The league and nation’s leading receiver Michael DiCroce has been named the 2011 most valuable football player and becomes the Ontario University Athletics nominee for the Canadian Interuniversity Sports Hec Crighton trophy.
The McMaster wide receiver is a dynamic multi-purpose offensive player who was a threat to score every time he touched the football. DiCroce led the nation in receiving yards, accumulating 904 yards on 48 catches for an outstanding per catch average of 18.8 yards. Among those catches were six touchdown receptions. DiCroce was also a weapon for the Marauders’ ground game, rushing 18 times for 179 yards, averaging nearly a first down per rush at 9.9 yards per carry. This year’s most valuable player also factored in on special teams, returning five punts for 61 yards.
The Hamilton native and third year player was a model of consistency this season, racking up at least four catches in every conference game and scored touchdowns in six of the Marauders’ eight games. DiCroce has big play potential, evidenced by his 76 yard catch and 41 yard rush plays this year. With the combination of speed and athleticism, DiCroce commands special attention from opposing defences.
DiCroce is the first Marauder to take home the MVP trophy since Jesse Lumsden did so in 2004 and first receiver since Andy Fantuz of Western in 2005.
The standup defensive player of the year was awarded to Ryan Chmielewski, also of the McMaster Marauders. The heart and soul of the McMaster defence, Chmielewski has been a stalwart at the linebacker position since arriving on the Hamilton campus. This season he selflessly moved from the middle linebacker spot to the outside to improve team defence and he led the Marauders with 38 solo tackles and four sacks.
Third time was the charm for Chmielewski, as this was his third nomination for the President’s trophy. The pride of St. Catharines is a two-time defensive MVP for McMaster and served as team captain this season. His consistently superior performance over his varsity career ranks him among the best of former standout Marauders. He began his career winning the 2007 rookie of the year award and has been a first-team all-star each year since.
Chmielewski is the fourth Marauder to win the President’s trophy and first since Jason Pottinger won back-to-back awards in 2004 and 2005.
After taking a year away from OUA football, Queen’s defensive tackle Osie Ukwuoma (Mississauga, Ont.) returned in a big way and has earned this year’s J.P. Metras trophy as the lineman of the year. This is the second time Ukwuoma has been honoured after being named the top lineman in 2008 also.
A contributing factor to the Gaels not allowing a rushing touchdown all season, the 6-3, 275 pound Ukwuoma had one of his best statistical seasons, accumulating 27 total tackles, including 24 solo tackles. He led the conference with 13 tackles for loss and six sacks, and also had one interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. The second-year law student moved into the Queen’s record books, finishing second all-time in sacks and first all-time in tackles for loss.
Queen’s has now won three of the last four J.P. Metras trophies as Matt O’Donnell won in 2010. Ukwuoma is just the third player to ever repeat as the top lineman.
Western running back Tyler Varga (Kitchener, Ont.) burst onto the OUA scene and has earned this year’s Norm Marshall trophy as the top rookie and is the OUA nominee for the CIS Peter Gorman trophy. A top recruit last year, Varga has the speed, power, and explosiveness to excel in the backfield.
Standing at 5-10 and 218 pounds, Varga’s presence on the football field was undeniable and his work ethic inspiring. The rookie led the OUA and CIS in rushing touchdowns with 15 in seven games and added two more in the Mustangs’ first postseason game. He made a number of extraordinary runs this year, busting through holes and leaping and twisting his way out of would-be tackles. His 793 rushing yards in the regular season was good for fifth overall in the CIS and second in the OUA.
Despite the continuous supply of strong freshmen classes, Varga is the first Mustang to be named rookie of the year since 2003.
The Russ Jackson Nominee is a name put forward by the OUA for the award presented annually by the CIS to the player who best exemplifies the attributes of academic achievement, football skill, and citizenship. For the second straight year, OUA’s nominee is Dillon Heap (Waterloo, Ont.) of the Laurier Golden Hawks. The fifth year player finished the regular season with 40 receptions for 625 yards and three touchdowns.
Heap excelled not just on the offence, but also on special teams. He had 40 punt returns for 458 yards and closed his career with the OUA’s all-time punt return yardage record with 2,113 yards. With several school records to his credit, Heap also excels academically, posting a 10.07 cumulative GPA and has received Laurier’s Luke Fusco Academic Athletic Achievement Award as the top academic male athlete.
Additionally, Heap continued his dedication to the Waterloo community this year, serving as the executive secretary for President James A. McBride of the Kitchener Ontario Stake, teaching Sunday school at the branch, and acting as president of the Latter-Day Saints Association at Laurier. He has also served as the President of Elders Quorum in the Kitchener 3rd Young Single Adult Branch.
In his first season as the head coach of the Windsor Lancers, and first season as a CIS head coach, Joe D’Amore takes home this year’s Dave “Tuffy” Knight coach of the year award.
D’Amore was a team captain for the Lancers in his playing days and he returned to the team in 2010 as the recruiting coordinator and receivers coach. This season he stepped into the head coach position and led the Lancers to their most successful season since 2006. With a 5-3 regular season record, Windsor finished fifth and claimed a postseason berth for the first time in five seasons.
Without a single player on the Lancers roster having postseason experience, D’Amore led the Windsor squad to a quarterfinal victory over last year’s Yates Cup finalists in Ottawa.
D’Amore is the first Windsor coach since John Musselman in 1987 to take home the prestigious award.
This year’s volunteer coach of the year award winner is a long serving member of the Guelph Gryphons coaching staff. Brian Cluff has spent 21 seasons involved with coaching the defensive unit for the Gryphons. He has served as the defensive coordinator and also dedicated his time to special teams, defensive backs, and defensive linemen. Despite his full time teaching position, Cluff finds the time to break down game film, attend every practice, chair film meetings, and recruit players. He is also community minded, helping found the Friends of Gryphon Football club, and he organized the donation of used equipment to local high schools.
The Officials Award of Merit went to Kevin Horton. The President of the Eastern Ontario Tackle Football Association, Horton dedicates his time to OUA football each season. He watches game tape in order to improve from game to game and for a number of years has stood out as one of the most elite officials in the league.