Football lands 17 All-OAC honorees, 3 special awards
The Ohio Athletic Conference released the 2022 postseason awards on Nov. 21 and, as expected, the Heidelberg University football team was well represented. The Student Princes landed a total of 17 individuals on the lists, including three special award recipients.
Heidelberg had nine first-team selections, five second-team selections and two honorable mentions. The 16 student-athletes honored matched a program best, set after the 2021 campaign.
Defensive coordinator Branden Jakubcin was voted OAC Assistant Coach of the Year after guiding the resurgent 'Berg Defense to a league-best 15 interceptions. HU allowed 16.2 points per game -- their best mark since 2012 and just the second time in the last 28 seasons under 20 points per game. Jakubcin joins Jason Bendekovic (2010), Scott Donaldson (2012) and Jason Lewis (2019) as the only Heidelberg honorees for the award.
Zach Blackiston was named the winner of the Paul Hoernemann Award, given to the league's top defensive lineman, and was a first-team selection. With his inclusion on the 2022 All-OAC team, Blackiston is believed to be the first player in league history to be a five-time all-first or second-team selection. Boosted by the blanket eligibility waiver from COVID-19, the Massillon native was a first-team selection in 2018 and 2022, second-team in 2019 and 2021, and an all-conference honoree in 2020 (which did not specify first and second-team designees).
Blackiston had a program-record 14 sacks on the season, bringing his career record to a total of 41 sacks. With a career-best 21.5 tackles for loss this season, he amassed 66.5 TFLs for his career, falling one shy of tying Austin Crow's program record. Blackiston had 69 tackles in total and added two interceptions.
Named for the legendary 'Berg player and coach, the Paul Hoernemann Award had previously been handed out to two other Student Princes -- Ben Poirier (2013) and Austin Crow (2016, 2017).
Senior Wally Kalinowski was named co-winner of the Ken Wable Award, given to the top offensive lineman. A mainstay on the o-line throughout his career, Kalinowski is a three-time first team selection. He joins other noted 'Berg trenchmen Nate Kater (2010), Quentin Rembert (2013) and Austin Hunter (2014) as Wable Award winners.
Joining Blackiston and Kalinowski on the first team were Griffin Pendry, Parker Smith, Easton St. Clair, Branden Steckel, James Sweat, Tyler Turek and Montavious Yearby.
Pendry, the 2021 Lee Tressel Award winner for top defensive back, had 62 tackles and a team-best eight pass break-ups.
Smith once again stood out in his dual role as linebacker and punter. He notched 66 tackles, including five for loss. He picked up two interceptions and two sacks. In his 37 punt attempts, he averaged a career-best 41.6 yards with a long of 66 yards. With a career average of 40.5 yards per punt, the four-time All-OAC honoree is one of two punters in school history to average north of 40 yards per attempt (Austin Baker, 42.79, 2017-18).
St. Clair, a linebacker, had a team-high three interceptions to go along with 64 tackles, 9,5 TFLs and 3.5 sacks. St. Clair, who had a pick-six in the opening win over Adrian, has earned all-conference honors for the second consecutive year.
Steckel had a career year handling the placekicking duties, earning his second all-conference honor. One week after setting a program single-game record with five field goals against Marietta, the Cardington native set another program record with a 53-yarder at Wilmington. Steckel holds the career record for field goals made (33) and his second in field goal percentage and extra points made.
Sweat earned a spot on the first-team all-conference list for the first time, one year after being named a second-team honoree. Sweat and his fellow offensive linemen paved the way for the Heidelberg offense which amassed more than 3,300 total yards in each of the last 15 full seasons.
Turek, named the OAC Scholar Athlete of the Month in September, earned All-OAC honors for the third straight season. The defensive lineman was second on the team with 12.5 TFLs and 7.5 sacks. He sits in the top ten in the career record book in both categories.
Despite missing two full games to injury, Yearby netted 1,030 rushing and 1,259 all-purpose yards this season, finding the end zone on 11 occasions. Now a four-time All-OAC honoree, Yearby is sixth in career rushing yards (3,254) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (32) in school history.
Four-time All-OAC cornerback Tramon Wiley highlights the list of five second-teamers. Wiley was joined by three-time selection Dimitri Penick, two-time honoree Brandon Reed, and first-time selections Braden Donges and Joe Norris. Jarin Curtis and Jared Evans were tabbed as honorable mentions.
Heidelberg, 7-3 overall and 6-3 in OAC action, has had at least 12 All-OAC honorees in each of its seven seasons under the leadership of Head Coach Scott Donaldson. The 16 selections in 2022 were the second-most in the conference, trailing only Mount Union (18).