KINGS POINT, N.Y. (Nov. 16, 2017) – On Wednesday, the NEWMAC Conference announced the 2017 Football Postseason Awards after its successful inaugural season and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy had a total of eight student-athletes honored. Two Mariners were selected to the NEWMAC Football First Team All-Conference while six others landed on the Second Team.
Sophomore wide receiver Joe Vitelli (Warrington, Pa.) and senior offensive lineman Bob Heyward (Islip Terrace, N.Y.) represented Merchant Marine on the First Team. The six Mariners on the Second Team were senior fullback Luke Tiefenthaler (Freehold, N.J.), senior offensive lineman William Marino (Mount Kisco, N.Y.), senior punter Erik Swayne (Great Falls, Va.), junior defensive lineman Charles Deegan (Huntington, N.Y.), senior linebacker Justin Sydlowski (Plymouth, Mich.) and senior "athlete" (quarterback) Brice Moore (Pace, Fla.).
Vitelli, who was a Liberty League honorable mention as a return specialist in 2016, is the Mariners' top receiver this year. He has hauled in 32 catches for a total of 703 yards with three touchdowns. His longest catch of the year came two weeks ago against Catholic, which went for 81 yards. Vitelli has had a long of 40-or-more yards in five of USMMA's nine games this year. His 78.1 receiving yards per game are best among all NEWMAC receivers.
Heyward and Marino are a part of an offensive line unit that has helped Merchant Marine claim the third-best ranked rushing offense in the nation. Heyward was a Liberty League honorable mention after the 2016 season. In 2017, the Mariners have averaged 357.0 rushing yards per game behind the offensive line's efforts. The team is also third in the nation in 3rd-Down Conversion, fifth in 4th-Down Conversion and seventh in Red Zone Offense and 11 different Mariner ball-carriers have scored touchdowns. Along with the rest of the offensive line, Heyward and Marino were just recently named to the D3football.com Team of the Week.
Tiefenthaler has rushed for 383 yards and found the end zone six times on the ground this year for USMMA. He is averaging 47.9 rushing yards per game, which was second-best on the squad. The senior's 36 points ranks third on the Mariners.
Swayne, a 2016 Liberty League honorable mention, is the NEWMAC's second-ranked punter this season with an average of 40.8 yards per punt. He had a season-long of 65 yards back in September against SUNY Maritime. The senior has planted 13 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line and has forced nine fair catches and two touchbacks. He was named NEWMAC and D3football.com Punter of the Week after the Mariners' game against Springfield.
Deegan has recorded 26 total tackles (16 solo and 10 assisted) for Merchant Marine this season. 6.5 of those tackles have been for losses of a combined 30 yards, and the junior has also recorded four sacks for losses of 27 combined. His four sacks are second-best on the team and tied for sixth in the NEWMAC. Deegan also forced one fumble this year and broke up one pass.
Sydlowski finished the regular season with 39 total tackles (22 solo and 17 assisted). The senior tri-captain recorded two tackles for combined losses of seven yards, including one sack which dropped Misericordia back four yards back during the season-opener in early September.
Moore, who was an All-Liberty League First Team Athlete in 2016, has compiled 998 rushing yards over the Mariners' nine games this year for an average of 110.9 yards per game, which ranks third among NEWMAC rushers. He has also found the end zone 12 times on the ground and his 72 points are good for fourth in the conference. Moore is 54-for-133 passing this year for 945 yards with three touchdowns. The senior tri-captain was twice named the NEWMAC Offensive Player of the Week during the 2017 campaign (Oct. 10 & Nov. 7).
For the complete 2017 Football Postseason Awards release from the NEWMAC, click here.
The Mariners return to action on Friday night, Nov. 17, when they will take on Buffalo State in the ECAC Clayton Chapman Bowl Game. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Delaware Stadium on the campus of the University of Delaware. Live stats and a live video feed of the game will be available with links on the USMMA Football Schedule Page.
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