Rensselaer head football coach Joe King and his staff recently presented the team’s awards for the 2007 season at its season-ending banquet, which was held at the Franklin Plaza in Troy.
Earning the team’s highest awards were wide receiver Brendan McGowan and linebacker Tom Rayhill, a pair of senior captains who were named the Offensive and Defensive Most Valuable Players, respectively.
A native of Mesa, Ariz., McGowan caught a team-high 73 passes for 1,007 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games this season. He was among the leaders in the Liberty League in several categories, including first in receptions (7.3) and receiving yards per game (100.7). Nationally, he ranked 16th in receptions per game and 20th in receiving yards per game. McGowan, who also received the team’s J & J Tough Guy Award, played and started all 39 games of his career and is the school’s all-time leader in career receptions (251) and career receiving yards (3,132). A graduate of Mountain View High School, he also had 22 touchdowns, including nine during his sophomore season.
Rayhill, who hails from Grand Island, N.Y., was second on the team with 75 tackles, including 35 unassisted, three sacks (15 yards lost), and nine tackles for lost yards (30). The Grand Island High School graduate also recorded an interception, had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and posted four pass breakups.
Senior Dave Dillen, who also hails from Grand Island, was named the Offensive Lineman of the Year after starting all 10 games and helping Rensselaer average 27.5 points with 395.1 yards per game. The unit allowed just 18 sacks.
The Engineers’ Special Teams Players of the Year were return specialist Tim Acker and punter/kicker Nick Lalumia. Acker, a sophomore who was the team’s Rookie of the Year last season, had 20 punt returns for a school-record 317 yards and two touchdowns in 2007. A native of Arlington, Wash., he also returned four kickoffs for 67 yards. Lalumia, the team’s primary punter, averaged 37.9 yards on 46 punts, including 10 which dropped inside the 20-yard line. The freshman from Maywood, N.J., also kicked off for Rensselaer and attempted five field goals.
The Rookie of the Year was freshman running back Nick Costa, a Yonkers, N.Y., native who played in nine games, including four as a starter. He rushed for a team-high 403 yards with seven touchdowns on 88 carries. A graduate of Iona Prep, he averaged 4.6 yards per carry and 44.8 yards per game.
Chosen as the Offensive Most Improved Player was senior wide receiver Chris Graef, who started all 10 games and was third on the team with 25 catches and 312 yards. The Bethel, Conn., native had a touchdown reception while averaging 12.5 yards per catch and 31.2 yards per game.
The Defensive Most Improved Player Award was senior defensive lineman Dan Belber, a Niskayuna, N.Y., native who had 17 tackles in nine games. He also had three sacks for a loss of 19 yards. He helped lead a Rensselaer defense that was first in the Liberty League in scoring defense (13.8 points per game) and rushing defense (105.3 yards per game).
Seniors Josh Chiappone and John Tesiero shared the George Bode Coaches Award. Chiappone, who is from Troy, N.Y., appeared in four games at quarterback in 2007. He completed 57.1 percent of his passes (4 for 7) for 41 yards and a touchdown. Tesiero, a captain from Amsterdam, N.Y., started all 10 games as a defensive back, posting 42 tackles, including 24 unassisted. He also led the team in pass breakups with eight.
Rensselaer posted an 8-2 overall record, including a Liberty League Championship and an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
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