by Luke Stanczyk
After their second consecutive season with an NCAA Playoff appearance and at least a share of the Northern Athletics Conference title, seventeen players were given awards by the NAC.
John Borsellino was able to garner the NAC offensive player of the year award and first team all-NAC honors at the positions of running back and return man.
“That’s something you can’t do by yourself,” said Borsellino on his season. “Team success goes hand-in-hand with my own success, so I give my teammates a lot of credit.”
The junior ran for 1,361 yards and scored 22 total touchdowns, both of which are Benedictine records. his 234 carries are also a school record, and his 17 rushing touchdowns led the NAC.
“It’s cool to be a part of the tradition,” Borsellino explained about setting the records. “My name will be there with a lot of great players that have played for Benedictine, and it’s an example I set for the younger guys coming in to beat those records.”
In addition, Lockton also took home big honors on his side of the ball. The junior defensive end was named co-NAC defensive player of the year and first team all-NAC, as he led all of Division III football with 30 tackles for loss. He also led the NAC with 5.5 sacks, recorded 92 tackles, and blocked two kicks on special teams.
The Eagles saw four other players take home All-NAC honors: two on offense, one on defense, and one on special teams. Offensive lineman Kevin Novacich (senior) and Pat Sterk (junior) were named to the first team, as they were key components of the line that blocked for Borsellino all season. On defense, senior cornerback Matt McWilliams was named, as was tied for the NAC-lead with five interceptions. Sophomore punter Billy Dixon rounded out the Eagles on the first team, as he led the conference in punting average.
Also, seven Eagles were named to the All-NAC second team. Senior quarterback Matt Brown headlined this group, throwing for 1,910 yards, 18 touchdowns, and just eight interceptions.
“It’s a real honor,” Brown said. “It is anytime you can get one of the top awards like that.”
Junior fullback John Alessi was named to the second team as well, as he was second on the team in rushing and was Borsellino’s lead blocker. Sophomore guard Eddie Boncela and senior tight end Bryan Wiesemann also earned second team honors for their blocking efforts, and senior wide receiver Brandin Austin (50 receptions, 688 yards, 8 touchdowns) was also named.
BenU saw two defensive players named to the second team: junior linebacker Chris Buonavolanto and senior cornerback Andrew Taylor. Buonavolanto was second on the team with 93 tackles, and Taylor had three interceptions on the season, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Rounding out the awards for the Eagles were NAC Honorable Mentions: senior wide receiver Chris Schultz and junior linebackers Trent Altieri and Mike Theriault. Junior safety Erik Rickert was named to the NAC all-sportsmanship team, and Head Coach Jon Cooper was named co-NAC coach of the year.
“Coach Cooper is a great coach,” explained Brown. “He expects you to be accountable for yourself. He’s one of those guys who sees football as a big thing, but is always there if anyone needs help with school and your own personal life as well. It was a lot of fun playing under him.”
As for the amount of awards the team won, Brown sees it as a testament to their teriffic season.
“A lot of our guys deserved the honors,” Brown said. “We know that we were one of the best teams, if not the best.”
All in all, BenU is happy about garnering the honors, but know they have work to do heading into next season.
“We got to run the table, repeat as champions, and ultimately win a playoff game,” Borsellino said.