TCNJ’s Burns wins NJAC award after leading Lions’ D at its best
Following a captivating patchwork effort put forth during Saturday’s disheartening loss to Montclair State University on his team’s homecoming, TCNJ linebacker Greg Burns earned this week’s honors as the conference’s top rookie performer.
Leading his team in tackles for the second-consecutive week (10 total, 5 solo vs. William Paterson), Burns’ emergence as a force at the Lions’ battered second-level coincided with the unit’s stingiest defensive performance of the season, limiting the NJAC No. 1 Red Haws to 32 rushing yards on 29 attempts in the contest.
Tied with fellow backup-turned-impact performer Jimmy Kleen with 5.5 total tackles (2 solo), Lions’ head coach Eric Hamilton insists his freshmen’s success epitomizes the persistence of the linebacker corps as a whole.
“We don’t have many options,” he said, pleased with the effort in spite of the group’s laundry list of injuries in recent weeks. “I think it’s a credit to all the linebackers for getting ready to play, getting their opportunities to play and making the most of it. It’s a numbers game, it always is in Division III and it’s starting to catch up with us.”
His teammates echoed the sentiment.
“When someone goes down it’s always a loss,” said team quad-captain Ryan Flannery, an anchor of talent and inspiration in the TCNJ secondary. “You can’t replace someone like [Joe] Spahn and [Dan] DeCongelio,” both injured as the team’s leading tacklers in consecutive games entering the team’s latest.
“But for the young guys to come in and step up, it’s big. We’ve simplified the game plan and just told them to go out there and makes plays and that’s what they did.”
Celebrated in the midst of a loss, Burns earned first NJAC accolades along with a group of four others–all given their respective nods for their participation in the same game.
Carrying (literally) his Colonials to their first triumph of 2009, Western Connecticut State running back Lionel Assie earned the league’s Offensive Player of the Week award in the wake its one-point victory over The College at Brockport in a marginal 45-44 decision.
The senior averaged 11 yards on his 13 carries, well eclipsing the century mark with room to spare (finished w/ 143 rush yds). Accounting for 18 points on his three touchdowns, Assie personally delivered the program its first triumph in over a year via 1, 48, and 35 trips to pay dirt on the ground (last won Oct. 4, 2008).
To date, the Bridgeport, CT-native ranks 14th in the NJAC, averaging 35.6 yards per game.
A consistent stud at his Golden Eagles’ second level, Nathan Bull perpetuated his season’s blanketing defensive performance, dubbed the conference’s outstanding defensive performer for the third time in 2009.
The junior lead his team with 14 total tackles (9 solo), complete with 1.5 for a loss and a sack ( loss of 6 yds). In the losing effort, the local product hailing from Brockport, NY also created opportunities for his offense, forcing a fumble and recording an interception on the day.
No surprise, Bull continues to lead the conference with an astounding 12.6 stops per outing.
Embracing limited opportunities, defensive back Cevon Carver was recognized as the conference’s best special team’s performer, capitalizing on his only two kickoff returns and an uncharacteristically inaccurate weekend for Lions’ kicker Marc Zucconi. The senior stayed hungry after returning the game’s opening inaugural kickoff 80 yards to the house, rising to the occasion later on a second from 10 yards deeper in his own territory.
After grossing 170 total return yards in his afternoon’s two glimmers, Carver solidified a lead atop the conference in relative kickoff return yardage (avg. 30.4 yds/return).
Emerging as a viable option toward the tail end of his Colonials’ dismal season (West. Conn. St. last in NAJC), Jeff Johnston complimented the commendable rushing performance put forth by another conference award winner, earning his first taste of league-wide recognition.
Complete with lengthy gains of 30 and 15 yards, the latter of which accounted for the second score of his collegiate career, the freshman averaged 16.2 yards on each of his five receptions, in total worth 81 tallies through the air.
Looming at the middle of the pack among the NJAC’s top receivers while rounding out the top two of his own squad, Johnston’s latest outing bolstered his average output to 32 yards per game (ranks 24th).