The 2012 Hiram College football team saw improvements made on the field in 2011 and will look to continue that trend this season, but will have to do so without a host of starters from a year ago.
The Terriers (1-9, 1-5 NCAC in 2011), will return just nine total starters (six offense, three defense, no specialists) with the most holes to fill on defense. Hiram also returns 34 letterwinners from a year ago.
In a complete reversal of last season, the offense will have the most returning experience with six starters, including three on the offensive line. As a whole last season, the offense totaled 1,326 yards (1,463 passing and 1,244 yards rushing) and averaged 270.7 total yards per game.
The 2012 season could feature a four-person battle at the quarterback position with senior Brendon Rehor (Bay Village/Bay), junior George Blake (Parma), sophomore Bryan Greenwell(Cape Coral, Fla./Cape Coral) and freshman Zach Bailey (Warren/Niles McKinley) competing for playing time. Rehor returns to the team after sitting out the entire 2011 season due to injury. Prior to last season, Rehor was the team’s starting quarterback setting two single-season records for pass completions (222) and attempts (364). He was sixth in the NCAC in passing yardage with 1,910 to go along with 10 touchdowns and accounted for 2,085 of the team’s 2,932 yards of total offense as a sophomore. Blake and Greenwell both saw action in 2011 primarily as backups. Blake completed 32-of-56 passes for 243 yards and one TD while Greenwell went seven-of-19 for 47 yards.
The running backs will be led by the duo of senior Chris Austin (Cleveland/Glenville) and junior Caleb Jones (Lake Placid, Fla./Lake Placid). Austin led all running backs in 2011 with 306 yards in 89 attempts for a 3.4 yards per carry average. He also scored the team’s only TD amongst running backs. Jones also saw significant playing time with 74 carries for 227 yards. He averaged 3.1 yards per rush. In addition to Austin and Jones, junior Stephen Isabella (Madison), sophomore Zach Hill (Waite Hill/Kirtland) and sophomore Andrew Calhoun (North Las Vegas, Nev./Cheyenne) could compete for playing time in 2012. Hill and Calhoun both saw playing time at the varsity level as backups, but did not record any statistics offensively. Calhoun also saw time on special teams and returned six kickoffs for 79 yards.
Hiram’s “O-line” will be led by a trio of starters in juniors Dan Fanzo (Boardman/Chaney), Joe Richissin (Brunswick) and Matt Russell (Cape Coral, Fla./Cape Coral). As a group, the offensive line set one school single season record in 2011 with the fewest number of sacks allowed with 10. In addition, the Terrier offense racked up 1,244 yards rushing which is the first time the team has rushed for over 1,000 yards in a single season since 1999. Also returning will be junior Sean Mcbean (Geneva on the Lake/Geneva) and sophomores Kyle Bates (Painesville/Thomas W. Harvey), Kendrick Miller (Casselberry, Fla./Lyman), Nick Sebastian (Poland/Poland Seminary), Richard Pollard (Cuyahoga Falls), Shawn Brown (Hudson) and Cody Ward (East Canton/Canton South).
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The wideouts will see a lot of action in Hiram’s spread offensive scheme and will be led by junior Richard Simpson (Kissimmee, Fla./Gateway). As a sophomore, Simpson led all receivers in receptions (39), yards (359) and TD (three), while averaging 9.2 yards per catch. Joining Simpson, will be junior Brendon James (Brunswick). James finished third on the team in receptions last season with 22 for 211 yards. In addition, look for senior tight end Tom Moran (Parma Heights/St. Ignatius) to see an increased playing role this fall. Last season, Moran caught 10 passes for 106 yards. Running backs Austin and Jones will also provide targets in the passing game following a season that saw both players record 15 catches for 58 yards. Also competing for increased playing time this season will be seniors Damien and Darren Gibson (Lakewood) along with juniorMike Arnold (Fairview Park/Fairview).
The 2012 defensive squad will feature a host of new starters as only three starters from a year ago return. Perhaps the two biggest losses for Hiram on defense are graduated senior and three-time All-North Coast Athletic Conference linebacker Jon Hull along with graduated senior and two-time All-NCAC linebacker Oliver Dickerhoof. Both recorded over 100 tackles last season with Dickerhoof leading the team with 111 stops and Hull adding 101.
No starters return for the Terriers on the defensive line but will return some players who saw significant playing time last season, including sophomore Mario Lemuel (Suwanee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge) who led the team in quarterback sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (9.5). He also finished eighth in overall tackles with 38 (25 solo and 13 assists) to go along with one pass breakup. Also look for fellow sophomoreJames Gearhart (Mercer/West Middlesex Area) to step into a starting role this season after playing in nine games as a backup during his “rookie” season. Gearhart posted nine tackles (three solo and six assists) including two sacks and the team’s only blocked kick.
The linebacking corps will consist of almost completely new players as all but one starter are gone. Junior Tyler Williams(Ravenna/Rootstown) is the only returner who saw consistent playing time as a starter last season. He finished seventh on the team in tackles with 56 (20 solo and 36 assists) to go along with a sack, five tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. One of the players to watch this season will be sophomore James Romanowski (Chagrin Falls/Kenston) who will look to fill one of the voids left. As a freshman, Romanowski tallied six tackles (four solo and two assists) including a half tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Also look for senior Sam Gallagher (Strongsville) and sophomore Scott Betts (Washington, Pa./Chartiers-Houston) to contest for playing time.
The secondary will also have its share of new starters this year, but will return two key players in senior Dominick Harper(Akron/Kenmore) and junior Josh Peacock (Carson City, Nev./Carson). Harper started all but one game last season and was fourth on the team in tackles with 76 (39 solo and 37 assists). He was also tied for the team-lead in interceptions with two to go along with a forced fumble. Peacock will be in his third season as a starter and finished third a year ago in tackles with 84 (42 solo and 42 assists). Peacock has been a solid all-around player his entire career and was evident again last season with 2.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and an interception. There will be a host of additional players looking to make impacts this season in the secondary including sophomores Phil Arnold (Eastlake/Eastlake North) and Mike Helco (McDonald).
The kicking and punting duties this season will fall on freshman Thomas Kuczma (Brunswick). Last year, the Terriers converted all 13 of their extra-point attempts and were two-of-six in field goals. On punts, Hiram averaged 34.3 yards per attempt with 19 punts inside the 20 yardline.
Austin and Simpson are the two leading kick returners from last year. Austin led the team in both returns (28) and yards (523) and averaged 18.7 yards per return. Simpson posted 161 yards in 11 attempts for a 14.6 yards per return average. Simpson was the team’s leading punt returner with 51 yards in seven attempts (7.3 ypr.).
Hiram will face a competitive schedule in 2012 that will include three non-conference opponents in Westminster (Pa.) College, Case and the University of Chicago (Ill.).
The Terriers open the season against Westminster on Saturday, Sept. 1 in New Wilmington, Pa. and will follow that with non-conference foe Case the following week in the home opener at the Charles A. Henry Field. The games will be two of five night games scheduled this season, including one of two scheduled to be played at Henry Field. There will be one first-time opponent this season when University Athletic Association member Chicago comes to Hiram on Oct. 20.
Hiram opens its NCAC schedule on Sept. 15 against Kenyon College in Gambier. The Terriers have beaten the Lords the past four seasons with Hiram coming out on top 16-13 last year at home for the team’s only victory. Hiram then plays host to Denison University on Sept. 22, followed by back-to-back road games against Ohio Wesleyan University on Sept. 29 and The College of Wooster on Oct. 13. Following the home game against Chicago, the Terriers will host Oberlin College on Oct. 27 and will then travel to Springfield for a matchup against Wittenberg University on Nov. 3. Hiram will wrap-up the season at home against Allegheny (Pa.) College on Nov. 10.
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