Football Rakes in All-NESCAC Honors; McGee Named Defensive Player of the Year
November 16, 2001
McGee is a repeat first-team selection, leading the Jeffs - who limited opponents to a Division III low 6.1 points per game - with 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles in the backfield. He finished the season as the team's fourth leading tackler with 52 takedowns, including 30 unassisted, and capped his career as Amherst's all-time sack leader with 29.5 in four seasons. McGee was also a Second-Team All-ECAC pick last season and won NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors three times during his career.
Senior linebacker Dan Lalli (Watertown, MA) also earned first-team honors for the second consecutive season, leading the Jeffs with a whopping 79 tackles in 2001. He saved perhaps his finest outing for the final home game, torching visiting Trinity College for a career-high 18 tackles and forcing a fumble as Amherst improved to 7-0 heading into its season-finale at undefeated archrival Williams College. Lalli is no stranger to postseason accolades, earning First-Team All-NESCAC and Second-Team All-ECAC honors as a junior and All-ECAC and Team MVP honors as a sophomore, after being named the NESCAC Defensive Rookie of the Year as a freshman.
Rounding out the first-team for Amherst are junior punter Geoff Bough (Los Altos, CA), senior defensive back Jay Hutchins (Columbus, OH), senior linebacker Brian Landolfi (Hanover, MA), senior defensive lineman Brad Hensley (Cincinnati, OH) and senior offensive lineman Josh Ahearn (North Brookfield, MA) - all first-time selections.
Bough led the NESCAC with a 38.2-yard punting average, including 19 boots inside the opponent's 20-yard line - a dramatic improvement over his 33.2-yard average as a sophomore. He hinted at great things to come in the Jeffs' 2000 season-finale, recovering a potentially disastrous errant snap and unleashing a career-long 61-yard punt in Amherst's dramatic 20-12 NESCAC-clinching win over Williams.
Hutchins' award was long overdue, leading the Jeffs with 76 total tackles as a junior before tallying a team second-best 68 this season. He was a two-time NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week in 2001; once after notching 12 tackles and forcing a turnover in Amherst's 7-3 win over Middlebury College, the second after a 10-tackle performance at Trinity College in which he recovered a fumble in Amherst's end zone and raced 24 yards, setting up the game-winning touchdown.
Landolfi has been similarly underrated during a spectacular four-year career, capped by this season's 57-tackle, three-interception performance, making him the team's third leading tackler. He also finished third on the team with 55 tackles as a junior, was second in 1999 with 46 takedowns and was the Jeffs' fourth-leading tackler as a first-year with 61.
Hensley made his living in the trenches with 36 tackles in 2001, including seven in the backfield and a pair of sacks, posting a combined 74 tackles over his junior and senior seasons. A pre-med major and a NESCAC All-Academic selection last year, Hensley is also one of the brightest members of Amherst's class of 2002.
Meanwhile, Ahearn is another first time All-NESCAC selection, capping his career as one of the conference's best offensive lineman. Behind Ahearn at center, the Jeffs averaged 204.4 yards rushing this season despite suffering a wealth of injuries in the offensive backfield. Amherst also rushed for 1,355 yards in 2000, Ahearn's junior season.
Four offensive players paced the Jeffs on the conference's second team - senior wide receiver Derrell Wright (Hudson, OH), senior tight end Matt Flavin (Littleton, CO), junior offensive lineman Rob Vernicek (Montville, NJ) and sophomore running back Fletcher Ladd (Amherst, NH) - while senior linebacker Gregg Stankewicz (Portland, CT) was Amherst's lone second-team selection on defense.
Wright, who was a first-team selection at two different positions, wide receiver and punt returner, as a junior, graduates as one of the most spectacular offensive players in school history, finishing his four-year career with 138 receptions for 2,256 yards, both just shy of College Football Hall of Famer and 11-year NFL veteran Freddie Scott '74's school records in both categories. He finished his senior year as the ninth leading receiver in the NESCAC with a team-best 31 catches for 448 yards despite battling injuries and defensive double-teams all season long.
Flavin caught only two passes in 2001 - one an 18-yard touchdown reception in a 23-0 win over Wesleyan University - but was one of the most ferocious blockers in the NESCAC. The senior tight end is also a three-time NESCAC All-Academic selection and a legitimate candidate for Verizon Academic All-America honors.
Just a junior and already a two-time All-NESCAC selection (after earning second-team honors as a sophomore in 2000), Vernicek is another outstanding blocker who - along with Ahearn and Flavin - was a major reason for the resurgence in Amherst's running game. The precocious Ladd was a major benefactor at tailback, leading the Jeffs with 664 yards and seven rushing touchdowns - the second highest TD total in the NESCAC - while finishing the season with three straight 100-yard games.
Stankewicz rounds out seven Amherst All-Conference selections on defense and, like Vernicek, is a two-time second-team selection. The senior linebacker posted 80 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in his final season - second on the team only to McGee in both categories - and finished with 38 tackles overall. He also tied for the team lead with 12 tackles in the backfield as a junior, led the Jeffs with seven sacks for a loss of 33 yards as a sophomore and tallied 4.5 sacks as a first-year in 1998.
Amherst finished its season at 7-1, losing its final game, 23-20, in overtime at undefeated conference champion Williams, narrowly missing out on becoming the first Amherst team to finish 8-0 since 1984. Along the way, Amherst's defense tied an NCAA Division III record by not allowing a passing touchdown all season long.