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Eighteen Bulldogs Earn All-Pioneer Football League Honors; Piatkowski, Merritt Earn Player of Year

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
         
Release: November 22, 2011
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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa--The Drake Bulldogs' 2011 Pioneer Football League co-championship team continues to earn recognition for its memorable performance, today seeing 18 student-athletes earn all-conference recognition, including quarterback Mike Piatkowski being named PFL Offensive Player of the Year and linebacker Travis Merritt earning Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.

The Bulldogs placed four on the PFL's first team, six on the second team and eight on the honorable mention list.

First-team selections were headlined by Piatkowski, who was honorable mention last year, and tackle Evan Lawrence (Moline, Ill.) and linebacker Tyler Moorehead (Mason City, Iowa) each earning his second consecutive first-team nod. Punter Billy Janssen (Round Lake Beach, Ill.) is the fourth Bulldog on the first team, after receiving honorable mention a year ago.

Moorehead, who was a unanimous choice at linebacker this year-one of just two-also was the 2009 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year, while Lawrence was a 2009 honorable mention selection. Moorehead led the Bulldogs in tackles with 78 (55 solo), including 10.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, as well as two interceptions, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks. Lawrence anchored an offensive line that helped the Bulldogs amass 4,085 yards of total offense.

Piatkowski (Wheaton, Ill.) earned Offensive Player of the Year by finishing the season with a school record for completion percentage (65.3%), and the second-best single-season marks for passing yards (2,934) and touchdown passes (25). He moved into second place on Drake's all-time passing yardage list during the season, and ranked No. 1 in the PFL (No. 13 FCS) in passing efficiency (151.40). He is the second Drake player to win the award (Scott Phaydavong, 2004).

Merritt (Johnston, Iowa) earned Freshman Defensive Player of the Year by leading all PFL freshman defenders and ranking second on the team in tackles with 66 (38 solo). That total included 3.5 tackles for loss, and Merritt added a forced fumble and fumble recovery. Merritt helped anchor a defensive unit that led the league in scoring defense (17.8) and rushing defense (77.2). He is the second Drake player to win the award, joining Moorehead (2009).

Janssen also serves as place-kicker, for which he was recognized with second-team honors. He ranked fifth in the nation and No. 1 in the PFL in punting average (43.3) and had an 83-yard punt that was third-longest in school history, longest in PFL history and one of 20 longest in FCS history.

Also named to the second team for Drake are center Chris Wilson (Homer Glen, Ill.), DE Brandon Coleman (Cary, Ill.), DE John Sawhill (Jefferson, Iowa), Merritt (Johnston, Iowa) and CB Michael Lahart. Wilson, Coleman and Merritt are recognized for the first time, while Sawhill and Lahart move up from honorable mention in 2010 to second team this year.

Coleman tied for 10th in the FCS and tied for fourth in the PFL in sacks with 12, while Lahart tied for the PFL lead in interceptions with 5.

Honorable mention recognition for the Bulldogs goes to wide receiver Drew Blackmon (Florissant, Mo.), J-Back Nathan Paddock (Lee's Summit, Mo.), tight end Kevin Marshall (Glen Ellyn, Ill.), running back Pat Cashmore (Kansas City, Mo.), offensive linemen Stephen Flynn (Davenport, Iowa) and Dan Clinton (Gurnee, Ill.), nose tackle David Witkiewicz (Hales Corners, Wisc.) and linebacker Jeff Grovak (Mt. Prospect, Ill.).

All are first-time honorees with the exception of Flynn (second-team, 2010), Blackmon (honorable mention, 2010) and Witkiewicz (honorable mention, 2009).

The Bulldogs were co-champions of the PFL, sharing the title with San Diego, both with conference records of 7-1, and overall marks of 9-2, Drake's best record since 2006 (also 9-2). It was just the fourth time in school history Drake has won nine or more games in a season.

Head coach Chris Creighton yesterday was named one 20 finalists for the 2011 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, given annually to the top coach in the Football Championship Subdivision. Creighton's .682 winning percentage in four seasons at Drake is the best career mark by a head coach in the history of the program.

DRAKE'S 2011 ALL-PFL SELECTIONS:

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Mike Piatkowski

Freshman Defensive Player of the Year: LB Travis Merritt

First Team All-PFL (4):
OFFENSE--QB Mike Piatkowski (Sr.; Wheaton, Ill.), T Evan Lawrence (Sr.; Moline, Ill.)
DEFENSE--LB Tyler Moorehead (Sr.; Mason City, Iowa), unanimous
SPECIAL TEAMS--P Billy Janssen (5th-Yr. Sr.; Round Lake Beach, Ill.)

Second Team All-PFL (6):
OFFENSE
--C Chris Wilson (Sr.; Homer Glen, Ill.)
DEFENSE--DE Brandon Coleman (Jr.; Cary, Ill.), DE John Sawhill (Sr., Jefferson, Iowa), LB Travis Merritt (RS-Fr.; Johnston, Iowa) and CB Michael Lahart (5th-Yr. Sr.; Chariton, Ill.)
SPECIAL TEAMS--K Billy Janssen (5th-Yr. Sr.; Round Lake Beach, Ill.)

Honorable Mention All-PFL (8):
OFFENSE--WR Drew Blackmon (Sr.; Florissant, Mo.), J-Back Nathan Paddock (Sr.; Lee's Summit, Mo.), TE Kevin Marshall (Jr.; Glen Ellyn, Ill.), RB Pat Cashmore (5th-Yr. Sr.; Kansas City, Mo.), OL Stephen Flynn (5th-Yr. Sr.; Davenport, Iowa), OL Dan Clinton (5th-Yr. Sr.; Gurnee, Ill.)
DEFENSE--DT David Witkiewicz (Sr.; Hales Corners, Wisc.), LB Jeff Grovak (5th-Yr. Sr.; Mt. Prospect, Ill.

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