August 27, 2011

Yellow Jackets Set Sights on Strong 2011 Campaign

More news about: Defiance

DEFIANCE, Ohio – On the verge of opening the tenth season since claiming the 2001 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship, Defiance College has its eyes locked on repeating history and earning the 13th conference championship in the storied history on the gridiron for the Purple and Gold.

That goal of returning to the NCAA playoffs is within reach for Defiance and head coach Rob Taylor thanks to a strong and determined core of veteran student-athletes on the 2011 roster.

One year after posting a 6-2 record in HCAC play and keeping its title hopes alive into the final week of the regular season, Defiance will return 18 starters and eight All-HCAC performers. The team will look to grow from the experience it gained one year ago with the hopes of ending the 2011 campaign at the top of the HCAC.

The Jackets will return 10-of-11 starters on the offensive side of the ball, one year after averaging 25.2 points per game against conference foes and equaling their highest scoring average for a season since the 2001 squad. DC put nearly 30 points per game on the board in its six victories and set a Justin F. Coressel Stadium scoring record in a 49-7 thrashing of Anderson on October 23.

Other highlights for the offense included a 33-0 victory at Earlham in the first-ever HCAC clash between the two programs and a three-week stretch in which Defiance outscored Earlham, Anderson and Rose-Hulman by a combined score of 123-28 in a trio of lopsided victories.

The high-powered attack was charged by the explosive thunder and lightning tandem of Drew Kuesel and Rick Powell. Each half of the duo averaged over 85 yards on the ground per outing to help Defiance churn out 198.8 yards per game. That clip rose to an HCAC-best 218.2 rushing yards per contest in eight conference tilts.

The improved offense allowed the traditionally stout Yellow Jacket defense to stay fresh throughout the season, resulting in opponents managing just 11.7 points per game over the final six contests.

While the Jackets will need to overcome the loss of All-American Kyle Longsdorf and his HCAC-leading 139 tackles, the squad should have plenty of options for the leadership role with eight returning starters in the lineup.

The tenacious and experienced defensive unit ranked second among all HCAC teams in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense and sacks in 2010 and should continue to improve with another year together on the gridiron.

Others have taken notice of the Yellow Jackets as well, with Defiance getting picked second in the HCAC Preseason Poll. All signs point to a very exciting season for the Purple and Gold but it will be up to the team to translate those lofty preseason expectations into a reality on the field in 2011.

Rick Powell will lead the DC offense once again in 2011, marking the fourth-straight season that the two-time All-HCAC signal caller has been under center for the Purple and Gold. Powell came into his own as a junior, rushing for 998 yards, throwing for 1,257 and accounting for 18 of the team's 25 touchdowns. He enters his final collegiate campaign looking to build upon that breakout season, in which he ranked fifth among all NCAA Division III quarterbacks in rushing yards per game. Powell also finished second among all HCAC players in both rushing yards and total yards of offense per outing. While Powell will see the vast majority of the snaps, sophomores Garrett Teague and Aaron Spence ensure that the quarterback position will remain in good hands for the foreseeable future.

A key to the success of the Jackets in 2011 will be the health of All-HCAC running back Drew Kuesel, who set career highs one year ago with 702 rushing yards and six scores in eight games of work. The senior provides DC with a power option to keep opposing defenses on edge. Sophomore Joey Chester has also recovered from an injury-shortened rookie campaign and will spell Kuesel after carrying the rock 35 times in 2010.

Another All-HCAC performer will return at the tight end slot for DC, as senior Andy Cessna gives the Jackets a large target in the passing game and a valuable blocker in the ground attack. Cessna will be backed up by junior Patrick Hartman.

Although the Defiance offense does most of its damage on the turf, it is not for lack of options at the wide receiver position. Senior Nick Wiedenhoft will be joined by junior Jon Carrabino in the starting lineup, with senior Keaton Wolfe, junior Aaron Choice and second-year players Brian Mircovich and Mo Garces also set to see time.

A source of concern throughout the preseason has been the front line for DC. While the starting unit is missing just one piece from 2010, injuries have depleted the Jackets of depth at the vital unit. One spot that is not in question will be the center position, where All-HCAC standout Ryan Black is set to anchor the line during his senior season. Black is projected to be flanked by fellow seniors Kent Corthell and Bryant Green, with sophomores Todd Oliver, Mitch Smith and Corey Williams also in the mix.

The HCAC's leading sack artist, Joemese Scott, will return for his final year with the Purple and Gold, after earning All-HCAC honors by ranking 34th in the nation with 8.5 sacks last season. Scott added 47 hits, with 12 coming for lost yardage and will be joined in the trenches by juniors D.J. Brigham and Gregg Pickett. Sophomores Michael Carrabino and Pat Rieg will team with rookie Jamario Belton to relieve the starters.

A pair of All-HCAC playmakers will anchor the Jackets from their linebacker slots, as junior Hunter Robertson and sophomore Patrick McDonald finished second and third on the roster in tackles in 2010, teaming for 125 hits, 13.5 stops for lost yardage and four sacks. The duo will have help, with junior James Buari, sophomore Blaine McGowan and newcomer Darshawn Walker expected to contribute.

The one player that will be leaned on the most to fill the shoes of Longsdorf will be Tony Sierra. The two-time First-Team All-HCAC safety posted 38 tackles, eight passes defended and two interceptions as a sophomore and is joined in the secondary by senior safety Eric Rubio. Junior Kyle Keegan and sophomore Chrys Killebrew will man the cornerback positions, while a host of underclassmen are also set to battle for time.

For the first time in four seasons, DC will not have the leg of Tom Foos to power the special teams. Sophomore Aaron Spence could step in to handle the punting duties, while the kicking responsibilities will need to be clarified as the season approaches. Tony Sierra will anchor the returns team, after ranking first in the HCAC will 11.0 yards per punt return one year ago.

The Jackets will open the 2011 season on September 3, when they welcome Muskingum into Coressel Stadium for a 1:30 pm start.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Bridgewater State 34, Fitchburg State 25
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
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Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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at Massachusetts Maritime 32, Worcester State 14
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at Endicott 37, Nichols 0
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MIT 30, at Maine Maritime 13
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at Buffalo State 40, Morrisville State 24
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at Salve Regina 48, Coast Guard 10
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St. Lawrence 20, at RPI 14
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at Framingham State 23, Western Connecticut 17
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at Montclair State 21, Rowan 14
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at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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at Trinity (Conn.) 38, Bates 7
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at Western New England 59, Curry 28
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at Utica 24, Cortland 13
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Colby 9, at Williams 7
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at Middlebury 40, Bowdoin 3
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at Amherst 34, Hamilton 0
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Kean 24, at William Paterson 13
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at DePauw 66, Hiram 17
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Franklin and Marshall 45, at Juniata 22
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at Kenyon 31, Allegheny 7
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Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Lycoming 28, at Misericordia 24
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at Plymouth State 30, Mass-Dartmouth 14
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at Husson 35, Alfred State 0
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at Springfield 28, WPI 23
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at Moravian 24, Dickinson 10
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at Denison 45, Wooster 7
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at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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at St. Vincent 57, Grove City 32
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at Susquehanna 55, Gettysburg 40
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at King's 21, Lebanon Valley 17
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at Alfred 20, Ithaca 6
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at Widener 25, Wilkes 23
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at McDaniel 30, Ursinus 27
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at Muskingum 28, Marietta 10
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at Minnesota-Morris 28, Iowa Wesleyan 27
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at John Carroll 42, Heidelberg 14
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Ohio Northern 16, at Otterbein 10
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Case Western Reserve 35, at Waynesburg 7
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at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Rose-Hulman 23, at Defiance 15
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at Centre 49, Chicago 27
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at Mount St. Joseph 38, Manchester 19
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Hanover 49, at Anderson 25
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at Merchant Marine 55, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Concordia-Chicago 42, at Maranatha Baptist 10
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Washington U. 36, at Birmingham-Southern 21
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UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 38, Martin Luther 20
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at Eureka 28, MacMurray 13
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at Westminster (Mo.) 35, Greenville 14
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Dubuque 30, at Luther 17
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Monmouth 52, at Lake Forest 6
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St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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at Augsburg 49, Carleton 17
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Bethel 44, at St. Olaf 7
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at Hamline 42, Gustavus Adolphus 40
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at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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at UW-River Falls 42, Southwestern 22
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Simpson 17, at Buena Vista 9
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at St. Scholastica 49, Crown 13
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Cornell 46, at Beloit 41
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at Carthage 27, Augustana 24
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Coe 48, at Nebraska Wesleyan 17
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at Wartburg 56, Finlandia 0
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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Hendrix 42, at Millsaps 14
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Illinois Wesleyan 45, at North Park 10
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at Macalester 34, Grinnell 0
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at Ripon 33, Knox 19
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Illinois College 40, at Lawrence 15
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UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Central 42, at Loras 34
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at Geneva 35, Thiel 27
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UW-Eau Claire 40, at Wisconsin Lutheran 14
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St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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UW-Stevens Point 44, at Adrian 19
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UW-La Crosse 41, at Carroll 7
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at Berry 41, Sewanee 3
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Westminster (Pa.) 38, at Bethany 9
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Ohio Wesleyan 29, at Oberlin 16
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at Tufts 17, Wesleyan 14
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Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Capital 35, Wilmington 21
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at Southwestern Assemblies 23, Austin 17
Cancelled
Langston at McMurry
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at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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at Chapman 19, Trinity (Texas) 17
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Sep. 24: All times Eastern
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at Thomas More 20, Carnegie Mellon 16
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at Hobart 27, Union 23
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Christopher Newport 17, at TCNJ 0
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at Wittenberg 24, Wabash 14
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Final
Salisbury 35, at Southern Virginia 0
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Final
Albright 20, at Delaware Valley 17
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Final
at Utica 24, Cortland 13
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Final
at Stevenson 54, FDU-Florham 15
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Final
at Franklin 44, Bluffton 38
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Final
Johns Hopkins 30, at Muhlenberg 24
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Final
St. Thomas 33, at St. John's 21
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Final
at UW-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
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Final
at Hardin-Simmons 48, Texas Lutheran 38
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Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 10, Elmhurst 6
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UW-Platteville 56, at Lakeland 0
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UW-Oshkosh 77, at Morthland College (Ill.) 0
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Final
Central 42, at Loras 34
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Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Brockport 38
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Mount Union 49, at Baldwin Wallace 7
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at North Central (Ill.) 42, Millikin 7
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