The Gannon football team is heading down the stretch run of its 2014 spring camp. The Golden Knights have hit the final five practices of its second spring camp under the direction of head coach Brad Rzyczycki.
Gannon is in the midst of a 15-practice spring camp that has already seen several postponements due to the poor spring weather. Five practices still remain on the schedule, before the camp concludes April 11.
The Golden Knights return 48 letterwinners and 18 student-athletes who started at least five games from last year’s 6-5 squad. The program finished third in the PSAC Western Division with a 4-3 conference mark. Gannon recorded its first winning season overall and within the Western Division since the 2010 squad posted the same marks. Rzyczycki’s club produced the 12th winning season in program history. Gannon’s 2014 spring roster features 17 seniors and can be found athttp://www.gannonsports.com/roster.aspx?path=football&.
Gannon returns nine starters on both sides of the ball. Twenty-seven letterwinners are back on defense, including the top seven tacklers from a year ago. All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) selectionLuke Rankie (Lockport, N.Y./Lockport) headlines a group of three returning starters at linebacker. The redshirt senior led Gannon in tackles (115), tackles for a loss (16) and sacks (5) last season.
Joshua Wiechelt (Depew, N.Y./Depew) joins Rankie after finishing as Gannon’s fifth-leading tackler last season with 45 tackles, nine tackles for a loss and four sacks. Tim Petro (North Huntingdon, Pa./Norwin) is the final returning starter in the linebacker group, making 27 stops while starting seven contests in 2013.
Much like the linebackers, three starters return in the defensive secondary. Mike Zanders (Charlotte, N.C./Hopewell) tops that group after concluding last season as Gannon’s second-leading tackler with 91 stops. The sophomore led the team in interceptions with four.
Sophomore defensive back Kailan Chavis (Charlotte, N.C./Hopewell) posted 53 tackles last season, tied for third on the team. Junior Matt Astorino (Edinboro, Pa./General McLane) rounds out the returning defensive back starters after having 42 tackles, two tackles for a loss, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The even spread of defensive returners continues on the line where Gannon features three starters back. Junior Trenton Donald (Uniontown, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) leads the charge. The junior’s 53 tackles a year ago tied for third on the team. Junior Nick Pipitone (Newmarket, Ontario/Huron Heights Secondary) had 39 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks last season. Chris Dollard (Wilmington, Del./Alexis I. DuPont) finished with 19 tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
Liam Nadler (Leipsic, Ohio/Leipsic Local) anchors the returning offensive starters. The redshirt junior was named to the All-PSAC second team last season after completing 224-of-377 passes for 2,859 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has a plethora of receivers returning. Those returners include All-PSAC first-team selection Justin Caliste (Roseville, Calif./Oakmont). The senior led Gannon in receptions, hauling in 57 catches for 651 yards at an 11.4 average.
Junior Quad Law (Donora, Pa./Ringgold) finished second on the team in catches (47) while leading the squad in receiving yards (658). SeniorAbraham Ocasio (Bronx, N.Y./Cardinal Hayes) had 45 receptions for 565 yards and a team-best five touchdowns. Senior Jesstin Hamm(Harwood, Md./DeMatha Catholic) started every game last season, posting 34 catches for 596 yards and four scores. Another option in the passing game is redshirt junior tight end Alex O’Donnell (Toronto, Ontario/Riverside Military Academy), who started six games in 2013.
Returning starters on the offensive line include Matt Andry (Metairie, La./Jesuit), Alex Davis (Erie, Pa./Strong Vincent), Kelson Patterson (Silver Spring, Md./Albert Einstein) and Randy Toth (Auburn Township, Ohio/Kenston). Patterson and Davis earned all-conference accolades last season.
Gannon has a couple familiar faces returning on special teams. In addition to Caliste returning kicks, Adam Schaffer (West Chester, Ohio/Moeller) averaged 41.2 yards on 44 punts. The redshirt senior placed 15 punts inside the 20-yard line and booted seven punts that traveled at least 50 yards. Junior Michael Benesh (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Edward) returns as Gannon’s long snapper.