring strike on the first play of the game...Grove City running back Shane Kaclik rushed for a career-high five touchdowns for the Wolverines in their 44-40 come-from-behind Homecoming win over Bethany. Safety Joe Diani stepped up on defense for Grove City, picking off two passes and forcing a fumble....Trine running back Mike Inge rushed a season and career-high 130 yards in the Thunder's 28-13 win over Taylor. Inge highlighted the effort with a 49-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. It was the longest run of his career.

Contact me

I love hearing from the readers and feel free to share your thoughts in addition to potential story ideas. Also, don't hesitate to let me know something remarkable a player or team did in a game. You can reach me at brian.lester@d3sports.com or follow me on Twitter: @BLester1993.

Joe Sager

Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.

2012-14 columnist: Brian Lester
2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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