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Football Falls to Benedictine, 28-23

By Daniel Herrick, Sports Editor

The Kalamazoo College football team lost their first game of season this past Saturday at home against Benedictine University (Illinois), 28-23, dropping their overall record to 2-1.

The Hornets were able to out gain the Eagles; however, potential missed opportunities came back to haunt the team. In the first quarter, Kalamazoo drove 60 yards in eight plays, finding themselves in a fourth down situation on Benedictine’s one-yard line. The Hornet offense was originally on the field and appeared set to go for it. With the play clock running down though, the coaching staff made the decision to quickly send out the field-goal unit instead. In a rush, the Hornets were able to snap the ball; however, first-year kicker Jacob Hardy was unable to convert the short field-goal opportunity.

Kalamazoo made four trips to the red zone, coming away with two touchdowns, a made 26-yard field goal and the missed 18-yard attempt. In addition to the red zone trips, the Hornets had three other drives end inside of Benedictine’s 50.

Sophomore quarterback Justin Danzy, fresh off being selected MIAA player of the week following his performance against Manchester College, had another strong performance running the Hornet offense. Danzy went 35-50, for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Benedictine, however, did a good job containing Danzy as a mobile threat, limiting him to just 15 yards on ten attempts.

With the Kalamazoo offense, fans can expect to see impressive lines from Danzy if he is able to remain efficient. Through three games, the young quarterback has thrown for six touchdowns and just two interceptions. He has done so while averaging 292.3 passing yards per game and completing 66.7 percent of his passes.

Keeping the turnovers down will be crucial for a Hornet team that struggled with them last year. They finished with 25 total turnovers last season. Despite the defense forcing 18 themselves last season, good for a tie for third in the league, the team still finished tied for the second-worst turnover margin in the MIAA.

Danzy seems to have the keys to the offense. Against Benedictine, the sophomore threw 50 passes, many of which came out of a spread formation with Danzy in the shotgun. With a quick paced offense taking plays from sideline signals, a strong quarterback is crucial to maintain success. So far, Danzy has proven himself worthy of handling the role.

“We have all the confidence in Danzy and the offense. They’ve been putting up big numbers and marching down the field, now we just need to turn those into touchdowns,” senior Ryan Gregory said.

While the defense held Benedictine to just 65 yards on the ground, the Eagles aerial attack seemed to give the Hornet secondary some trouble. While Benedictine quarterback Cyle Schultz was not always able to convert on the opportunities, many Benedictine receivers found themselves open behind the Hornet secondary with only yard lines separating them from the Hornet end zone.

Receiver Blake Anders was the biggest Eagle beneficiary of this, catching a pair of touchdowns of 47 and 43 yards. The secondary will need to tighten up coverage if the Hornets hope to maintain opposing offenses. Allowing the big play is not something a defense wants to become accustomed to and can seriously harm the morale of the unit.

“We got caught peeking in the backfield, so as long as everybody does their job and trusts their teammates and coaches, we’ll be A1,” said Gregory.

The Hornets will wrap up their non-conference season this Saturday when they travel to the University of Chicago for a 7 p.m. game (Eastern Time). October 5 marks the start of the Hornets quest for an MIAA title when they open the conference slate at Trine.

Three Hornets Earn Preseason All-American Honors

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.”