Montclair, NJ (12/21/09) – Senior defensive back Dominique Dixon (Elizabeth, NJ / Morris Hills) and senior defensive lineman Chris Merkle (Nutley, NJ / Nutley) each earned spots on the D3Football.com All-America Team announced on Saturday just prior to the NCAA Division III national championship game.
Dixon and Merkle, both First-Team NJAC selections, played a key role 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.
Dixon led 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. He was selected to D3Football.com's All-East Region First Team last week.
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.