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Football Team Must Strengthen Defense to Start Winning Games

By Ryan Lanphere

If the Engineers hope to improve on their 2005 record of 3-6, improvements will have to be made on the defensive side of the ball. Ranked second-to-last in the New England Football Conference (NEFC) in total defense and turnover margin, the success of the MIT Varsity Football Team in 2006 will hinge on their ability to limit opponents on offense.

On the other side of the ball, quarterback Richard A. Mancuso ’09 and wide receiver Kevin T. Vogelsang ’09 (NEFC all-conference offense honorable mention) must build and improve on their impressive performances as freshmen. Mancuso set Institute single season records in completions (135), attempts (282), and passing yards (1587), all in just seven games of the 2005 season, good enough for an NEFC Rookie of the Year award. However, despite leading the NEFC in yards per game Mancuso also threw 18 interceptions, so there is still plenty of room for growth.

The Engineers will be looking to replace a strong senior class after graduating one of Mancuso’s primary targets in Thomas J. Kilpatrick ’06 (Second Team all-conference, MIT’s all-time leading receiver in receptions and yards) along with former defensive standouts cornerback David A. Blau G, ’06 and lineman Brennan P. Sherry G, ’06. Punter R. Matt Ramirez’ 06 will also be missed; Ramirez, Blau and Sherry were second team all-NEFC defense selections.

Anchoring the Engineers defense, senior captain and middle linebacker Phillip T. Zakielarz ’07 (NEFC all-conference defense honorable mention) will set the tone on the defensive side of the ball. Zakielarz, who led the Engineers in tackles with 97, will be backed up by junior defensive back David O. Kalk ’08, who was tied for first on the team with two interceptions and Glenn J. Geesman ’09 who led the Engineers with four sacks.

In addition to Mancuso and Vogelsang, the Engineers will need a big year on offense out of tightend Chris W. Ruggiero ’07 along with running backs Robert C. Utz ’09 (led MIT with 409 rushing yards in 2005) and Thomas C. Scotton ’08, who led MIT in rushing during the 2004 season.

The Engineers begin their 2006 campaign on September 9 against Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a must-win game, with kickoff set for 1:00 pm in Steinbrenner Stadium. Another must-win game will be two weeks from the opener on September 23 when the Engineers host Nichols College. On October 7, the Engineers will face their biggest challenge of the year when they face three-time defending NEFC champion Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

Coach Dwight Smith enters his 19th season as the Engineers’ head varsity football coach. Compiling a career record of 56-96-1, Coach Smith has been leading the Engineers since the inception of the varsity program in 1988.