By Daniel Herrick, Sports Editor
Prior to the start of 2013 season, three Kalamazoo College Hornet football players received recognition from USA College Football on their Division III preseason All-American lists.
Senior defensive end Jake Larioza was named to the third-team. As a junior, he was named to the Second-Team All MIAA. Larioza had 28 tackles last season, nine of which were for a loss, and tied for the team lead in sacks with five. Perhaps his best attribute, however, was his eye for the ball. Larioza forced two fumbles on the year and recovered five of them.
“It’s pretty cool, I just didn’t think I really earned something like that yet,” said Larioza. “I still have a lot to prove with my play on the field.”
Larioza has not missed a beat since last season having already recovered a fumble in the first three games this year and returned it for a 30-yard touchdown. He has also recorded one sack on the season.
“Forcing and recovering fumbles is just from trying to always pursue the ball carrier. And a lot of luck when the ball comes flying out and I’m there to pick it up,” said Larioza.
Junior’s Alan Mencer and Connor Rzeznik were both selected to the Honorable Mention designation. Mencer was selected to First-Team All MIAA as a sophomore last season, while Rzeznik joined Larioza on the Second-Team. The pair of juniors also tied with Larioza for the team lead in sacks last season with five apiece.
Mencer nearly matched Larioza’s defensive ball-hawking skills: forcing two fumbles and recovering three; one of which went for a school record 98-yard touchdown return. Not to be left out, Rzeznik forced two fumbles of his own last year.
Rzeznik is currently leading the team in solo tackles, 14, and is third in total tackles, 22. Mencer has recorded two tackles for loss in the first three games.
The three Hornets are just the highlights of a strong Kalamazoo defense that returns nearly their whole starting unit from last season. The team finished third in total defense in the MIAA last season, allowing 320.7 yards per game.
“We are a close group on the darkside and we all play for each other and trust each other a lot. I’ve never been on a team as close as the one this year,” said Larioza.
After having so much success on that side of the ball last season, expectations are even higher this year. This defense has the potential to form the foundation for a championship team. Kalamazoo has not won the MIAA conference since they shared the title with Hope in 1963.
“We truly believe that we are a contender for the MIAA championship this year and we won’t stop working until we get it,” said Larioza. “We want a ring and we want the respect we deserve.”