Montclair, NJ (12/11/09) – The Montclair State football placed five players on the D3Football.com All-East Region team announced late Thursday evening. Placekicker Marco Capozzoli (Bloomfield, NJ / St. Joseph's Regional), defensive lineman Chris Merkle (Nutley, NJ / Nutley) and defensive back Dominique Dixon (Elizabeth, NJ / Morris Hills) were named to the the First Team while linebacker Brian Tweer (Butler, NJ / Butler) and safety Mario McLean (Montville, NJ / Montville) were chosen to the Second and Third Team, respectively.
The teams, selected in balloting by East Region sports information directors and D3football.com staff, were chosen from 181 nominations by Division III member schools. A total of 76 players were chosen.
The five players, all First-Team NJAC selections, were key in helping Montclair State to one of the best seasons in program history. Picked to finish third in the NJAC this season, the Red Hawks went on to capture the conference championship for the first time since 2003 and the school's 18th overall. After dropping its season opener, MSU ripped off 10 straight victories, tying a school record, and finished a perfect 9-0 in conference play capped off by 14-6 win over Kean that clinched the league crown.
The victory vaulted Montclair State into the NCAA Division III Playoffs for the first time since the same 2003 campaign and the Red Hawks made the most of its appearance downing Maine Maritime 38-22 in the opening round before being eliminated by perennial Division III powerhouse Mount Union in the second round. Montclair finished the season 10-2, the fourth time in school history that MSU won 10 games in one season.
Named the NJAC Special Teams Player of the Year, Capozzoli led the conference in PAT percentage (.972), while ranking third in kick scoring per game (5.7 points). On the 2009 season, he has connected on 10-of-15 field goal attempts, and a league-best 35-of-36 PATs. Included in his 10 e 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.
Merkle led the Red Hawks with eight sacks in addition to 80 total tackles. Merkle, an NJAC Defensive Player of the Week selection, also accumulated 18.5 tackles for loss (of 81 yards) and two forced fumbles. Merkle finished 19th overall in tackles in the NJAC and was second in tackles for loss, third in sacks and sixth in fumbles caused. In eight of 11 games this season, Merkle collected six or more tackles, including a season-high 11 against Brockport. He also became the first MSU player since Shawn Roberts in 1997 to record four sacks in a game as he posted that numbers in a win over Morrisville State.
Dixon leds the NJAC in passes defended with 22 and also had four interceptions (a figure that ranked ninth in the NJAC) and 28 tackles. The all-time leader at MSU in passes defended, Dixon broke up 18 passes this year in addition to his four picks. Six times in 2009 he recorded two or more in a game, including four versus Western Connecticut in a 33-17 victory. Dixon was also named to D3Football.com's "Team of the Week" for his efforts in a MSU's 16-7 win over then No. 19 Cortland. Dixon clinched that victory with a 16-yard interception return for a touchdown as the Red Hawks defeated the Red Dragons for the first time since 2003.
Tweer led the team and ranked ninth in the league in tackles with 94. He also recorded 15.5 tackles for loss (of 69 yards) and four sacks. Tweer, who also earned NJAC Defensive Player of the Week honors, added three interceptions and four fumble recoveries. The senior captain recorded five games of 10 or more tackles, including both NCAA Division III Playoff contests as he registered 10 against Maine Maritime and Mount Union. Tweer, who had a season-best 12 tackles in the aofrementioned TCNJ win, played a key role in Montclair's 14-7 win at Rowan in Week 9. He collected 10 tackles, three for loss along with sack as he also thwarted the two final drives by the Profs with an interception and fumble recovery.
McLean earned his second straight First-Team selection as he collected 63 tackles (fourth on the team) along with three sacks, six breakups and interception, forced fumble and blocked kick. McLean had six games of seven or more tackles, including a seven-tackle performance (two for loss) in the opening round of the NCAA Playoffs versus Maine Maritime.