Calib Alexander named HCAC Co-Freshman of the Year
BLUFFTON, Ohio - Standout tailback and kick returner Calib Alexander (Ocala, Fla./St. John Lutheran) was one of 12 Bluffton University football players to be named All-Heartland Conference for the 2012 season. The athletes were selected by the Heartland Conference coaches following the completion of the regular season. In addition to Alexander, Bluffton placed four players on the first team, four on the second team and three were named honorable mention.
Alexander became just the second player in Bluffton history to earn the distinction of being Freshman of the Year in the Heartland Conference and he is the first on the offensive side of the ball. Ryan Christy, a defensive back from Snellville, Ga., was the first Bluffton Freshman of the Year in 2004. The freshman tailback hauled in a 43-yard scoring strike from Tyler Wright (Troy) against Kenyon in his first collegiate game and never slowed down. He went for 445 yards on 117 carries with three rushing touchdowns. Alexander caught 10 passes for 189 yards (team-high 18.9 yards per catch), including the 43-yard TD in a 20-0 win over Kenyon and a 26-yarder for a score in the Beavers' 27-24 double-overtime win over rival Defiance. His 25.2 yards per return forced Bluffton's opponents to use just half the field on kickoffs as his kick returns found their way into opposing video rooms.
Senior Justin Hahn (Rocky River) earned his second straight All-Heartland Conference honor in 2012. Hahn, an honorable mention selection as a junior, was named First Team All-HCAC after wrapping up the opposition with 44 total tackles, including 28 solos, this season. The four-year starter at safety broke up six passes, forced a fumble and recovered another one. He tallied 2.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack and two interceptions. For his career, Hahn moved up to 13th on the all-time list with 171 tackles, including 103 solo stops. Hahn broke up 13 passes, picked off five, forced two fumbles and recovered four miscues. His five TFL's as a junior propelled him to 9.5 career stops behind the line of scrimmage. In addition, Hahn blocked a kick, recorded a safety and had a quarterback hurry on his resume.
Linebacker Ben Kaufman (Ottawa/Ottawa-Glandorf) spearheaded the stout Bluffton defense, earning First Team All-HCAC honors in his final campaign with the Beavers. He finished second on the team with 88 total tackles, including 31 solo stops. Kaufman picked off a pair of passes, broke up two more and added two quarterback hurries this season. Following the RHIT triple-overtime win, Kaufman was named the Ohio College Football as well as the HCAC Defensive Player of the Week thanks to a 16-tackle performance. He forced a fumble, recovered one and finished with 3.5 TFL's for a loss of 19 yards, 11 of which came on a sack against Hanover College. The senior finished his career with 147 tackles, nine TFL's, three sacks, three hurries and he forced three fumbles as a Beaver.
Doing the heavy lifting up front for the Beavers was First Team All-HCAC tackle Thomas Gingrich (Goshen, Ind./Goshen). Gingrich, an Academic All-HCAC honoree the past two seasons, was recently named First Team Academic All-District by CoSida for his work both in the classroom and on the field. He provided protection for an offense that sported the fifth-best passing numbers in the HCAC (181.5 yards per game). Gingrich has been a huge part of Bluffton going from an 0-10 record during his freshman season to a 6-4 mark as a senior.
Versatile wide receiver Shawn Frost (Edison/Mt. Gilead) came away with his first All-Heartland Conference award following a standout junior campaign. He led the Bluffton receiving corps with 34 receptions for 498 yards (14.6 yards per catch). The first team honoree scored three touchdowns, including a 72-yarder against Manchester University. Frost also showed his mettle on special teams, racking up 134 yards on 18 punt returns. The junior captain has 56 career catches for 698 yards with five touchdowns heading into his final season with the Beavers. His 36 punt returns are tied for second all-time, while his 279 return yards rank third.
Senior David Mango (Fishers, Ind./Fishers) earned the second All-Heartland Conference honor of his career this season. The second team selection was named honorable mention All-HCAC following his sophomore campaign. Mango has been a mainstay on Bluffton's offensive line during his four years with the Beavers. His work up front paved the way for Freshman of the Year Calib Alexander and Airic Steagall (Hillsboro) to rush for over 1,000 yards this season.
Helping to fill the hole left by two-time First Team All-HCAC tackle Justin Crosier, defensive lineman Preston Huddleston (Benton Harbor, Mich./Eau Claire) put together his best season as a Beaver. Known around Bluffton as Huddy, he tallied 49 tackles, including 6.0 TFL's for a loss of 19 yards. Huddleston forced two quarterback hurries and recovered a fumble this season. The Second Team All-HCAC honoree wrapped up his time at Bluffton with 88 tackles, 10.5 TFL's, two pass breakups and three hurries.
Senior Dominique Chester (Mansfield/Madison) took home Second Team All-HCAC honors after a fine final season with the Beavers. He tallied 43 tackles, including 31 of the solo variety. Chester broke up five passes from his cornerback position. He picked off a pass and forced a fumble this year. For his career, Chester went over the 100-tackle plateau, finishing with 104 stops to go along with five interceptions and 12 breakups.
Junior Josh Runda (Lima/Bath) moved into a starting position following an injury to fellow linebacker Joe Maldonado (Dade City, Fla./Zephyrhills) and he took the conference by storm, pacing the Beavers with 98 tackles, including 49 unassisted stops. His 98 tackles placed him fourth in the Heartland Conference. Runda also led Bluffton with 12.0 TFL's for 47 yards, including three huge sacks for a loss of 25 yards. He broke up two passes, forced two fumbles and recovered two others en route to being named Second Team All-HCAC. With one more year to play, Runda is up to 156 tackles, 21 TFL's and six sacks. He has three breakups, three forced fumbles and three recoveries for his career.
Directing the Bluffton offense this season was junior signal-caller Tyler Wright (Troy) who completed 109 of his 174 passing attempts for 1,443 yards and eight touchdowns. Wright added 96 yards and three scores on the ground. The honorable mention selecton is currently ninth all-time on the Total Offense list with 3,886 yards (4.96 per play). His 2,786 passing yards are seventh all-time, while his 17 touchdowns and 245 completions place him sixth all-time. Wright's .622 completion percentage places him second behind Joel Parrett on the career list.
Senior captain Ryan Sabin (Canal Winchester) hauled in a team-high 541 receiving yards on 32 receptions. The honorable mention selection caught three touchdowns, including a 75-yard score against Hanover College. For his career, Sabin finished with 40 catches for 672 yards and five touchdowns.
Mike Johnson (Browns, Mills, NJ/Pemberton) continued Bluffton's tradition of standout linebackers as he was honored by the HCAC following his senior season. The honorable mention selection finished third on the team with 70 tackles, of which 40 were unassisted. He tallied six breakups and 4.5 TFL's for a loss of 18 yards. In addition, Johnson forced a fumble and had two quarterback hurries. He wrapped up his career with 92 tackles and seven breakups.
In conjunction with the All-HCAC selections, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference also announced the All-HCAC Sportsmanship Team for the fall of 2012. Senior Eric Wilfer (Bloomville/Buckeye Central) was selected to the All-Sportsmanship Team from Bluffton. This award has been developed as part of a conference-wide sportsmanship initiative. Members of the All-HCAC Sportsmanship team are selected by the coaches and their teammates as individuals who demonstrate the ideals of positive sportsmanship both on and off the field/court of competition.
Bluffton finished 6-4 overall and 5-3 in the Heartland Conference for the Beavers' first winning season since 2000. The Beavers finished in fourth place after knocking off Mount St. Joseph for the first time in 11 tries. It marks only the third time in school history that Bluffton has won five games in the HCAC, the first being in 2000 and the second a year ago when Bluffton tied for second in the conference. Bluffton played in and won its first ever three-overtime game at RHIT and capped the season with a two-overtime victory over rival Defiance on Senior Day. Full statistics and information on the 2012 football season are available online at www.blufftonbeavers.com/football.