CLEVELAND, Ohio – Following their first NCAC Championship since 1986 and first NCAA Playoffs appearance in 33 years, Denison football landed an impressive 12 All-North Coast Athletic Conference selections on Thursday morning, highlighted by senior quarterback Canaan Gebele as the Offensive Player of the Year. Gebele is DU's first Offensive Player of the Year since Dushawn Brown (2012-15) earned the award in 2014 and he is the fourth honoree in program history. Denison's 12 selections to the all-conference team are also the most since 1988 (15).
The NCAC's Offensive Player of the Year award is presented annually by the Gregory family in honor of their father, Mike Gregory '29, a star four-sport athlete and football standout for the Big Red in the late 1920s. Affectionately referred to as "Mr. Denison", the Ohio Athletic Conference began handing out the Mike Gregory Award to its most outstanding offensive back in 1956 and that award was continued by the North Coast Athletic Conference in 1984.
Also garnering All-NCAC first-team honors for the first time in his career, Gebele has been named to three all-conference teams during his career and has established himself as one of the all-time greats to compete for the Big Red. He is the third player in NCAC history to surpass 10,000 yards of total offense in his career. He is Denison's career leader in passing yards (7,540), completions (626), and touchdown passes (66). He ranks ninth in rushing yards (2,454) and is second in rushing touchdowns (38). Gebele has racked up 10,004 yards and is responsible for 106 TDs since 2015. He is a nominee for the 2018 Gagliardi Trophy that is awarded to Division III top performer.
During his senior season, the Annapolis, Md. native has racked up 2,085 yards and 25 touchdowns through the air, while adding 646 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, good for 274.2 yards of total offense per game. He also totaled six or more combined touchdowns in three games this season, including a career-high eight touchdowns accounted for in a 66-18 win over Wooster on Nov. 3.
The Denison backfield also garnered first-team recognition with junior running back Alex Minton who captured the NCAC rushing title after gaining 1,291 yards rushing on 6.8 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns. In two years with the Big Red, he has totaled 2,292 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns. A native of Bethel Park, Pa., Minton is the first player in Denison history to post back-to-back 200-yard rushing games after going for 226 against Ohio Wesleyan (Oct. 20) and 219 at Hiram (Oct. 27).
Working as the main protectors for Denison's dynamite duo, the Big Red offensive line of George Carson, Frank Zoltan, Josh Blaz, Andrew Zellers, and Jeremy Woelfer were all named All-NCAC, led by Carson and Zoltan on the first-team. Blaz and Woelfer earned second-team honors while Zellers was named honorable mention. This is the second time in school history that the entire starting DU offensive line was named to the all-conference teams, and the first time since 1985. They've also helped lead an offense that has set single-season records in total offense (4,884), all-purpose yards (5,800), points (437), and touchdowns (60).
Denison's final first-team honoree belonged to junior defensive end Nate Keirn, one year after making his All-NCAC debut as an honorable mention selection. A native of Medina, Ohio, Keirn currently leads the Big Red defense with 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss. Keirn is also the program's career leader in sacks with 24.5. This also marks the most first-team selections (5) for the Big Red since 1987.
Junior receiver David Weimar was named to the All-NCAC second team for the second time in his career after posting 654 yards receiving and nine touchdowns during the regular season. Posting two games of 150 yards or more and two touchdowns in 2018, Weimar currently ranks fifth all-time with 2,142 receiving yards for a career and is third all-time with 22 touchdown catches. He is also a three-time Google Cloud Academic All-District selection.
The Denison secondary was also well represented by the NCAC after senior Ryan Zinkula earned second-team honors and sophomore Michael Flanagan checked in as an honorable mention. Zinkula, a three-time All-NCAC selection and two-time member of the all-conference second-team, ranked second among Denison defensive backs with 40 combined tackles while adding one forced fumble and three pass breakups. For Flanagan, he led the Big Red with 10 pass breakups and logged two interceptions and 33 total tackles.
Rounding out the All-NCAC honorees for DU was junior punter Calvin Montgomery. A native of Winnetka, Ill., Montgomery totaled 1,315 yards on 35 punts in 2018, good for 37.6 yards per punt and third-best in the NCAC. He was also named to the D3football.com Team of the Week after averaging 45.2 yards per punt in a 20-12 win over DePauw (Oct. 13).
Finishing the regular season at 8-2, the Big Red won their first NCAC Championship since 1986 and earned their first bid to the NCAA Division III Football Playoffs since 1985. They will square off with No. 1 Mount Union on Saturday, November 17 at 12 p.m.