Familiar faces help key turnaround for Bobcats
SMAC players guide Frostburg State to complete 10-win season
Frostburg State Univer- sity won nine of 10 games this past season and was so successful thanks in large part to a large contingent of Southern Mar yland players.
The Bobcats had 10 such players on its roster this season. Hailing from Calvert County was punt- er Joe Guididas (Northern) and defensive back Allen McKelton (Hun- tingtown), while fullback Corey Dennee (Leonardtown) was the lone St. Mary’s County represen- tative. Charles County consisted of quarterback Joe Beckford (Lackey) and four players from North Point; linebackers Aaron Gibson and Graylin Walker and defensive linemen Gordon Rowe and Boakum Vital.
The team also had two other locals in linebacker D.J. Dunlap (Northern), who redshirted this sea- son, and defensive back Skyler Berry (Hunting- town), who played junior varsity.
“It was a ball,” Beckford said of playing with so many familiar faces. “You can talk about past experiences about when we played with and against each other and we could relate a lot to each other.”
“Playing with the people I once played against, especially a group as talent- ed as the one we had, was awesome,” Dennee said. “The transition from high school football to college football is a big one and you get to experience that with all the freshmen coming in. Playing with so many guys from SMAC that I know were talented made me trust them even easier as teammates.”
Frostburg concluded its 2016 season Nov. 19 with a 38-14 win against No. 22 St. John Fisher (N.Y.) College in the Asa S. Bushnell Bowl at Franklin Field in Philadelphia.
The Bobcats (10-1, 8-1 New Jersey Athletic Con- ference) snapped a 7-7 tie and broke the game wide open with 31 unanswered points, including 21 in the second quarter in a span of 4 minutes 22 seconds, including Walker’s 55-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3 minutes 52 seconds left in the half, which proved to be the eventual winning points.
Frostburg registered 17 tackles for a loss and posted 10 sacks. Though St. John Fisher had 330 yards in offense, they were held to minus-26 yards rushing.
It was the first bowl win for the Bobcats since a win over Wilkes (Pa.) in 1996. Frostburg was 0-5 against St. John Fisher from 2010 to 2014.
The win capped an historic season for the Bobcats, who won their final nine games to tie a program record and reached 10 wins for just the second time in the program’s 56-year history of the program.
It was also a huge turnaround for Frostburg, which won just one game in 2013, jumped to four wins a year later and was 6-4 last season.
“I believe this year was a good turnaround from past years,” said Beckford, a junior. “Our team really stepped up and came together to represent our school. The coaches did a great job with us. [Our record] definitely spoke for itself. I’m happy with the season and the outcome, but, honestly from my opinion, I think we should have made the playoffs [on an at-large bid].”
“Coach [DeLane] Fitzgerald when he got here the spring of my freshman year said, ‘For those who stay, you will become champions,’” said Dennee, a senior. “And for the group of 19 seniors that were there for that meeting held onto that until our last game.”
Another milestone was reached Nov. 12 when Russell Neverdon hauled in a game-winning pass from Connor Cox in Frostburg’s 21-17 win over Salisbury in the an- nual Regent’s Cup. The win gave Frostburg a share of the NJAC title.
“It probably hit me more after our Salisbury game,” Guididas said of closing out his collegiate career. “My senior year it was like, ‘I have to beat these guys. I haven’t beat- en them my whole life.’ We scored in the last min- ute, it was senior night, and there were [3,890 fans]. It was fantastic, but it was also really emotion- al. That’s when it hit me.”
The Bobcats lost to Salisbury 70-14 in 2013, but made the following year’s matchup much closer, falling 27-10. Last year, the Bobcats led 27-7 after three quarters but ultimately lost 28-27 on a game-winning touchdown with 36 seconds left.
“Growing up I’ve had a bunch of winning seasons but nothing like this year,” Dennee said. “Going 10-1, winning our conference, winning the Regents Cup and winning the ECAC Bushnell Bowl made this year unforgettable, and with the group of guys that I did it with made the whole thing that much better.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound Beckford appeared in nine games this season and also played wide receiver. He had 21 catches for 200 yards, third-best on the team. He also had eight carries for 39 yards and his 237 all-purpose yards were fifth-highest on the team.
“I’m happy, but being a competitor and having a competitive spirit I think I need to step it up a bit,” said Beckford, who gave plenty of credit for his development to Lackey head coach John Lush and the Bobcats’ coaches. “The game is a lot faster. You have to make [deci- sions] a lot quicker than at the high school level and there’s a lot of bigger defensive linemen coming at you, [so] there’s always room for improvement.”
Dennee played in 11 games and had a carry for four yards in the bowl game. The 6-0, 220-pound senior also added two tackles, including one for a loss.
Vital, a 5-11, 230-pound sophomore, had nine tack- les, two for a loss and added a sack in seven games. Rowe, a junior, played in eight games and had 10 tackles, 2 1/2 for a loss and a quarterback hurry.
Walker appeared in 11 games and the 5-10, 190-pound freshman scored two touchdowns to tie for sixth in team scoring. He also added 43 tackles (eighth-best on the team), including 12 solo, and added two blocked kicks, a sack and a forced fumble.
The 5-8, 180-pound Gibson saw action in 11 games and has 32 tackles, including 3 1/2 for a loss. The junior also defended two passes. McKelton, a 5-9, 175-pound freshman, appeared in five games and had two tackles, one for a loss.
The 5-11 Guididas punted 53 times for 2,017 yards (38 average) and his longest — he had four punts over 50 yards — travelled 59 yards. He also had two touchbacks and dropped 12 kicks within the 20yard line.
“It’s tough because if you miss a pass, you know you’re going to get one later. If you miss a tackle, you know you’re going to get another chance to tackle the guy again,” said Guididas, who said punting was 70 percent technique. “But if you miss a kick, it can change the whole game. You also have to have a really short term memory.”