2013 William Penn Football Preview
2012 record: 9-3 (5-1 MWL, T-1st)
Starters returning/lost: 13/13 (including special teams)
Letterwinners returning/lost: 42/23
Taylor Parsons Sr. The Woodlands, Texas
(Honorable-mention all-MWL, 791 rushing yards, 11 TDs, 490 passing yards, 3 TDs)
Shawn Davis Sr. Hamersville, Ohio
(Second-team all-MWL, 573 rushing yards, 4 TDs)
Jacob Batterson Sr. Eddyville
(First-team all-MWL, 78 tackles, 3 interceptions)
Marcus Kerrigan Sr. Cary, Ill.
(First-team all-MWL, 12-of-14 FG, 33-of-39 XP)
Brian Bahrs Fr. Newman, Ill.
Walter Eastwood Fr. Harrisonville, Mo.
With the playoff drought ended, the William Penn football team has its sights set on advancing deeper into the postseason as it enters a punishing 2013 schedule.
The Statesmen were 9-3 last season (5-1 Midwest League), a mark that netted them a spot in the NAIA Football Championship Series. The bid was the program’s first since 1976 and only the second in its history. Unfortunately, the pairings were tough on the navy and gold as it met defending national champion Saint Xavier in the opening round. The Cougars were too much in a 31-0 WPU setback.
“Last year was exciting; we played good football, won another conference title, and earned a playoff berth,” Head Coach Todd Hafner said. “We would like to expand on that this fall. We got to taste playoff football, so hopefully we can get back there and make even more noise this year.”
Lessons were learned at every corner in 2012, hopefully preparing the #16 team in the land for what expects to be one of the, if not the toughest, schedules in the NAIA. A total of six teams on this year’s slate are ranked in the NAIA’s preseason rating. Add to that an NCAA Division II program and nearly every Saturday will be a must-attend event.
To make matters even more interesting, the team’s success has led to some coaches making leaps for higher callings. Assistant coaches Aaron Hafner (head coach at Luther College) and Steve Miller (defensive coordinator at Tabor College) are the most visible departures, but also gone is the University’s strength coach Ike Hammerly (Luther College) who was instrumental in producing Herculean specimens for the last several years.
“We have had some big changes in our coaching staff, but their replacements have been tremendous,” Hafner said. “Our strength coaches stepped up and we never missed a beat, and our players had a great spring so we do not think we have fallen off at all.”
While some of the coaching staff may unrecognizable to fans, the gentlemen wearing the helmets have quite a history here. Of the 19 different players to receive all-conference laurels in 2012, 14 of them return to the turf. Highlighting the crew are first-teamers Jacob Batterson (Sr., Eddyville, Industrial Technology) at safety and Marcus Kerrigan (Sr., Cary, Ill., Sociology) at kicker/punter, both of whom are entering this fall with plenty of All-America whispers.
Also returning to the fold will be the 1-2-3 backfield punch of quarterback Taylor Parsons (Sr., The Woodlands, Texas, Sociology) and fullbacks Shawn Davis (Sr., Hamersville, Ohio, Physical Education) and Evan Ressler (Jr., Cascade, Iowa, Biology). Defensive linemen Nick DiMarco (Jr., St. Charles, Mo., Physical Education) and Micheal Welch (Sr., Houston, Texas, Physical Education) will be key members on the other side of the football.
“Taylor is 28-5 as a starter over the last three seasons and we expect nothing less than an outstanding senior year from him,” Hafner said. “Nick is as good an athlete as anyone we have had here. We feel good about the leadership available on both sides of the ball.”
While Parsons had another strong campaign a year ago, he also missed some time due to injury. That opened the door for teammates Tyler Hafner (So., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Undecided) and Hunter Collins (So., Jenks, Okla., Undecided) to earn an abundance of quality playing time. Hafner actually started in the Statesmen’s playoff game.
Despite missing time with injuries, Parsons led all rushers in 2012 with 791 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also completed 31-of-80 passes for 490 yards and three scores.
Hafner picked up 312 yards on the ground (three TDs) and was 15-of-41 through the air for 192 yards.
“We could not be happier to bring Taylor back for one more year,” Hafner said. “We have always known what we would get out of him, but the pleasant surprise was Tyler. He did an outstanding job in taking the reins during Taylor’s absence. Hunter is also very smart and has a ton of skill. All three of these young men will receive plenty of playing time this year.”
With a trio of prolific rushers graduating from the program, the slot back position is wide open in 2013. Sam Tvedt (Jr., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Business Management) heads the group as a returning starter, but will face a battle from several others, including Nate Wilmes (Jr., Carlisle, Iowa, Sociology), Larry Reed (So., St. Louis, Mo., Physical Education), brother Nate Tvedt (So., Oskaloosa, Iowa, Business Management), and Brian Bahrs (Fr., Newman, Ill., Business Management).
Sam Tvedt tallied 398 yards (three TDs) last season and also had the squad’s best rushing average at 10.5 yards per attempt. Reed added 47 yards a year ago.
“We have a really good mix of returning and new talent that will vie for our critical slot back spot,” Hafner said. “We are confident that someone will step up in a big way.”
Few will argue that William Penn possesses one of the best rushing games in the NAIA and much of that can be credited to the incredible fullback duo of Davis and Ressler. Davis has started from day one on campus, while Ressler has also been a mainstay on the turf.
Although Ressler did not start a single game in 2012, he did manage to get a good chunk of carries, edging out Davis for second on the team in yards (698) and touchdowns (nine). Davis recorded 573 yards and four scores.
William Penn is also graced with fellow returners Dylan Latham (So., Bettendorf, Iowa, Undecided), Tyler Goble (Fr., Des Moines, Iowa, Secondary Education), and Michael Thomas (So., Visalia, Calif., Undecided).
“Shawn and Evan have given us everything we could have asked for and more,” Hafner said. “Our depth at fullback is as good as any position we have. We feel like we have done a great job recruiting that position over the years and this group is a testament to that.”
While the Statesmen do not take to the air all that often, the squad’s receiving crew is definitely not taken for granted. William Penn will again send to the assault several strong individuals, including former all-conference player Chris Crawford (Sr., Muskegon, Mich., Communications), who was permitted a medical redshirt after a season-ending injury early in 2012.
Crawford caught one ten-yard touchdown pass before being injured in the second game of the campaign.
“Having Chris back is a huge lift for our team,” Hafner said. “He is an explosive player who will be an asset in many areas.”
Aaron Broyles (Sr., Escondido, Calif., Physical Education) will flank him as another returning all-MWL pick, while returners Kramer Patterson (So., Ozark, Mo., Secondary Education), Cole Lema (So., St. Louis, Mo., Physical Education), and Sam Taylor (Jr., Eddyville, Iowa, Mechanical Engineering) will also vie for time.
Broyles topped all wideouts with 14 receptions for 177 yards and one touchdown.
“Aaron has been a mainstay since coming here, and we are excited to see him progress this fall,” Hafner said. “Kramer also saw significant time last year and will be in the mix right away. Cole redshirted last season and will give a strong battle, while Sam came to college on the tiny side, but he gets bigger and faster every year.”
A new starter will be featured on the outside of the offensive line as 2012 backup Clint Allen (Jr., Burleson, Texas, Physical Education) will take on former defensive standout Greg Beatty (Jr., Brooklyn, Iowa, Industrial Technology). Beatty spent 2012 as a top player in the linebacking corps, but has transitioned well to the other side of the ball.
“Both of these young men had very good spring practices,” Hafner said. “They will both play a lot and be very integral to our offensive success.”
Hafner envisions Cole McGinnis (So., Rock Island, Ill., Undecided) to see some time at tight end as well.
All-league performers Jake Adams (Jr., Park City, Utah, Psychology) and Travis Blecher (So., Rock Island, Ill., Sociology) will pace the strongest and most important component of the Statesmen’s vaunted running attack–the line.
“The offensive line will again be the strength of our offense,” Hafner said. “More than any other position, we put a lot of recruiting emphasis on our linemen and have been very fortunate to have had so much success in recent years.”
Blecher figures to take the reins at left tackle, while Adams has the stronghold at left guard. The loss to two-time all-MWL selection Mason Woods has left a void at center that Justin Lewis (Jr., Florence, Ala., Sociology) or Hea Tuifua (So., Salt Lake City, Utah, Undecided) hope to fill.
Cory Minnie (Sr., Mt. Orab, Ohio, Physical Education) and Jarrett Rogers (So., Ozark, Mo., Business Management) are at the top of the list at a deep right guard spot, and J.T. Dotson (So., Jenks, Okla., Business Management) and Daniel Surfass (So., Park City, Utah, History/Government) will battle at right tackle.
“There will be a LOT of competition for all of these positions,” Hafner said. “We have a chance to be a really good offensive line once again.”
As aforementioned, expectations are very high for linemen Welch and DiMarco as they look to be an impactful first line of defense.
Welch finished 2012 with 52 tackles, including six for loss (one sack). He also forced two fumbles, while DiMarco stopped 45 ball carriers, highlighted by 14.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The all-around athlete also picked off two passes, broke up six others, and recovered one fumble.
“The trenches will be our strength on defense,” Hafner said. “We have always prided ourselves on stopping the run, but, led by Micheal and Nick, we should be able to get after the quarterback as well.”
Fellow returners Travis Provo (Sr., Leesville, La., Physical Education), Jason Johnson (Sr., Geneseo, Ill., Industrial Technology), Clayton Temaat (So., Alba, Mo., Industrial Technology), and Tyler Fellows (Sr., Williams, Mich., Physical Education) add great depth up front. 2012 redshirt Tre Nichols (Fr., Rock Island, Ill., Undecided) should be a difference-maker as well.
Provo notched 46 stops (four for loss) with three sacks, while Johnson posted 24 tackles (7.5 for loss) and three sacks. Fellows, with 18 tackles (one sack), and Temaat, with ten, were also productive in 2012.
A pair of all-MWL linebackers will cleat up again in 2013 as Scott Adams (Jr., Park City, Utah, Sociology) and Brock Peery (Sr., Payson, Utah, Secondary Education) guide the defense’s signal-callers.
Adams paced the 2012 defense with 90 tackles, while Peery was right on his heels with 87. Peery also found the endzone, returning two fumbles for scores. The senior had an interception as well. Adams also recovered a fumble and forced one.
“Scott and Brock were everywhere for us last year so we are thrilled to have them back,” Hafner said.
Returners Kevin Shrauger (So., Nixa, Mo., Physical Education) and Isaac Samek (So., Bolivar, Mo., Industrial Technology) will vie for the final backing spot.
Shrauger stopped 18 runners, while Samek did so seven times (one fumble recovery).
“Kevin moved from safety and had great spring workouts,” Hafner said. “Isaac’s versatility allows him to play any position we need. We have many other talented individuals at linebacker, but they will have a hard time breaking through against these talented four.”
While his teammates will all make their marks in their own ways this fall, Batterson’s return is considered to be the biggest for the navy and gold.
Batterson did a bit of everything in 2012 with a jam-packed stat line: 78 tackles (five for loss), 0.5 sacks, three interceptions, five pass breakups, three fumble recoveries, one force fumble, and two blocked kicks. He scored two defensive touchdowns as well.
“Jake does so much for us,” Hafner said. “He is an electric player that makes the tough plays seem routine.”
Joseph Frye (Jr., Detroit, Mich., Physical Education), Je’Rodd Barnaba (So., Baytown, Texas, Physical Education), and Deshon Conley (Sr., Chicago, Ill., Physical Education) are back at safety.
The corners are a little thinner on returning talent but certainly not on skill. Caesar Harris (Jr., Memphis, Tenn., Sociology) and Cameron Penny (So., Oxnard, Calif., Business Management) return to battle with newcomers Thurgood Brooks (So., Rock Island, Ill., Secondary Education) and Keshun Cowen (Jr., Olive Branch, Miss., Physical Education).
Frye topped the crew with 70 tackles (1.5 for loss), one interception, seven pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. Barnaba (eight), Harris (six), and Penny (five) also tallied multiple tackles last year.
“Our overall depth and competition at these positions will make the secondary one of our best strengths,” Hafner said. “We felt good back there a year ago, but we think these guys could be even better.”
The consensus is that Kerrigan is one of the best kickers in the nation and he plans to defend that statement with a stellar senior campaign. He and Johnson have also made for one of the most successful punting duos in the NAIA.
Kerrigan topped all players with 69 points last year, including going 33-of-39 in extra points and a school-record 12-of-14 in field goals. The senior has been named to the Preseason All-America team by College Football America.
Kerrigan also punted 23 times for a 40.0 average (long of 66), while Johnson booted the ball on 11 occasions for a 36.7 yard clip (long of 58).
“Marcus and Jason are simply great,” Hafner said. “We have little to worry about when it comes to this area of our game. They do a great job with field position and putting points on the board. We are going to do a few different things at times this year to give them an even better chance to really boot the ball if we need to.”
WPU’s kickers can only produce if the ball reaches their feet, so the team’s longsnapper is also a crucial cog. Fortunately, Larry Reed will again have his hands on the pigskin for every kick
“Larry did an outstanding job in 2012; we are not worrying too much about that spot,” Hafner said.
The old adage of ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’ will likely never ring more true than this fall. Week in and week out, the Statesmen will be tested by some of the top programs in the nation. The month of October is considered to be the toughest stretch with three opponents having appeared in the 2012 playoffs and two being the past two national champions. Homecoming is set for October 5 against 2012 co-MWL champion St. Ambrose.
“I do not know who put this schedule together, but Holy Buckets!” Hafner said. “We face seven teams that are either in the NAIA top-20 or from NCAA Division II. This will definitely be tough, but our kids are excited to play them all and see how we stack up. This gives our kids motivation to prepare well and practice hard every day and be fully ready to play.”
“As far as non-conference goes, in the end, it really does not matter what happens in those games,” Hafner said. “If we can win the league outright, we still get back to the postseason and that is our ultimate goal.”
To accommodate new programs, some shuffling of the MSFA deck was done in the offseason with the biggest change coming via Saint Xavier replacing St. Francis (Ill.) in the Midwest League.
“No one will argue that the Midwest League is strong from the top all the way to the bottom,” Hafner said. “Saint Xavier won the national title two years and will be the favorite right away, while we will join St. Ambrose and Grand View in trying to hunt them down. In the end, it still comes down to how you play on any given Saturday.”
“We are looking forward to another great year,” Hafner said. “The fan and community support has been outstanding, especially since moving to the new stadium. We plan to put outstanding football players on the field and outstanding young men in the community. As challenging as this year could possibly be, we are looking forward to it.”