Montclair, NJ (11/20/09) —Senior placekicker Marco Capozzoli (Bloomfield, NJ / St. Joseph's (Montvale)) was chosen as the Special Teams Player of the Year while long-time mentor Rick Giancola was selected Coach of the Year as the New Jersey Athletic Conference announced its 2009 All-Conference Team on Friday.
Montclair State, the NJAC champion, had 15 players selected, including six on the First Team. The 15 players were the most chosen among the 10 conference schools.
Joining Capozzoli on the First Team were four defensive players - lineman Chris Merkle (Nutley, NJ / Nutley), linebacker Brian Tweer (Butler, NJ / Butler) and backs Dominique Dixon (Elizabeth, NJ / Morris Hills) and Mario McLean (Montvile, NJ / Montville), along with punt returner Scott Kubrak (Caldwell, NJ / Caldwell).
A two-time NJAC all-conference selection, Capozzoli currently leads the conference in PAT percentage (.966), while ranking third in kick scoring per game (5.5 points). On the 2009 season, he has connected on 9-of-14 field goal attempts, and a league-best 28-of-29 PATs. Included in his nine field goals was a three-field goal performance in MSU's 16-13 win over The College of New Jersey on October 24. In that game Capozzoli - one of only three kickers in Montclair history to make 30 career field goals - became the first MSU placekicker to connect on three 40-yard attempts in a game as he hit from 42, 44 and career-best 47 yards in the rain.
McLean earned his second straight First-Team selection as he collected 56 tackles (fourth on the team) along with three sacks, six breakups and interception, forced fumble and blocked kick. Merkle too collected his second All-Conference accolade but moved up to the First Team this year. The senior leads the Red Hawks with seven sacks in addition to 67 total tackles. Merkle, an NJAC Defensive Player of the Week selection, also accumulated 17.5 tackles for loss (of 80 yards) and two forced fumbles.
Tweer, Dixon and Kubrak each earned their first honor. Tweer leads the team and ranks 10th in the league in tackles with 76. He also recorded 14.5 tackles for loss (of 68 yards) and four sacks. Tweer, who also earned NJAC Defensive Player of the Week honors, added three interceptions and four sacks. Dixon leads the NJAC in passes defended with 22 and also has four interceptions and 28 tackles. Kubrak is second in the league in punt returns at 9.1 per runback and a touchdown. His 17-yard run back against Kean last week helped set up the first of MSU's two touchdowns in the game the clinched the conference title.
Senior running back Jeff Bliss (New Milford, NJ / New Milford) and A.J. Letizia (Dumont, NJ / Dumont) were among the six chosen to the Second Team. Offensive lineman Jeremy Goldman (Staten Island, NY / Tottenville) and Mike Sperduti (Point Pleasant, NJ / Point Pleasant Beach) each earned their first All-Conference honor as did defensive backs Gary Knoeppel (West Long Branch, NJ / Shore Regional) and Jesse Shenker (Freehold, NJ / Freehold Township).
Bliss was named to the Second Team for the second straight season. The sixth all-time leading rusher in MSU history, Bliss has run for 563 yards this season and seven touchdowns. Letizia too was chosen Second Team for the second time in his career. Returning from injury that caused him to miss all of 2008, Letizia is second on the team with 32 receptions and leads MSU with 534 yards. He has also posted two touchdown receptions. Goldman and Sperduti are honored for the first time as is Shenker, who had 46 tackles, an interception and four passes defended this year. Knoepel's selection gave the Red Hawks all four members of its defensive back field on the All-NJAC Team. Knoeppel leads the NJAC in interceptions with five and he also had 50 tackles.
Seniors Ron Litz (South River, NJ / South River), Joe Gelpi (Clifton, NJ / St. Mary's (Rutherford)) and Gary Brenner (Middlesex, NJ / Middlesex) were named Honorable Mention at fullback, offensive line and defensive line, respectively.
Litz served as the blocking fullback for the MSU running game but was also versatile as he caught 16 passes out of the backfield for 95 yards and a touchdown. Gelpi earned Honorable Mention for the second straight year. Brenner was named for the first time after appearing in all 10 contests recording 24 tackles, a forced fumble and two pass breakups.
Giancola was selected as the NJAC Coach of the Year by his peers. Picked to finish third in the NJAC preseason coaches poll, Giancola led the Red Hawks to nine consecutive league victories for the 2009 NJAC Championship, and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. It was the ninth NJAC title for Giancola and the 18th overall for Montclair since the league established the sport in 1969. In 27 seasons at the helm of the MSU program, Giancola has guided the Red Hawks to an overall record of 190-86-2.