NEW ROCHELLE, NY - Head Football Coach Fred Mariani announced his 2008 Post Season Football awards at an awards dinner on Tuesday night. Senior captain Matt McGuire headlined the night as he took home the most coveted prize, Gael of the Year.
McGuire played in 10 games, all as a starter, in his senior season. He recorded 63 tackles, 21 solos, registered three interceptions, two breakups and a fumble recovery. McGuire, one of the Gaels' five captains, was active in his leadership role no matter where he was whether it was on the field, in the locker room or in the classroom. He took an active role in the Gaels' commitment to community service and spearheaded the team's collection and donation of school supplies to Christian Brother Schools in Africa. The announcement of Gael of the Year came during the senior day presentations prior to the season and home finale against Stony Brook.
Senior LB and captain Andrew Lipski had a tremendous 2008 season in which he finished sixth nationally in Division I FCS with 127 total tackles, an average of 11.55 tackles for game. He also finished in the top-50 with 14.5 tackles for loss. Lipski was the recipient of the the 2008 Ralph Saldiveri MVP Award. The award is named after a three-time All-American at Iona who also was the leading rusher in school history. The award is given to a player who was the overall most valuable player on the field.
The 2008 Rookie of the Year was an easy decision for the coaching staff as QB Warren Smith took home the award. Smith came off the bench early in 2008 to take a few snaps, but was thrust into the starting role after junior QB and captain Nick Rossetti suffered a season-ending injury against Wesley (Del.). Smith finished the season completing 54 percent of his passes going 127-for-234 with nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions for 1,347 yards. He tossed for 134.7 yards per game. His 127 completions rank tenth in school history and he finished just two back on the single-season attempts list with 234. Smith was also able to pick up where Rossetti left off on the ground as he rushed 63 times, just one short of Rossetti's total carries, for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Rob Spence, a native of Pelham, NY, played football at Saint Andrews School in Middletown, DE (1972-75). He went on to play tight end at Iona from 1978-81. He earned his bachelor's degree in social work from Iona in 1981 and later earned his master's degree in education from Iona in 1990. Spence also recently coached at Clemson. The post season award that bears his name is the "Grinder of the Year", which is given to the player who is the most dedicated and hardest worker over the course of the season. Junior DB Taylor Sohns started all 11 games this year and recorded 70 tackles, 37 solos, 5.0 TFLs for 15 yards, a sack, six pass breakups, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. He also was a hard worker in the classroom leading the team in grade point average.
Junior transfer RB Jason Washington brought home the Conor Seyda Most Improved Player of the Year award. Seyda was a standout wide receiver at Iona and a former coach who is now in the business world. Washington made his first appearance in the Maroon & Gold against UC Davis and exploded from there. He accumulated 160 yards on 39 carries in just four games and averaged 40 yards per game.
Former Gaels running back Dane Samuels was one of the most prolific players on the field and used his great skills to become one of the greatest players in Iona College history. Senior WR and captain Tim Mastrino etched his name in the Iona record book in his final appearance for the Maroon & Gold. He entered the final game needing nine catches to tie the single-season record for receptions. He shattered the record picking up 18 catches to finish the season with 69 and his production on the afternoon set a Mazzella Field and Iona College single-game record for catches. His 105 career receptions rank fifth all-time and his 1,282 yards are eighth best. His performance this season earned him the Dane Samuels Most Valuable Skill Player of the Year.
Special teams have always been a major part of the Iona College's game under Mariani. Two players who defined Iona's special teams this year and earned the Chris Lofrese Special Teams Players of the Year awards were Patrick Campbell and Robert Woods. Campbell, a rookie tight end, was part of an active special teams in Iona's victory over Pace. The special teams got the kicker three times on the afternoon, but after a blocked punt Campbell was there for the recovery in the end zone for the score to give Iona an 30-26 advantage. This score put the Gaels ahead for the first time in the game and capped a 24 point swing for the Maroon & Gold. Campbell also was a key blocker on Iona's kick and punt return game. The Gaels' punter and kicker was another Gael to mark his name in Iona Football history as he averaged 38.5 yards per punt , a single-season and career high for Gael punters. He finished with 2,546 yards punting in 2008, which is second best in a single season. He booted the longest punt in Iona history, 78 yards, in the season opener at Delaware Valley.
Other award winners were senior C Mike Butler (Kevin Fales Most Valuable Lineman), senior OLs Juliane Adams and Jon Hili (Bill Martin Big Block Award), Lipski (Tom Comenzo Big Hit Award), sophomore FB Aaron Sader-Rubenstein (Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year) and senior DB Robert Marcin (Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year).