WASHINGTON – The deepest senior class in Coach Chuck Goldstein's tenure at Gallaudet University will lead the Bison into the 2018 campaign. The 16-member senior class has been through the ups and downs over the previous three seasons and will aim to go out on a high note this year.
The large upperclassmen group of 29 players have the experience to help teach, communicate and compete with the new crop of freshmen and returning sophomores from last season. The team chemistry among the committed Bison squad is one of the best in recent memory, which should help contribute to wins in 2018.
Last season, Gallaudet posted a 3-7 record and 3-4 mark in Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) play. The Bison lost four games by 11 or less points and went 3-1 during the month of October.
While GU only won three games on the gridiron they won the hearts of a nation after being featured on CBS This Morning in November and went on to win the first Helmet Bowl national championship in January.
Gallaudet returns a lot of starters on both sides of the ball. The Bison will trot out a senior-laden offensive line led by all-conference second team honoree Cameron Ethington (Bryans Road, Md.) and junior Reid Kelly (De Soto, Kan.) an all-conference honorable mention. Junior quarterback Timel Benton (Columbia, S.C.), an All-ECFC honorable mention honoree last year, will guide the buff and blue after he threw for 905 yards and ran for 591 yards and combined for 13 touchdowns. Senior wide receivers Dylan Mento (Atco, N.J.) and L.J. Watson (Fayetteville, N.C.) will lead the skill-position unit.
Senior defensive back Louie Akuffo (Bowie, Md.) was Gallaudet's lone All-ECFC first team selection last year, he will lead the defensive unit this season. Junior linebacker Mason Gooch (Mount Sterling, Ky.) led the team in tackles (75) en route to landing on the All-ECFC second team. Senior defensive lineman Demontrai Lewis (Trinity, Texas) was GU's third defensive player to earn all-conference honors last season. Lewis along with fellow senior Kenneth Peters (Indianapolis, Ind.) will cause havoc off the edges.
Junior kicker/punter Jacob Guertler (Staunton, Va.) was an all-conference honorable mention selection last year after he finished second in the conference for punting.
With the new season on the horizon here is a breakdown of the 2018 GU football team.
ECFC Record: 3-4
Highlights: Helmet Bowl National Champions, CBS This Morning national feature, eight All-ECFC honorees, four ECFC All-Academic selections
Timel Benton (Columbia, S.C.), Jr., Quarterback
Benton landed on the All-ECFC honorable mention list in 2017 during his second season under center. He led the Bison with 591 rushing yards (54.7 per game) in nine starts. He also completed 48 of 107 passes for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Cameron Ethington (Bryans Road, Md.), Sr., Offensive Line
Ethington was named to the All-ECFC second team offense last season. He helped to open rushing lanes for the 13th ranked rushing offense in Division III (261.3 rushing yards per game) in 10 starts.
Drew Faulkner (Niceville, Fla.), Sr., Offensive Line
Faulkner was one of the consistent pillars on the offensive line for the Bison. On Oct. 7, he helped the Bison rush for a program record 716 yards on 50 carries and 10 touchdowns against Anna Maria.
Reid Kelly (De Soto, Kan.), Jr., Offensive Line
Kelly was one of the anchors on the Bison offensive line last season. His skills helped him to earn All-ECFC honorable mention honors.
Dylan Mento (Atco, N.J.), Sr., Wide Receiver
Mento was Gallaudet's leading receiver last season as he hauled in 20 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns in 10 starts. In three seasons, he has tallied 86 receptions for 960 yards and eight touchdowns.
Brad Peterson (Avalon, Pa.), Sr., Offensive Line
Peterson, a two-time ECFC All-Academic team selection, has been a force on the offensive line for the past two seasons where he has started in 20 straight games.
L.J. Watson (Fayetteville, N.C.), Sr., Wide Receiver
Watson, Gallaudet's other deep threat, caught 10 passes for 174 yards and one touchdown. In three seasons, he has 49 receptions for 673 yards and four touchdowns.
Louie Akuffo (Bowie, Md.), Sr., Defensive Back
Akuffo was Gallaudet's only All-ECFC first team selection last season. He was second on the team with 72 tackles (55 solo) to go with 4.5 tackles for a loss of 13 yards and one forced fumble in 10 games started.
Rodney Burford (Brooklyn, N.Y.), So., Linebacker
Burford was fifth on the team with 44 tackles and 5.5 tackles for a loss of five yards to go with one interception in 10 games during his rookie season.
Mason Gooch (Mount Sterling, Ky.), Jr., Linebacker
Gooch was a second team all-conference selection after he led the Bison with 75 tackles (36 solo) and ranked fifth in the conference with 39 assists. He was seventh in the ECFC for tackles per game (7.5) as he started all 10 games.
Demontrai Lewis (Trinity, Texas), Sr., Defensive Line
Lewis was an All-ECFC honorable mention pick for the Bison. He led GU with four quarterback hurries, broke up three passes (defended three passes) and finished with 22 tackles (14 solo) in his Bison debut season.
Tony Libit (Deerbrook, Wis.), Sr., Linebacker
Libit a two-time ECFC All-Academic selection was third on the team with 47 tackles (21 solo) last season in 10 starts. He added four tackles for a loss of 16 yards, one sack for a loss of nine yards, intercepted one pass and forced two fumbles.
Kenneth Peters (Indianapolis, Ind.), Sr., Defensive Line
Peters finished the 2017 campaign with 24 tackles (10 solo), 2.5 tackles for a loss of 10 yards and one sack for a loss one nine yards. He also forced one fumble in 10 games (six starts).
Rashard Witherspoon (Brownsville, Tenn.), Sr., Defensive Back
Witherspoon was seventh on the team with 36 tackles (24 solo) in the secondary. He picked off two passes for 53 yards and broke up five passes (defended seven passes).
Jacob Guertler (Staunton, Va.), Jr., Kicker/Punter
Guertler was an all-conference honorable mention selection last season as he finished second in the ECFC for punting (34.4 yards per punt), third in PAT's made (34), PAT attempts (35) and points (37). He converted 1 of 2 field goals with a long of 22 yards. He averaged 54.3 yards on his kickoffs as five of 49 kickoffs were a touchback.
Rollo Chester (Macon, Ga.), So., Long Snapper
Chester is a unsung hero on the special teams as he is the long snapper for Guertler. He saw action in eight games last season.
Cassmeir Hutchinson (Chesapeake, Va.), Fr., Slot
Hutchinson is a shifty running back from the Tidewater region of Virginia. He was a team captain at Western Branch High School out of Chesapeake, Va., where he finished his career with 1,812 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Joe Conard (Irving, Texas), So., Defensive Line
Conard is a new but old face to the football program. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound defensive lineman suited up for the buff and blue back in 2009. He made eight tackles and one sack in seven games played during that season. He will be an intimidating force on the defensive line for the Bison this season.
"We are committed to communicating and competing this season. The coaching staff has been stressing the three C's (commit, communicate, compete) to the team during the entire training camp. The team chemistry is the best I have seen here. I know this team is excited for the new season, to show everyone what they can do." Chuck Goldstein, Gallaudet University football head coach
Season Opener: at Alvernia (Sat., Sept. 1, 1 p.m.)
Home Opener: vs. Apprentice (Sat., Sept. 15, 1 p.m.)
Conference Opener: at Anna Maria (Sat., Sept. 29, Noon)
Homecoming: vs. Alfred St. (Sat., Oct. 27, 1 p.m.)
Senior Day/Last Home Game: vs. Maritime (Sat., Nov. 10, Noon)
Gallaudet has a nine-game slate in 2018 with four home games at Hotchkiss Field. The Bison will play three non-conference games to begin the season before a bye week. GU ends the month of September with its first conference game of the season on the road at Anna Maria on Sept. 29. The month of October begins at home against Castleton (Oct. 13) before a road trip to Dean (Oct. 20) before heading home to end the month of October. The Bison will play host to Alfred St. (Oct. 27) for Homecoming. GU begins the month of November on the road at Husson University (Nov. 3), the defending ECFC champions, before hosting Senior Day against SUNY Maritime (Nov. 10).