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Experienced Football Team Shoots for a Winning Season

By Alvin Eric Loreto

This fall, MIT football is poised for a return to a winning season after posting a disappointing 1-8 mark last year. The experience gained in 1998 should pay off for Dwight Smith’s unit, as it is returning 18 starters on both sides of the ball.

In addition, a revamped coaching staff has had the team practicing with a new attitude, a tougher work ethic, and a sense of purpose during its pre-season workouts. Hungry for respect and eager to test its young potential, MIT begins its 1999 campaign this Saturday on the road against Framingham State.

Beavers shore up ground game

The major task facing the ’99 MIT offense will be re-establishing a sound running attack, which all but disappeared in ’98. The focal point is the rebuilding of an offensive line marred by injuries last year. A solid freshman crop joins veteran center Todd C. Hiers ’00 and stalwart tackle Jarad J. Vasquez ’01. The progress of the offensive line during pre-season workouts has tailback Enrique J. Villavicencio ’00 all smiles. Big things are expected from the talented Villavicencio, especially with converted linebacker Kip M. Johann-Berkel ’02 leading the way at fullback.

The passing game looks solid as well despite the losses of two stars from last season, Scott R. Blackburn ’99, MIT’s all-time leading passer, and Baldemar Mejia ’98. Rifle-armed David R. Skordal ’02 has some big shoes to fill, but flashes of brilliance in ’98 and a hard-nosed pre-season performance have given the young quarterback confidence. Skordal has proven solid targets in senior co-captain Charles A. Toye ’00 and tight end Keith Battochi ’02. Newcomer Jang S. Kim ’01, who has been impressive in pre-season workouts, highlights the young receiving corps.

Defense shows fire

Pre-season practices have revealed a tougher, more aggressive nature in the MIT defense, which finished 1998 at or near the bottom of every New England Football Conference team defensive category. The hardest-hitting unit seen in recent years has also shown vast improvement in team speed and mental preparation, due in no small part to its new coaching staff.

Leading the defense will be All-New England defensive end and co-captain Nikolas O. Kozy ’00, who averaged 10.8 tackles a game last year. Kozy is joined on the defensive front by several emerging stars, including tackle Thomas J. Hynes ’02. Coach Dick Yule, in his 18th year of coaching the MIT squad, has the 1999 linebacking corps looking meaner and quicker. Outside linebacker Daniel J. Bush ’01 returns from a knee injury to join standout playmakers Brian L. Licata ’01 and James C. Jorgensen ’01 and a group of tough-as-nails underclassmen.

And the secret's out: despite the graduation of All-American free safety Duane P. Stevens ’98, the secondary may actually be better than last year. Inspired by the return of lightning-quick cornerback Angus Huang ’00 from an ankle injury, as well as the presence of safety Kevin R. Richardson ’01, new chemistry and confidence is quietly stirring in the Beavers’ last line of defense.

Beavers to face Framingham State

For the third straight season, MIT opens its season on the road. The first opponent is the Framingham State Rams, who finished 2-8 (0-6 NEFC) for the 1998 season. Like the Beavers, the Rams are a rebuilding team led by several fine athletes on both sides of the ball. Junior quarterback Alex Tarpey is a scrambler that likes to throw the deep ball. The Ram offensive line is suspect, but the running backs and receivers are scrappy and athletic.

On defense, Framingham State is led by linebacker Dan Bartell and free safety Jason Fair. The Rams run basic defensive schemes that allow their big guns to fully utilize their talents. The focus for the MIT offense this week is establishing a strong running game to control the clock and the pace of the game. In addition, the Beavers’ ability to come up with big plays on special teams could be the deciding factor in this week’s contest.