Gbaley named Defensive Rookie of the Year; Castonia earns Coach of the Year
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Seven members of the Plymouth State University football program were recognized Wednesday for their outstanding performances this fall, earning Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) post-season honors for 2016.
|Coach Paul Castonia|
The top honors for Plymouth State went to freshman defensive back Prince Gbaley (Manchester, N.H./West), who was voted MASCAC Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Panther head coach Paul Castonia, who was named the Champion's Choice Coach of the Year.
Two Panther players were named to the All-Conference First Team – senior defensive back Zach Ziemba (Manchester, N.H./West) and senior defensive lineman Brad Drewek (Billerica, Mass./Billerica Memorial); and three others earned All-Conference Second Team honors – junior defensive back Blair Zentek (Simsbury, Conn.), senior defensive lineman Brandon Mitchell (Windham, Maine), and freshman offensive guard Brandt O'Hara (Feeding Hills, Mass.). The All-Conference teams are selected in a vote by the MASCAC head coaches.
The post-season awards come following a 6-4 season under Coach Castonia, who completed his 14th season at Plymouth State. Picked to place ninth in the MASCAC in the preseason poll, the Panthers finished 4-4 in the MASCAC and finished tied for third, the best conference finish since 2009. Two of PSU's four losses came in overtime, and another was a three-point decision where the Panthers had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds.
|Zach Ziemba||Brad Drewek|
|Blair Zentek||Brandon Mitchell|
|Brandt O'Hara||Prince Gbaley|
The anchors to an outstanding Panther defense, PSU had three of the top four MASCAC leaders in interceptions this season as Gbaley and Zentek picked off six passes each and Ziemba had five. Gbaley and Zentek each scored two touchdowns on interception returns.
A 5-11, 180-pound cornerback, Gbaley moved into the starting line-up after the season-ending injury to Zentek. He finished the season with 28 tackles, a fumble recovery, six INT, and five pass break-ups. Gbaley was also a solid contributor on special teams, with one blocked punt that led to a safety and recovering another blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown.
A 5-11, 187-pound safety, Ziemba also led the team with 71 tackles, including 62 solo stops. He collected four tackles for minus yardage, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, five INT and four pass break-ups. Ziemba also made an impact on special teams, blocking two kicks and nearly blocking several others.
A 5-11, 179-pound cornerback, Zentek shared the MASCAC lead in interceptions (6) despite missing the last three games with a season-ending injury suffered returning a kickoff on Oct. 22 against Framingham State. In his seven games, he made 32 tackles along with three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and three pass break-ups. Zentek averaged 20.5 yards on kickoff returns, fourth-best in the league.
Drewek, a 5-11, 220-pound end, and Mitchell, a 6-1, 251-pound tackle, anchored the interior line for the Panther defense, which allowed just 17.8 points per game this season, second-best in the MASCAC. Drewek had one sack among his 19 tackles, along with 3.5 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and a pass break-up. Mitchell, made 26 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, along with a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, three pass break-ups and two blocked kicks.
A 5-11, 255-pound offensive lineman, O'Hara started all 10 games for the Panthers at right guard, the only one on the team to start all 10 games at the same spot on the offensive line. He helped PSU average 235.8 yards per game, including 113 yard per game on the ground.
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