LEICESTER, Mass. – The Becker College football team is gearing up for the 2018 season, as third-year head coach Frank Forcucci enters the season with an optimistic outlook.
This year, the Hawks return senior linebacker Michael Bianco (Manorville, N.Y.), who was tabbed the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Football Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. He was also named to the New England Football Writers Division III All-Star team. Bianco posted a single-season school record 119 tackles, along with 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four pass breakups and five interceptions. In the Hawks' 14-13 victory over Nichols last season, Bianco picked off an NCAA record-tying five passes, returning one for a touchdown.
Also on defense, the Hawks return senior defensive back Brandon Mole (Bovina, N.Y.) (team captain) and defensive lineman Christian Perkins (Melrose, Mass.), senior linebacker Joseph Linnehan (Dedham, Mass.) and junior safety Vincent Thron (Wantagh, N.Y.).
On offense, the Hawks welcome back senior captains Ryan Fernandez (Miami, Fla.) (wide receiver) and Daniel Whittenburg (Eastford, Conn.) (offensive lineman). Last season, Fernandez registered 15 receptions for a total of 191 yards and recorded 375 yards on 25 kick returns, while Whittenburg will be making the switch from nost tackle to offensive lineman this season. Junior offensive lineman Austin Ryan (Apopka, Fla.), senior offensive lineman Nicholas Rogerson (Pomfret, Conn.) along with running backs Kenneth McMurphy (Gilbert, Ariz.) and Emeka Carranza (White Plains, N.Y.) also return.
This season, the Hawks look to replace Nas Sinkfield-Shelton (New Rochelle, N.Y.) at the quarterback position who recorded 31 career passing touchdowns and averaged 126.0 passing yards per game over his four-year career with Becker. They also lost senior defensive back and kicker, Shane Padeni (Leicester, Mass.) who was the team-leader with nine points on two field goals, and three extra points.
Notable newcomers include quarterback transfer from Westfield State, Jake McHugh (Lynnfield, Mass.). On the other end of the ball will be wide receivers Edwin Velasquez Jr. and Marc O'Neal (Dayton, Ohio) who transferred from Florida International University and a junior college in Arizona, respectively. On defense, Khalief Gamble (Gainesville, Fla.) will help in the backfield.
Becker College was chosen to finish sixth in the CCC Football standings. For the preseason poll, please CLICK HERE.
The 2018 season kicks off this Friday (Aug. 31) as the Blue and White travel to Cambridge for a 7 p.m. under the lights game at MIT. Their home opener is scheduled for next Saturday (Sep. 8), where they will host crosstown rival Worcester State at 12 noon. For the complete 2018 football schedule, please CLICK HERE.