GETTYSBURG, Pa. – For the Gettysburg College football team, the latter part of the 2010 season was anything but dull.
Over the final six games, the Bullets posted a pair of dramatic come-from-behind victories, won back the Little Brown Bucket from Dickinson, engaged in a triple-overtime thriller at McDaniel, and closed the season with a 57-point explosion in a win over Franklin & Marshall.
But even more importantly, Gettysburg won five of its last six games to finish with its first winning season since 2007, closing at 6-4 and tying for fifth in the Centennial Conference at 5-4.
With 15 returning starters, the Orange & Blue will look to channel the positive momentum into a successful 2011 campaign.
"It served as a springboard," said head coach Barry Streeter, who enters his 33rd season at the helm, on the team's second-half success. "I think our offseason was good and that our kids have a lot of confidence. I believe they are focused on what they want to accomplish."
The Bullets found themselves in a position to win nearly every week in 2010, with each of their four losses decided by 10 points or less. Two of the team's four setbacks came in overtime.
"We finished a lot of games – you had to play us the whole time," said Streeter. "I think that's something the kids really hung their hats on – we battled until the end."
For yet another season, Gettysburg established itself as one of the top offensive programs in the Centennial Conference and Division III. The Bullets led the conference in scoring offense (39.4 points per game), total offense (464.1 yards per game), and rushing offense (248.2 ypg) while finishing 13th in Division III in all three categories. The Bullets also set school records for points in a season (394), touchdowns in a season (53), and rushing touchdowns in a regular season (33).
Though the offense must address the loss of many vital pieces from a year ago, it will benefit from the return of senior quarterback Kyle Whitmoyer, who registered a strong season in his first year as a starter, as well as two-time all-conference tackle James Monreale.
Defensively, the Bullets will feature one of their most experienced units in recent memory with the return of 10 starters, including their top six tacklers from 2010. The defense, which showed flashes of brilliancy at times a year ago, will look to build off the team's successful finish in which it shut down opponents in several key stretches.
On special teams, Gettysburg will face the challenge of replacing all four of its key performers who graduated last spring.
Only five starters return on the offensive side of the ball for coordinator Kevin Burke and his Spread Wing set, which was hit particularly hard at the skill positions. Graduation claimed starters at tailback, wide receiver, and both wing positions, as well as an excellent backup tailback who saw significant action. Many of those players held school records or finished highly in numerous offensive categories.
"We lost a lot of guys that scored a lot of points for us and made a lot of plays," said Streeter. "That's the challenge that we have as a staff and as a team. The nice thing is, we have two really good quarterbacks that have experience. We have three of our five starters back on the offensive line, and we have three tight ends that played all the way through last season. We've got guys who played a lot of football, but the guys who got a lot of touches are gone."
The signal-calling duties are in good hands with the return of Whitmoyer, who enjoyed an outstanding debut season for the Bullets, as well as junior Kody Smith, who was brilliant in the team's season-ending win over F&M.
The multi-talented Whitmoyer started the first nine games of the season and displayed tremendous poise for a first-year starter. He opened the season by showcasing his scrambling ability, rushing for 137 yards and three touchdowns in a win at Lebanon Valley. While he finished with 501 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground, he also proved to be an effective passer, throwing for 1,767 yards, 12 touchdowns, and just five interceptions. His leadership was evident in a pair of back-to-back comebacks, starting with a 28-24 victory at Dickinson in which the Bullets trailed by 17 in the second quarter. He proceeded to engineer one of the most thrilling performances in program history, as Gettysburg erased a 23-point deficit in the final 18 minutes of a 61-50 win over Susquehanna. Whitmoyer threw for 374 yards and five touchdowns as the Bullets ended the game on a 34-0 run.
After serving as the team's backup all season, Smith was called to action late in a Week 9 thriller at McDaniel. When Whitmoyer suffered a season-ending injury, Smith played the fourth quarter and all three overtimes in the Green Terror victory, but rebounded to post a sparkling performance against F&M, throwing for 281 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in his first collegiate start.
"When your trigger guy is inexperienced, or you're not sure who it's going to be, that throws the whole rhythm of the offense off," said Streeter. "And when you have two guys, you don't have that fear of, 'if this guy gets hurt, we're really going to be in trouble.' Also, I think it's great for the young quarterbacks coming in because they can learn without being put in the fire right away."
Whitmoyer and Smith will have plenty of underclassmen to guide as the Bullets will open camp with nine quarterbacks, including six freshmen.
Competition is wide-open at tailback.
Gone from last year are Jamel Mutunga '11, a three-time all-conference performer and the sixth-leading rusher in school history, along with Anthony DeSalva '11. The two combined for 1,499 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2010. Along with several freshmen, four returning players will compete for playing time this season in senior Luke Johnson, junior Ted Delia, sophomore Sean Boone, and sophomore Malcolm Perry.
Delia and Perry were the only returning tailbacks to receive action in 2010, playing sparingly at the end of a blowout victory at Juniata. Delia was impressive in his brief outing, rushing for 68 yards and one touchdown on six carries while catching an additional touchdown pass while Perry rushed for 17 yards on four carries in the same game.
Johnson moves back to tailback after competing as a defensive back last season.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
At receiver, the Bullets lost Brian Betley '11, who finished second in school history in receiving yards. However, his spot in the lineup will likely be filled by junior Kyle Davis, who received regular playing time a year ago and finished with 12 catches for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomores Chris Lewis and Aden Twer will provide additional options, while several freshmen could also see time on the field.
A three-man rotation returns at tight end, where senior Dennis Bazow, senior Mack Krush, and junior Matt Brophy shared the job last season. Of the three, Brophy finished with the most catches, hauling in 13 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown.
The Bullets were also hit hard by graduation at wing, losing both starters including Charles Curcio '11, the program's all-time leader in receptions.
Much like at tailback, a number of players will be in the hunt for a starting job, including both of last season's top backups in senior John Pesce and sophomore Tommy LeNoir. Pesce played well in a limited role in 2009, making three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown against Lebanon Valley. LeNoir carried the ball three times for 27 yards last season. They will be pushed by sophomores Kevin Carter, Peter Fessenden, and Jon Smoker. A host of freshmen will also compete for playing time.
James Monreale is a three-year starter and two-time all-conference tackle.Offensive Line
The offensive line returns three starters, led by Monreale. Entering his fourth year as the starting left tackle, the senior has earned a spot on the All-Centennial Conference second team in each of the last two seasons.
"He's a very good football player – he uses his leverage very well," said Streeter. "But he's also developed into a really good leader. He's gotten better as a player each year, but he has also asserted himself as a leader, and it's been a real positive for the team."
The Bullets also bring back both of their starting guards from last season in seniors Kyle Reutter and Walter Ackermann, who started all 10 games on the left and right sides, respectively. Junior Jim Bennett will also be in contention for playing time at guard.
At center, senior Tom Piccirillo is the frontrunner to step in after serving as a backup last season and turning in a solid spring. The right tackle position is open, but the top backups from last season – senior Dan Scott and junior Jake Treinish – do return.
Streeter is excited at the prospects of his experienced defensive group, which lost only one starter to graduation.
"I feel really good about our returning players," said Streeter. "They had a really good spring. But I think the big thing for us will be to focus better as a team – to avoid the highs and lows and be more steady."
While the defense may not have posted spectacular numbers, it came through in the clutch at numerous times down the stretch. During its two big comebacks, Gettysburg shut out Dickinson in the second half and held Susquehanna scoreless over the final six possessions. And in the team's season finale, the Bullets blanked F&M for nearly a 30-minute stretch while allowing only two first downs during a 41-0 mid-game run.
Led by defensive coordinator Shaun Weaver, the Bullets will employ a 4-2-5 set.
On the line, the Bullets bring back one starting defensive end – senior Chris Douthett – and both of their starting defensive tackles in seniors Chad Bucur and Chris Burton.
Douthett played in eight games last season and made seven starts, finishing with 29 tackles and two sacks. At the other defensive end position, junior Joe Ventresca will move over from his tackle position and is likely to start after making 16 tackles and a pair of sacks last season. Junior Ben Zepnick will also contend after starting five games as a freshman in 2009.
At tackle, Bucur, a two-year starter, was the team's sixth-leading tackler last season, finishing with 54 stops. In his first year in the lineup, Burton started all 10 games and made 22 hits. Sophomore Anthony DeRosa and junior Robert Swierkowski could also push for a starting role.
Gettysburg's linebacking corps is fully intact from last year. Junior middle backer Larry DelViscio returns after tying for the team lead with 92 tackles, including 12.5 for loss, two sacks, and two forced fumbles while competing in his first year as a starter.
Junior Mark Covington and senior Marc Graziano are also back after strong seasons as first-year starters. Covington was fourth among the Bullets with 66 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles, while Graziano was close behind with 59 takedowns.
In addition, senior Peter Hak returns for his third year as a starter and his second at the bandit/strong safety spot. In eight games last season, Hak finished third on the team with 71 tackles and second with five pass breakups.
The Bullets also bring back all of their starters in the defensive secondary, led by senior free safety Joe Delaney.
The team's most experienced defensive back, Delaney is a three-year starter and two-year captain who shared the team lead with 92 tackles in 2010 to go with an interception and a forced fumble.
A trio of players who started at some point last season also return at cornerback in senior Tyler Fasanella, senior Rob Pennella, and sophomore Hugo Nolasco. A starter in seven games, Fasanella led the team with four interceptions and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns on an interception and a fumble return. A two-year starter, Pennella led the Bullets with 10 pass breakups to go with one interception and 20 tackles last season. In 10 games and six starts, Nolasco made 29 tackles and two interceptions.
The special teams unit has some large shoes to fill with the loss of Mike Barrett '11 at kicker, Betley at punter, DeSalva at kick returner, and Curcio at punt returner. Barrett, Betley, and DeSalva all captured all-conference recognition during their careers while Curcio finished third in school history in career all-purpose yards.
After a two-year hiatus, Pennella could return to action at punter, where he took 23 of the team's 32 attempts as a freshman in 2008. One of the team's fastest players, Twer was a deep back on kick returns last season, making five returns for 85 yards, and could be joined by LeNoir on returns this season. Freshman Matt Perkins will likely become the team's new kicker.
The Bullets 2011 schedule received a bit of a shakeup, as only the team's season opener and season finale will feature the same opponents from a year ago. For the 11th consecutive season, the team will open its season against Lebanon Valley, as it takes to the road for its only non-conference outing of the season on Sept. 3. Gettysburg then plays its home and Centennial Conference opener a week later when it hosts conference co-champion Ursinus.
The Bullets play two of their next three games on the road, with visits to Juniata and McDaniel sandwiched around a home game versus Susquehanna. Following a bye week Oct. 8, the team plays a pair of tough back-to-back home games against conference co-champions Muhlenberg and Johns Hopkins before visiting Moravian. Senior Day will take place Nov. 5 against Dickinson, followed by the regular season finale at Franklin & Marshall.