Amherst placed two offensive linemen on the All-NESCAC squad, including four-year starting right tackle Brendan Carolan (No. 63, bottom)
Jeffs Rake in All-NESCAC Honors
November 15, 2002
AMHERST, MA – Nine different Amherst College football players were named to the All-NESCAC first and second teams on Friday morning. In all, Amherst, which finished with a 6-2 record, capped by an improbable 45-34 upset win over previously undefeated Williams College, placed six players on the first team and three on the second, with five selections on offense.
Leading the way are first-team selections Fletcher Ladd (Amherst, NH), a Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-District junior tailback, and senior left tackle Rob Vernicek (Montville, NJ), who was a second-team all conference pick in 2000 and 2001.
Ladd finished second in the NESCAC with 1,148 rushing yards on 236 carries, and ninth in the nation in rushing at 143.5 yards per game. He was also fourth in the conference in all-purpose yards (145.8 ypg) and eighth in total offense (143.5 ypg), and fell just 72 yards shy of the single-season school record for rushing and just 145 yards shy of the NESCAC single-season record. Ladd earned NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors with a career-high 208 rushing yards in a 14-0 win over Colby College and has rushed for at least 100 yards in eight of his last 11 games. He was also voted Second-Team All-NESCAC and Amherst's Co-Offensive Back of the Year as a sophomore, finishing second in the conference in rushing touchdowns (seven) and seventh in rushing average (79.8 ypg).
The 6' 6", 285-pound Vernicek is one of the best offensive linemen in school history. He started all eight games as a first-year as the Jeffs averaged 142.3 yards rushing. During his sophomore season, the first of two straight All-NESCAC campaigns, Amherst upped its rushing output to 169.4 yards per game. He improved dramatically as a junior and, predictably, the rushing attack followed suit – the Jeffs averaged a whopping 204.4 yards on the ground despite a wealth of injuries in the offensive backfield. In 2002, Amherst led the NESCAC in rushing offense (192.9 yards per game) and surrendered just seven sacks all season long.
Rounding out the first-team from Amherst are senior co-captain defensive tackle Pat Hayes (E. Bridgewater, MA), senior free safety Jeremy Carroll (Winchester, MA), sophomore place-kicker David Bodner (Atlantic Beach, NY) and sophomore return specialist Jay Wagstaff (Tewksbury, MA).
Hayes, an All-NESCAC and All-New England hurdler who also captains the indoor and outdoor track teams, emerged as a defensive force this fall with 42 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks.
Carroll led the NESCAC with seven interceptions, just two shy of the conference record, and finished eighth in the nation in interceptions per game (0.9). He was a two-time conference defensive player of the week, first with a nine-tackle, two-interception performance in a 17-10 win at Middlebury College, and again after torching Little Three rival Wesleyan University for a career-high three interceptions.
Bodner paced the NESCAC and broke a conference and school record with eight field goals, including an overtime game-winner in a dramatic 27-24 come-from-behind victory over visiting Tufts University. He was also a near-perfect 19-for-20 on extra point attempts and finished the season with a team-high 43 points.
Wagstaff topped the conference in placed 17th nationally in punt return average (14.1 yards per return), with a 68-yard touchdown return in a 42-20 win at Bowdoin College to his credit. He also led the Jeffs with 294 kick return yards and caught 19 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns as a wide receiver.
Three senior offensive players paced the Jeffs on the conference's second team – wide receiver J.P. Zito (Coral Gables, FL) and right tackle Brendan Carolan (Koloa, HI), who were both named First-Team Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-District earlier this week, and co-captain fullback Jeff Ryan (Belmont, MA), a four-year starter.
Zito led Amherst in catches (34), receiving yards (609) and touchdowns (seven), while finishing second in the NESCAC in touchdown catches (seven), fourth in receiving yards (76.1 ypg) and sixth in receptions (4.25 rpg). He tallied four catches for 70 yards in Amherst's 19-0 season-opening win over Bates, caught five passes for 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 42-20 win at Bowdoin and, in Week 3, a 17-10 win at Middlebury, exploded with eight more catches for 105 yards, including a 50-yard scoring strike, topped only by a then career-long 67-yard touchdown grab the following week against Colby. He earned NESCAC Offensive Player of the Week honors after torching visiting arch-rival Williams College for seven catches, 179 receiving yards and touchdown grabs of 33, three and 69 yards in a dramatic and improbable 45-35 win over the previously undefeated Ephs. Zito was Amherst's fourth-leading receiver as a junior with six catches for 89 yards.
Carolan started every game and played nearly every offensive snap in four seasons at right tackle. Combining with fellow four-year starter Vernicek on the offensive line, Amherst led the NESCAC in rushing at 192.9 yards per game and allowed just seven sacks in 2002. Carolan also helped the Jeffs average 204.4 yards rushing as a junior despite a wealth of injuries in the offensive backfield.
Ryan was the primary lead blocker in the NESCAC's top-rated rushing offense and blazed the trail for Ladd's prolific 1,148-yard rushing output. He also rushed 10 times for 28 yards and a touchdown, mostly in short-yardage situations, and caught 12 passes for 94 yards. Ryan was the Jeffs' third leading receiver with 13 catches for 124 yards as a junior, was voted Amherst's Co-Offensive Back of the Year as a sophomore and earned team Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman.
Arch-rival Williams College placed a total of eight players, one less than Amherst, on the 2002 All-NESCAC Team and swept Offensive Player of the Year (junior quarterback Joe Reardon), Defensive Player of the Year (senior defensive back Scott Farley) and Coach of the Year (Dick Farley) honors. Wesleyan running back Pat Curran was named the conference's Offensive Rookie of the year, while Trinity defensive lineman Michael Blair was named Defensive Rookie of the Year.