A Page -- July 24, 2011

Case Reserve football expects to bounce back after having its 1,000-plus-day regular-season winning streak snapped in 2010

CLEVELAND -- The 2011 edition of the Case Western Reserve University football team will feature one of the top defensive units in program history and plenty of fresh faces on offense as the Spartans look to capture a fourth University Athletic Association title in five seasons.

The Spartans, 8-2 overall and 1-2 in UAA action last season, have won three of the last four conference championships with three straight trips to the NCAA Playoffs from 2007-09. CWRU's run includes a 38-game regular season winning streak that began at the end of the 2006 campaign and stretched all the way to the latter portion of the 2010 schedule.

Season Preview

Of the 31 lettermen back from last year's group, Case returns a total of 13 starters – eight on defense, four on offense and one on special teams.

With most of his team's experience on the defensive side of the ball, eighth-year head coach Greg Debeljak knows his team may have to rely more heavily on defense than it has during the program's dominant run of the past four seasons.  But, Debeljak also knows that a different identity will not change his team's goals heading into the fall of 2011.

"We have two consistent goals that we try to obtain each and every year," said Debeljak, who is 55-22 in seven seasons as head coach. "Our number one goal is to win the UAA – that is the priority. Our second goal is team unity and creating a family atmosphere within our program. This year, the third goal is to improve week-by-week. We will have some question marks going in, especially on offense, so we're going to have to consistently improve to reach our goal of winning the UAA."

The Spartans have been ranked in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 in four consecutive seasons with two All-Americans and three Gagliardi Trophy Finalists (Division III Player of the Year) during that time.


Last season, the Spartans led the UAA in yards allowed per game (276.8) and ranked 17th in the nation in defensive scoring (14.1 ppg). The team recorded two shutouts and held seven of 10 opponents to 14 points or less. With eight returning starters and a number of players that saw valuable time as back-ups, Debeljak expects his defense to set the tone as an inexperienced offense works to settle in.   

"Our defense was a surprise to a lot of people last year," noted Debeljak. "We graduated some unbelievable players in 2009 – Jeff Brown, Bobby Bott, Lee Sasala – guys that were four-year starters and All-Americans. So, there was some hesitancy as to what we were going to get. But, we had guys like James Wodicka, Zach Hass and Jacob Adams step up – guys that had been in our program for a while but hadn't played a lot because they were behind very good people.

We have a lot of confidence that our defense can win games for us this year and we're going to adjust our style on offense and special teams because we have such a strong group returning on defense."

Defensive Line

The defensive line is the team's most accomplished unit, with all four starters back to anchor the Spartans' 4-2-5 attack.

Headlining the group is senior, three-time first-team All-UAA tackle Dale English (Middleburg Heights, Ohio/Holy Name). Also a D3Football.com All-North Region selection, English has led the team in sacks and tackles for loss in each of the past two seasons. In 2010, he totaled 64 tackles, including 13 for loss, with nine sacks. English also posted a stretch of seven straight games with at least a half-sack.

Joining English is senior end Richard Doolin (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park), junior end Adam Watson (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) and junior nose guard Michael Harris (Shaker Heights, Ohio/Shaker Heights).

Doolin earned second-team All-UAA accolades for a second consecutive season after posting 36 tackles and 7.5 sacks. He also earned first-team Capital One Academic All-American honors. Watson was a second-team All-UAA pick as well with 42 tackles, including 8.5 for loss, and eight sacks in his first season as a starter. Harris was a force on the interior of the line, totaling 44 tackles, including seven for loss, two sacks and three forced fumbles en route to second-team All-UAA honors.

Other returning letterwinners include juniors Michael Sirosky (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester Adams) and Collin Desens (Hopewell Junction, N.Y./Arlington) as well as sophomore Rylan Pyciak (Harrisville, Ohio/Buckeye).

"It all starts up front for our defense and we have been very strong there for a number of years," noted Debeljak. "Dale English is a kid that is as good as anyone in Division III at his position. When you have a dominant player of that caliber surrounded by impact players like Rich Doolin, Adam Watson and Mike Harris, it really changes the game."


The linebacking corps features a pair of returning starters, including first-team All-UAA senior Jacob Adams (Cincinnati, Ohio/Princeton) on the inside. In his first season as a starter, he led the team and finished second in the UAA with 91 tackles. He also recorded two sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in addition to the game-winning blocked extra point in an overtime victory versus Allegheny College (Pa.) in early October.

Also back is senior starter and second-team All-UAA OLB Michael Fioramonti (Loxahatchee, Fla./Seminole Ridge). Fioramonti finished fourth on the team with 63 tackles, including 3.0 for loss, and two pass break-ups. The Spartans lost a starter to graduation in Lucas Sasala, but expect juniors Wade Self(Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) and Kevin Nossem (Munster, Ind./Munster) to compete for the starting spot. Self played in all 10 games with 34 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Nossem played in nine games with nine tackles.

Case also returns seven other players at the position including a letterwinner in juniorRyan Ferguson (Wheaton, Ill./St. Francis).

"Jacob Adams had a breakthrough season for us last year and with the number of returning players we have at the position, we really feel like this can be an impact group," said Debeljak. 


Case returns half of its starting secondary from last year, including junior safety Dan Calabrese (Concord, Ohio/Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin) and junior cornerback Cary Dieter (McKees Rocks, Pa./Montour).

Calabrese started all 10 games in 2010 and was named second-team All-UAA at both safety and punt returner. He totaled 46 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, with two fumble recoveries. Dieter also started all 10 games with 49 tackles and six pass break-ups.

Corner James Wodicka and safety Zach Hass were lost to graduation, but Case returns five players with secondary experience, including two letterwinners in senior cornerMatthew Davis (Chatsworth, Calif./Chaminade College Prep) and junior corner Steven Roby (Howard, Ohio/St. Charles Prep).

"The guys we have returning and the guys we have ready to step in have played key roles for us in past years," noted Debeljak. "We lost two to graduation, but Matt Davis was as important as anyone in our secondary as a non-starter last year. He shut down a lot of key receivers and we changed our scheme to take advantage of his man-coverage skills."


The Spartan offense has been amongst the nation's best during the past four seasons but will have to withstand the loss of eight starters from the 2010 campaign. With the graduation of some of the most accomplished players in school history, the team will come to camp with several positions wide open for competition.

"We haven't been in this situation much during the past few years," noted Debeljak. "Our last two graduating classes saw significant playing time early on in their careers and most of our starting spots were filled. But, we're excited about the competition this will create and the younger guys that we're going to work into the lineup."

Offensive Line

The line is the only offensive position where Case returns more than one starter. Fortunately, most of the unit is intact from last season with four starters returning.

Headlining the group is three-time All-UAA guard Tony Opperman (Pickerington, Ohio/St. Charles Preparatory), who has started 26 games in his career and was named to the D3Football.com All-North Region team in 2010. Opperman missed two games due to injury in 2010 – both Spartan losses.

Also back is senior center Michael Allen (McMurray, Pa./Peters Township) and junior tackle Cullen Dolan (Chicago, Ill./Brother Rice). Allen, a two-year starter, was named first-team All-UAA last season. Dolan started and played in nine games last season, missing one due to injury.

The Spartan line also has returning letterwinners in seniors Gene Gross (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) and Brandon Rollé, junior Andrew Berkebile (Cranberry Township, Pa./Seneca Valley) and sophomore Jake Abbott (Huntingtown, Md./Huntingtown). Also back and expected to compete for a starting role is sophomore Garret Hartig (Fort Branch, Ind./Gibson Southern).

The team will have to replace a four-year starter at left tackle in Marcus Kluczynski, but Debeljak is confident that his group will be able to transition well.

"Replacing left tackle is going to be tough," noted Debeljak. "For four years, we knew we had our starter set at that position. But, with Opperman and Allen back, both three-year guys, that eases the transition. In all, we have seven or eight guys that we have confidence in. There have been years where we only had five guys and then there was a big drop-off. I don't think we have that drop-off this season and we're looking forward to these guys learning to play together."

Tight End

Tight end is the only other position on the offense that returns a starter. Senior Bryce Coleman (Solon, Ohio/Solon) started all 10 games last season and totaled 12 receptions for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Also back is classmate Rob Lajeunesse (Aurora, Ohio/Aurora), who played in all 10 games in 2010, and sophomores Drew Volbers (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) and Jake Kaminski (Muskego, Wis./Muskego), who each saw time at the junior varsity level as freshmen.

"Bryce (Coleman) has played since his freshman year and he is a very cerebral player that knows our offense very well," said Debeljak. "Rob (Lajeunesse) has played the last couple of years and with the two sophomores back, we feel tight end is a good position for us."


The receiving corps was hit hard by graduation, as the team lost two of the all-time leading receivers in program history in Zach Homyk and Shaun Nicely. Three letterwinners return with senior Bryan Metlesitz (North Royalton, Ohio/North Royalton) as the most experienced player at the position.

"Bryan (Metlesitz) probably would have been one of our top receivers the last two seasons if it wasn't for injury," said Debeljak. "He is a legitimate threat and we're counting on him to ben an impact guy for us this year."

Metlesitz was named first-team All-UAA as a kick returner last year after averaging 22.5 yards per return. He also recorded 15 receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown and caught a career-high six passes when Homyk went down with an injury versus Washington University (Mo.) in early November.

Also back are senior letterwinners Colin Repko (Sayre, Pa./Athens Area) and Eric Street (Barberton, Ohio/Coventry) along with junior Zachary Scott (Imperial, Pa./West Allegheny) and sophomores Peter Vincente (Mars, Pa./Seneca Valley) and Tyler Chaney (Sheperdstown, W. Va./Jefferson). Senior Brian Rice (New Castle, Pa./New Castle) also returns after missing all of last season.

"We have a lot of guys who have played, but mostly in a supporting role," said Debeljak. "Now they're going to have to play 40-50 snaps a game and we feel like they have the talent to produce. Receiver was also our best recruited position and there are several guys that we're expecting to contribute early. We should have great competition at receiver."

Running Back

Running back is also a position hit hard by graduation, as the team lost starters Billy Deitmen (now a student-coach) and Derek Bush. Two years ago, four different backs shared the load, including Deitmen, Bush, Greg Meyer and Cory Checkan. Now, the unit will be starting fresh with just one returning letterwinner at tailback in sophomore Kenny Riordan (Spring Grove, Ill./Richmond-Burton) and one returning letterwinner at fullback in senior Christian Anderson (Maumee, Ohio/Marion Pleasant).

Riordan rushed for 115 yards on just 20 carries last season (5.8 ypc) and turned in a team-best 60-yard touchdown run at Hiram College in October. Anderson saw limited action in his first season after switching from defensive line, but he did make one start and scored a TD of his own at Hiram.

"We are really starting over at running back. Kenny (Riordan) is the only player with significant experience," said Debeljak. "He's 210 pounds and one of the fastest players on the team -- he has a lot of talent and potential. Christian (Anderson) is solid and did well in transitioning from defense. Aside from that, we are going to see who surfaces. Running back is another position where we feel we have a strong recruiting class coming in and should have good competition for carries."


Last year, CWRU had to replace the most accomplished player in school history due to the graduation of Dan Whalen. This year, the team will once again be looking for a new starter as Academic All-American QB Joey Baum has graduated and moved over to the coaching staff.

Only senior Max Bohon (Worthington, Ohio/Worthington), sophomore Scott Mackie (Powell, Ohio/Liberty) and junior transfer Erik Olson (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park) enter the season with collegiate game experience, and Debeljak feels that the quarterback position should produce the most competition for a starting spot. 


The special teams unit lost the highest scoring kicker in school history with the graduation of Sam Coffey, but Debeljak is confident that senior Daniel Vasil (Erie, Pa./McDowell) can handle the kicking duties.

Vasil played all 10 games at punter last year, averaging 32.5 yards per punt. He also converted on his only extra point attempt of the season.

"Dan (Vasil) has improved every year and our staff and players believe in him," said Debeljak. "He has worked hard and played out of position when we needed him last year."

Punter is a position where Debeljak is playing the wait and see game, but he expects several newcomers to compete for the job.

The Schedule

The Spartans open with East Cleveland-rival John Carroll University under the lights of Don Shula Stadium on Saturday, September 3 at 7:00 p.m. Case defeated the Streaks 30-13 last year in the first meeting between the two since 1998. The Spartans then host the University of Rochester (N.Y.) for the Case Field opener at 7:00 p.m. on September 10. Following a bye week, Case travels to Denison University on Sept. 24 and Allegheny on October 1. The team returns home for an Oct. 8 night game with Oberlin College and then a Homecoming match with Hiram College on Oct. 15 at 1:00 p.m.

The annual Baird Brothers Trophy game on the road at the College of Wooster on Oct. 22 wraps up the Spartans' non-conference slate. Case then opens UAA play versus the University of Chicago (Ill.) on Oct. 29 before wrapping up with road games at Washington University (Mo.) on November 5 and Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) in the Academic Bowl on Nov. 12.

"We've got the same slate of opponents we had last year, and 2010 was one of the toughest schedules we've had in my time here," noted Debeljak. "Starting with JCU and ending with the UAA – which is the strongest it's ever been – this schedule is going to be a definite challenge for us week in and week out."

Mount Union's Ekkens and Collins Named 

D3Football.com Preseason All-Americans

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Mount Union senior center Brett Ekkens (East Kentwood, Mich./East Kentwood) and junior wide receiver Jasper Collins (Geneva, N.Y./Geneva) have been named preseason All-Americans byD3Football.com.

Ekkens, a first team selection, was an All-Ohio Athletic Conference First Team, All-North Region Third Team and an Academic All-OAC selection as he started all 15 games at center last season for the Purple Raiders.

Collins, a second team pick, played in all 15 games last season and had 66 catches for 908 yards and a pair of touchdowns receiving.  He also had a 47-yard punt return for a touchdown against Capital and earned All-OAC honorable mention honors last year.

The Purple Raiders enter the 2011 season winners of 19 consecutive OAC championships dating back to 1992. Mount Union has played in each of the last six Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowls (NCAA Division III National title game) and the Raiders have a record 10 NCAA Division III National Championships. This coming season also marks Larry Kehres' 26th as head coach at Mount Union and he enters the campaign with a 303-23-3 (.925) record.

The 2011 season starts on Saturday, Sept. 10 against The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh at 1:30 pm at 

Mount Union's Nate Kmic to Play Pro Football in Finland

By Will Frasure, USA Football Thu, 07/21/2011 - 4:04pm

Nate Kmic didn't have too much time to settle back in his Delta, Ohio, home after his MVP performance at the IFAF Senior World Championship in Austria.

By the time he returned, he had already been contacted by five European teams to possibly join their teams. For now, Kmic has decided to sign with Lappeenranta Rajaritarit (translates to "Border Knights") of the Finnish Maple League for the remaining three games on the team's schedule


Lappeenranta  has a population of 70,000 and is the economic and cultural center of southeastFinland near the Russian border. The city is located on a border dividing western and eastern cultures


"It hasn't really settled in yet," Kmic said. "I just got back here and now I'm heading back out next week. I'm definitely excited, but I can't wait to get settled in."

Kmic was an essential figure in the United States' gold medal run in the IFAF Senior World Championship – a quadrennial football championship comprised of the world's eight best national teams spanning four continents. His 372 total yards, including 278 receiving, earned him MVP honors for the tournament – and looks from European teams.

"It is really big thing for the Border Knights and Finnish American football that the MVP of the IFAF Senior World Championship will come to Lappeenranta to play," said Border Knights vice president Timo Kauppi. "Having Nate on our team will give a boost to our program and encourage our youth players as well."

With Lappeenranta's season finishing up shortly, Kmic will sign a temporary contract that lasts the duration of the schedule. He said his contract runs through August 20th. The opportunity came about when the team's starting running back endured a season-ending injury.

Because of "transfer regulations," the Border Knightscould not sign European players. After Kmic's performance in Austria and a running back vacancy on its roster, the team pursued him.

Kmic still plans to return to his coaching position at the University of Mount Union, where he coaches the Purple Raiders' running backs.

Mount Union coach Larry Kehres understands that Kmic will be returning late. Kehres was Team USA's offensive coordinator in Austria under head coach Mel Tjeerdsma.

"He's very supportive of my choice," Kmic said of Kehres.

Before the IFAF Senior World Championship, the NCAA's all-time leading rusher with 8,074 yards hadn't played a snap in almost three years.

"I didn't forget how much I loved the game, but that feeling you get when you play, it all came back to me," Kmic said. "Just the whole experience of representing the United States with all these guys, it made me want to come back."

Teams from Germany, Austria and Italy have contacted Kmic about playing next season; all are offers he will consider.

For now, he plans to return to Ohio after his stint in Finland and join another European team before the spring.

Kmic, who possesses an appreciation for the talent and sophistication of American football outside of the U.S., is excited about contributing to the game and its burgeoning international popularity. Sixty-two countries across six continents have national federations dedicated solely to football.

"There's a lot of good football played there," Kmic said. "As a guy who loves football, it's an exciting place to be

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