2019 NJAC Football Preview: Top Returnees
A look at some of the best players in the NJAC who hope to lead their team to a conference title.
The 2019 Division III college football season kicks in less than two months, which means another chance for ten teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) to win the highly coveted conference title. With last years conference champion Frostburg State moving up to Division II, let’s take a look at some of the best players in the conference who hope to lead their team to success this season.
Senior RB E.J. Lee- Wesley
The senior running back has been very consistent for the Wolverines in recent years, amassing 3046 yards rushing in three seasons. Lee is a speedy back who is extremely hard to stop in the open field once he finds an open lane. He is also a capable receiver, recording 389 yards on 37 receptions last season. Lee has earned a plethora of awards at his time in Wesley, including two All-NJAC First Team selections in 2017 and 2018 and the 2016 NJAC Rookie of the Year.
Junior QB Ja’Quill Burch- Montclair State
In his first season as a starting quarterback, Burch silenced all of his critics with a great 2018 season. Leaving little doubt as to who was the quarterback of the future, Burch threw for 1835 yards with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. For his terrific season, he was honored as Second Team All-NJAC selection. Burch is a strong arm QB with a knack for converting the deep ball accurately. With most of the Red Hawks receiving core returning this season, Burch could be for another all-conference season.
Senior OL Matt Rittenhouse- Christopher Newport
Rittenhouse had a phenomenal 2018 season, anchoring the offensive line that was second in the conference in both passing and rushing yards last season. For his efforts, he was named to First Team All-NJAC last season, which followed up his second team All-NJAC selection in 2017. The senior right tackle is one of the best returning offensive lineman in the conference right now and will be a massive boost to the Captains conference title aspirations.
Senior WR Ruhaan Peele- Wesley
Peele had a breakout season in 2018 in his first year as a starter, registering 661 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. For his excellent season, he was named First Team All-NJAC. His stats are even more impressive given that he was only the No.2 receiver on the team behind recent graduate Alexander Kemp, who earned several conference and national honors last season. With Kemp gone, Peele will have his chance to be the top receiver on a very talented Wolverines offense.
Senior DL David Gajderowicz- Rowan
Gajderowicz was a monster at his defensive end position all season, registering 55 tackles (17.5 for a loss) with a league-leading 11.5 sacks. Although the Profs were statistically the worst defense in the conference last season, Gajderowicz often kept high-powered offenses at bay with his ability to cause chaos in any offensives backfield. If the Profs can improve their defense along with Gajderowicz continuing his dominant play, NJAC offenses may be in for some serious trouble.
Junior LB Dante Capozzoli- Kean
Capozzoli was a force to be reckoned with on the Cougars defense last season, racking up 88 tackles (5.5 for a loss) along with two sacks. He is a talented linebacker with the ability to shut down the run, but also can disrupt any team’s passing game in coverage or by rushing the QB. Unfortunately, Capozzoli great play didn’t lead many wins for Kean as they finished with a disappointing 1-9 record. However, the team as a whole should be vastly improved with several starters returning.
Senior DL DeShawn Reed- Kean
Another member from Kean’s talented front seven makes the list, as Reed was stat-sheet stuffer from his defensive end position this past season. The 2018 First Team All-NJAC selection tallied 50 tackles (11.5 for a loss) with nine sacks. Reed, along with fellow defensive lineman Damon Small Jr, anchored a defensive line that was one of best in the conference. With Small graduating, much more pressure will be placed on Reed to continue to produce.
Senior Safety Jaier Garrett- Montclair State
The hard-hitting safety registered 65 tackles (7.5 for a loss) along with four pass breakups last season. Garrett is an extremely versatile safety, being able to shut down the run but also being able to cover the deep ball extremely well. Garrett’s impact on the team did not go unnoticed, being named to the Second Team All-NJAC in 2018. Montclair State had arguably it’s most talented defensive in years, as it led the league in fewest yards allowed per game. The Red Hawks could lay claim to that title again next season, as the team returns Garrett and several others starters on defense.
Senior LB Harold Kwigova- Salisbury
Kwigova made a significant leap in production in his junior year, finishing the season with 65 tackles (10 for a loss) with 3.5 sacks. He along with fellow linebacker Patrick Bernardo racked up over 120 tackles this season, as this dynamic duo became a nightmare for NJAC offenses. Kwigova is a tough player to game plan against because of his speed and high motor, as well as his ability to play with leverage and secure tackles.
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