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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thiel Tomcats Picked To Repeat as PAC Titlist

By William Albright

Team: Bethany

Nickname: Bison

Stadium: Bethany Field (1,000)

Head Coach: Tim Weaver (1st year)

2005 Record: 1-9 overall, 0-6 in PAC

Returning Starters: Offense (7), Defense (7), Special Teams (2).

Key Returnees: Wide Receiver T. J. Parker, Linebacker Cliff Anderson, center Stefan Bernacki, tight end/punter Mike Wlias, linebacker/defensive end Chance Kildow.

Coaches Comments: "We are excited to be a part of this league. We are proud at Bethany to have won four championships, but the last one has been too long ago. We are going to show up and play hard. We have proven skilled position players returning and that should be the strong part of our offense. Our defensive strength should be at linebacker, while our biggest concern right now is the lack of depth up front."

Team: Grove City

Nickname: Wolverines

Stadium: Robert E. Thorn (3,500)

Head Coach: Chris Smith (23rd season, 85-123-2)

2005 Record: 3-7 overall, 2-4 in PAC

Returning Starters: Offense (9), Defense (5), Special Teams (5).

Key Returnees: Split end/kick returner Scott Fichter, tight end Dan Jeltes, guard Matt Rice, tackle Bob Perri, fullback Matt Weil, linebacker Garret Choby and cornerback Chris Schwamberger.

Coaches Comments: "We had a great off-season and the kids are dedicated to make things happen. We return four seniors on the offensive line and we also return a number of outstanding skilled people as well as tight end Dan Jeltes. On defense, (Garret) Choby will lead the way, while (Chris)Schwamberger is very versatile and could wind up playing a number of positions. We have a lot of great things going on around the campus that has generated a lot of excitement and we are anxious to get things going."

Team: Thiel

Nickname: Tomcats

Stadium: Alumni Stadium (1,400)

Head Coach: Jack Leipheimer (6th year, overall record 26-26).

2005 Record: 11-1 overall, 6-0 in PAC

Returning Starters: Offense (8), Defense (7), Special Teams (2).

Key Returnees: Defensive back Darius Thompson, tailback Steve Minton, offensive lineman Rock Davis, linebacker Jeff Wagner and offensive lineman Ricky Gable.

Coaches Comments: "It is very humbling when we win some type of award and I always look at awards as staff awards. At Thiel, we are excited and optimistic about out future. We have been very fortunate to be able to recruit the right kind of young man to turn our program around. We have a tough road to travel from the start as we play four of our first five games on the road. As for having a bullseye on our back after winning the championship last season, that is OK with us. We are not going to change a whole lot, but rather, we are going to just be who we are. We lost some great athletes from last year’s team, but we also have a great group of athletes coming back. One of our strengths will be on the offensive line where we have a pair of 3-year starters coming back. Steve Minton is back and healthy at running back and his backup, Dan Hess, is also back after doing an outstanding job last year when Minton was injured. Defensively, our strength should be at linebacker with Logan Malie and Jef Wagner leading the way. Last year generated a lot of excitement on campus and that has carried over to this year. As always, our focus is to be a little better today than we were yesteday and a little better tomorrow than we are today."

Team: Thomas More

Nickname: Saints

Stadium: Thomas More Stadium

Head Coach: Mike Hallett

2005 Record: 6-4 overall, 4-2 in PAC

Returning Starters: Offense (X), Defense (X), Special Teams (X).

Key Returnees: Linebacker Mark Carlisle, cornerback Chris Willis, center Brandon Lee and linebacker Rashawn West.

Coaches Comments: "This is an exciting time for Thomas More to be a part of this outstanding conference. Coming out of spring drills, it was refreshing to see how out kids came of last year’s 5-5 season. We have a nucleus of players to build this year’s team around. One of the biggest things we have going into the season will be the offensive line where we have five kids returning. Defensively, we are hoping to build around our two inside guys. We are going to be young and inexperienced in the kicking game and the development in that area could be crucial to our success, especially early in the season."

Team: Washington & Jefferson

Nickname: Presidents

Stadium: Cameron Stadium

Head Coach: Mike Sirianni

2005 Record: 9-2 overall, 5-1 in PAC

Returning Starters: Offense (7), Defense (8).

Key Returnees: Offensive guard Chris

Hickey, Offensive tackle Chris Teter, placekicker Kyle Sidebotham, cornerback Cory Walsh, strong safety Gabe McKee.

Coaches Comments: "We are glad for the expectations placed on us by ranking us 7th in the nation, but at this point in the season, I think that ranking is a little far-fetched. As always, our two main goals are to win the PAC championship and be able to compete for a national championship. Our offense will be a little different because we won’t have the ball flying through the air as much as we have in the past. We have two quarterbacks and I have no problem operating with two quarterbacks. Last year, we started anywhere from 7 to 8 linemen on offense and all of them are returning. Many times we learn more from losses than wins, and we are going to have to win some games with our defense. I am anxious to begin the season because the biggest reason I coach is the relationships I am able to develop with the athletes."

Team: Waynesburg

Nickname: Yellow Jackets

Stadium: Wiley Stadium

Head Coach: Rick Shepas

2005 Record: 4-6 overall, 2-4 in PAC

Returning Starters: Offense (6), Defense (5), Special Teams (1).

Key Returnees: Running back Ryan Abels, quarterback Tres Cobb, defensive tackle LaDrekus Burford, placekicker Ben Popson, defensive end Mike Czerwien

Coaches Comments: "I guess we have been the benefactor of being in the right place at the right time. We will have field turf at Wiley Stadium this year and it will now be an even better place to play a football game. Last year, it was just challenging to get to know the players and it took us about half of the season for them to make the transition into our program. Going into the season, our two most important things appear to be strength & conditioning along with rest & recovery. We left last season with our kids wanting more and hopefully that will carry over to this season. We return one of the best players in the conference in tailback Ryan Abels. He is a very special player who is exciting to watch. When he is running the ball, I become more of a fan than a coach."

Team: Westminster

Nickname: Titans

Stadium: Harold Burry Stadium

Head Coach: Jeff Hand

2005 Record: 4-6 overall, 2-4 in PAC

Returning Starters: Offense (7), Defense (3), Special Teams (1).

Key Returnees: Quarterback J. R. Barley, wide receiver Jake Buzard, defensive lineman Chris Dulovich, defensive back Joey Tissler and placekicker/punter Dusty Rhodes.

Coaches Comments: "We have the similar feeling every year, and it is a feeling of anxiety to begin the season. Offensively, our strengths should be on the line where we return three of five starters, while we also have a nice group of skilled players returning as well. Defensively, we only return three starters so we are hoping a number of newcomers step up and play well. We have had a lot of continuity on the staff and I think that has shown in the development of the program. As a coaching staff, we are anxious to see the fruits of our first off-season program. As always, we are going to cintinue to stress things we feel are important to any program and those are strength & conditioning along with academics. We believe in doing things the right way."

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