By Daniel Herrick, Sports Editor
The Kalamazoo football season came to an exciting finish last weekend as freshman kicker Jacob Hardy lifted the Hornets above the Olivet Comets 39-37 with a 19-yard field goal that came with five seconds remaining in the game.
The win lifted K to an overall record of 6-4 and a conference record of 4-2. The 6 wins is the teams highest total since 2003. Four wins in MIAA play was good enough to tie the Hornets for second in the MIAA, the team’s best finish since 2000.
K was led by a group of seniors that improved their season-win totals every year at K. Their freshman season the team won just three games; however, the Hornets have been able to add a victory every season since then. With 18 wins over their careers, 2014 is the class with the most wins since the 2003 class finished with 21. The class of 2002 also finished with 18 wins and prior to that, you must go back to the class of 1996 to find another group that had 18 or more wins.
“We’ll miss the leadership in general,” said junior Clay Weissenborn. “They’re all very hard workers and set a good example for the younger players. All of them were working hard all offseason, doing extra running, and lifting. Some people think that goes unnoticed, but we see that.”
Josh Wise and Ian Good were the statistical standouts of the group this season. Each player was selected to the All-MIAA First Team.
Wise, an offensive-team selection, led the MIAA in conference play in receptions (46), receiving yards (713), touchdowns (10), and punt return yards (266). The standout wide receiver led K with total receptions (81), yards (1,087), touchdowns (10), and all-purpose yards (1,359). He was just the fifth Hornet receiver of all-time to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. His 81 catches and 10 touchdowns were both the third best totals ever by a Hornet in one year.
Good, a defensive-team selection, also led the MIAA in multiple categories: sacks (7), sacks per game (1.7), and tackles for loss (10.5). He ended the season with 59 tackles, 17 for a loss, 10 sacks, and two forced fumbles. Good ends his career second in school history in sacks: 17.5.
While Wise and Good may have the most eye-opening statistics, contributions came from across the board for K’s group of seniors. Ryan Gregory was selected to the All-MIAA second team defense. He recorded 55 tackles, seven for loss and .5 sacks.
Jake Larioza recovered two fumbles, took one back for a score, and added 43 tackles, nine for a loss and 3.5 sacks. He joined goods in the double-digit career sacks club with 12.5 in his four seasons.
Blake Simon led the group in career tackles with 122. Gregory (112), Good (156) and Larioza (119) also finished their careers with triple-digit tackle totals. Simon recorded 60 tackles this season.
Alex Burkholder, Brett Thomas and Thomas Tabor were also important contributors on defense, recording 47, 35 and 27 tackles respectively. Tabor’s work included five tackles for loss, one forced fumble and 2.5 sacks.
The senior class combined for 45 percent of the Hornet’s tackles this season and 76 percent of the team’s sacks.
“I hope that my class is able to step in and fill the void that will be left by these guys,” said Weissenborn.
Sophomore Octavius Sanders was also selected to the All-MIAA First Team defense, the only sophomore selected to the team. Junior Connor Rzeznik was selected to the All-MIAA Second Team defense for the second year in a row.
Among the postseason All-MIAA team selections, sophomore quarterback Justin Danzy has subbed. Danzy led the MIAA in yards (3,056), yards per game (339.6), touchdowns (22) and completion percentage (65.9). He had nearly 500 more yards than the next closest quarterback: Hope’s Michael Atwell (2,582). Despite this statistical dominance, Danzy was passed over for the three quarterback selections. Albion’s Dominic Bona was the first-team choice. Atwell and Olivet’s Braden Black were the two selections for the second team.
Alex Dietrich was the other half of the Hornets dangerous pair of senior receivers. He finished the year with 70 catches for 765 yards and two touchdowns. He and Wise combined for 49 percent of the Hornet catches this season.
Sophomore Dylan Zerki could also have been deserving of a selection. He finished second in the MIAA in total tackles with 108. He was one of just two players to finish the season with triple-digit tackles.