GREENWOOD, Ind. – The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference announced its 2012 All-HCAC Football Team on Wednesday, with Defiance College putting three student-athletes on the First-Team, six more on the Second-Team and one on the All-Sportsmanship Team.
The Jackets were well represented on the defensive side of the football, with eight performers garnering recognition. Seniors Gregg Pickett and Matt Forry joined junior Andrew Leverenz as First-Team All-HCAC selections, while seniors D.J. Brigham and Hunter Robertson joined with junior Blaine McGowan and freshman Jorry Matherson on the Second-Team All-HCAC list.
Defiance also had two offensive players receive All-HCAC honors, as seniors Jon Carrabino and Seth Kimberlin were heralded as Second-Team All-HCAC performers.
The final Yellow Jacket to be honored was sophomore Josh Slayton, who earned a spot on the HCAC All-Sportsmanship Team, after being named as an Honorable Mention All-HCAC standout during his rookie campaign.
Pickett, Leverenz and Brigham combined to form one of the most productive defensive lines in the HCAC, as the trio helped Defiance rank second in the league in total defense and rushing defense during the regular season. DC trailed only Franklin in those statistics, allowing just 325.6 total yards of offense per game and 152.0 yards on the ground per outing.
Leverenz anchored that group to earn the First-Team All-HCAC nod, topping the conference with 10.5 sacks and 21 tackles for lost yardage during his breakout season. Along with leading the HCAC, the defensive end ranked ninth among all NCAA Division III performers in tackles for a loss and 15th in sacks, while adding 51 total tackles, seven quarterback hurries and one blocked kick to his season totals.
Pickett notched his second First-Team All-HCAC award in as many years from his defensive tackle slot by notching 64 stops, 2.5 sacks and six hits for negative yardage. Pickett also forced a pair of fumbles and recovered another.
Brigham was named Second-Team All-HCAC for his 53 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for lost yardage and two forced fumbles. The defensive tackle ended the HCAC portion of the schedule ranked second in the league in forced fumbles, 13th in sacks and 17th in hits for negative yardage.
DC's starting linebacker tandem of Robertson and McGowan also made the list, earning Second-Team All-HCAC status.
The award was the third All-HCAC nod in three years for Robertson, who finished among the team's top-two in tackles for the third-straight season. Robertson ended the campaign with 47 of his 64 stops coming against conference competition.
McGowan played alongside Robertson all season, and excelled in HCAC action with a team-leading 52 tackles and 32 solo stops. McGowan ended the season with 58 hits and nine tackles for lost yardage to rank among the top-15 players in the conference in that statistic.
DC's other First-Team All-HCAC performer came in the secondary, as senior safety, Matt Forry, notched the first All-HCAC accolade of his four-year career with the Purple and Gold. Forry started the first nine games at strong safety, before taking over the free safety slot in the season finale and posting a career-day with 13 tackles, 1.5 stops for lost yardage, a forced fumble and one interception. Forry ended the season with a team-leading 65 stops and three interceptions.
Matherson played with Forry in the Yellow Jacket secondary throughout his rookie campaign, starting all 10 games and becoming one of only four freshmen to be named First or Second-Team All-HCAC. The cornerback and skilled return man netted Second-Team honors after leading all HCAC freshmen with eight passes defended and 22.6 yards per kickoff return against league foes and ranking fourth and second respectively among all HCAC performers in those statistics.
Defiance started only two seniors on the offensive side of the ball, and saw both Carrabino and Kimberlin get recognized for their standout showings throughout their final season with the Yellow Jackets.
Carrabino emerged as one of the top big-play threats in the conference, as the wide receiver led the DC attack with 552 receiving yards, six touchdowns and 17.8 yards per catch. Carrabino improved his average to 66.1 receiving yards per outing during eight HCAC contests and ranked sixth in the conference in that statistic.
Kimberlin led the young offensive line from his right tackle position, helping to pave the way for five games with at least 200 yards rushing for the powerful Defiance ground attack. The Jackets rushed past the 100-yard marker in all but one showing in 2012 and ranked third in the HCAC by averaging 196.9 rushing yards per game. Kimberlin's offensive line also rated among the league's best by allowing only 20 sacks against HCAC competition, ranking third in the league in that category.
Defiance finished the rebuilding 2012 campaign with a 2-8 overall mark, while going 2-6 in league action. The Jackets will expect to improve on those records and are set to return as many as 16 starters to the field in 2013, including four All-HCAC performers in Leverenz, McGowan, Slayton and Tony Sierra.