Thursday, January 3, 2013

College Football: Ciocci honored; Bowl roundup

By Don Seeley

NEW ORLEANS – Steve Ciocci sure made an impact paving the way for Wagner College’s run game the past three seasons.
Though the Seahawks’ mainstay at right tackle, the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Spring-Ford graduate filled in at center and guard this past season, and at all three positions throughout his career at Wagner. He helped open holes for teammate Dominique Williams to become just the third back in the program’s history to amass consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and helped give quarterback Nick Doscher enough time to become the program’s all-time leading passer.
Ciocci, who started every one of his final 25 games and 35 of the 43 he appeared in at Wagner, was a big part of this past season’s drive to the school’s first Northeast Conference title. The Seahawks also appeared in the Football Championship Series playoffs and opened with a win over Colgate before falling to Eastern Washington and finishing 9-4 overall.
And even though Ciocci was named to the All-NEC first team as an offensive lineman and played in last month’s third annual FCS Senior Scout Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C., his greatest honor – on or off the football field – was being selected to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team and working with youngsters the past week as part of the 79th annual Sugar Bowl festivities.
Ciocci was one of only 22 players from school’s across the country to be named to the Good Works Team. One of college football’s premier service honors, the Good Works Team endeavors to shine a spotlight on the positive, off-the-field impact a select group of student-athletes have on their communities.
“As fans of college football, Allstate takes great pride in partnering with the AFCA to recognize these dedicated student-athletes for their accomplishments off the field,” said Kathy Mabe, president of Allstate’s West regions and a member of the 2012 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team voting panel. “These players have demonstrated the unique ability to balance academics with athletics while donating their limited free time and energy to serve others. And we at Allstate commend them for their commitment to volunteerism.”
The Allstate AFCA Good Works Teams were established in 1992 by the College Football Association, recognizing the extra efforts made by college football players and student support staff off the field. AFCA became the governing body of the award in 1997 and continues to honor college football players who go the extra mile for those in need.  Allstate partnered to present the award starting with the 2008 season.
Ciocci and the other 21 players brought their passion for volunteerism to the Crescent City to teach children from the YMCA of Greater New Orleans the fundamentals of football.
Three other Pennsylvania natives – including Ursinus senior wideout Tony Rosa (Philadelphia) – were part of the Good Works Team. Also working with Ciocci and Rosa were Temple punter Brandon McManus (Hatfield), and Franklin & Marshall offensive lineman Chad Tothero (Ephrata).
Each year, the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team raises the bar for the impact that student-athletes can have on their local communities. And, as AFCA Executive Director Grant Teaff explained, this year’s roster is no exception. From creating mentorship programs for at-risk youth to building homes and health clinics overseas, the 22 young men have dedicated themselves to bettering the lives of others through countless acts of service.
"The AFCA, its Board of Trustees and members are honored to partner with Allstate in announcing another great class of student-athletes for the 2012 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team," Teaff said "These 22 student-athletes stand out from hundreds of other college football players who volunteer their time each week to make an impact on their teams and in their community."
Ciocci, who celebrated his 23rd birthday just over a week ago, has actually been as busy off the football as he has been on it since transferring from Temple to Wagner following a red-shirt freshman season.
He earned his undergraduate degree from Wagner in May of 2011, finishing with a 3.5 grade-point average in business administration. He was named to the All-NEC Academic Honor Roll twice, and is currently pursing his master’s degree.
But neither Ciocci’s admirable work in the classroom or on the football field managed to overshadow his efforts on the Wagner campus and in the Staten Island community, where he led and participated in a number of charitable initiatives. In April of 2011, he was one of an elite group of six people to receive an award at Wagner’s Civic Engagement Recognition Day Ceremony, which recognizes and honors exceptional individuals, departments and community partners who exemplify a sense of caring and responsibility for others that connects citizens and works to address community problems.
Throughout his career at Wagner, Ciocci has devoted himself to raising the profile of numerous local and national organizations within the campus and local community. He mobilized a host of students to participate in such events as Relay for Life and Operation Christmas Child, and he often visited children in the Pediatrics Ward at Staten Island University Hospital and helped find donors for the National Marrow Donor Program.
Ciocci and the entire Allstate AFCA Good Works Team sat in on Wednesday night’s Sugar Bowl, which featured Florida from the Southeast Conference and Louisville from the Big East Conference in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
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Music City Bowl: Vanderbilt senior defensive tackle Rob Lohr (Phoenixville) and the Volunteers closed out their most successful season in over 90 years with a 38-24 win over North Carolina State in last weekend’s Music City Bowl. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Lohr had two tackles for the Vols, who limited the Wolfpack to just 47 yards rushing. Lohr – the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 – started the final 38 games of his career. He closed his final season with 30 tackles, including 11 for losses and two sacks, with two quarterback-hurries and three pass break-ups in helping Vanderbilt to its best season since going 9-1 in 1915.
Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia featured Terrell Chestnut (Pottsgrove) as its starting free safety during a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in last weekend’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Chestnut and the West Virginia secondary limited Syracuse to just 142 yards passing, but the Orange ran for 369 yards in the win. The Mountaineers, who were ranked in the Top 25 at the outset of the season, finished 7-6.
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Widener placekicker Ryan O’Hara (Spring-Ford) and defensive end Zach Chatman (Upper Perkiomen) are both expected to contend for starting positions with the Pride next season. Both were on the sidelines last month when Widener was whipped by No. 1 ranked and eventual Division III national champion Mt. Union, 72-17, during their quarterfinal game in Alliance, Ohio. The Pride, who finished 11-1, are in search of a new head coach since Isaac Collins’s recent departure to take over the program at Division II Seton Hill in western Pennsylvania.

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