Nov. 22, 2011
ST. LOUIS - Pioneer Football League officials announced Tuesday the winners of its postseason honors and the All-Pioneer Football League first and second teams. All selections were made by the league's coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own players. San Diego and Drake each won a share of the 2011 PFL regular-season title. San Diego won its fourth PFL crown and first since the 2007 season. It is Drake's fifth league championship but first since the 2004 campaign.
San Diego head coach Ron Caragher, a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, was named the league's Coach of the Year; San Diego defensive lineman Blake Oliaro was the league's Defensive Player of the Year; and Drake quarterback Mike Piatkowski was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year. The league's freshman awards went to San Diego wide receiver Brandon White and Drake linebacker Travis Merritt, who were named the league's Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year, respectively.
San Diego head coach Ron Caragher receives the league's Coach of the Year citation for the first time in his five seasons at USD. He led the Toreros to their fourth PFL title, posting a 7-1 PFL record. For the third time in his career, Caragher led San Diego to a 9-2 overall mark. Dating back to last season the Toreros have won 13 of their last 16 games, including this season's final three games. Caragher is the third San Diego coach to be tapped the league's Coach of the Year, joining Kevin McGarry (2002) and Jim Harbaugh (2005 & 2006).
The Toreros also cracked into the top-25 for the first time this season as they appeared at #25 in the 2011 FCS Coaches Poll. Stated Coach Caragher, "Saturday's win was an exciting way to finish the season and send our seniors off with not only a win in their final game, but a PFL Championship. It is a great feeling to see the team achieve goals set prior to the season with discipline, commitment, and hard work. Additionally, it is exciting for our program to be voted into the Top 25 for the FCS Coaches Poll."
Oliaro became one of the nation's top backfield threats en route to earning the league's Defensive Player of the Year award. The redshirt sophomore - who did not play in 2010 - returned to the Toreros lineup and helped spark a defensive unit that ranked among the FCS top 20 in rushing defense (113.5 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (109.60 rating). Behind the strength of that defense, San Diego won a share of the 2011 PFL Championship with a 7-1 record while posting a 9-1 overall mark. Individually, Oliaro ranked fourth nationally in sacks per game (1.36 per game) and 10th nationally in tackles for loss per game (1.77 per game). He becomes the second San Diego athlete to receive the league's defensive award (Eric Bakhtiari, 2006 & 2007).
White played 11 games at wide receiver for San Diego, finishing the season with 45 receptions for 561 yards and five touchdowns. His 4.1 receptions per game ranked 94th among all FCS receivers at the conclusion of the regular season. White is the fourth San Diego player to receive one of the league's freshman awards, and the first Torero since Kyle Warren (2009).
A total of 18 Toreros were recognized on either the First, Second and Honorable Mention teams. Seven Toreros were selected to the First Team, including sophomore running back/return specialist Kenny James, a unanimous pick by the PFL coaches. He was joined by senior center Christian Fetters, sophomore defensive end Blake Oliaro, junior linebacker Zach Dunaj, senior corner Al-Rilwan Adeyemi, and senior safety Loka Kanongataa.
Six Toreros were selected to the Second Team - senior receiver John McGough, sophomore receiver Sam Hoekstra, senior tight end Patrick Doyle, sophomore quarterback Mason Mills, senior defensive end Mario Kurn, and senior linebacker Joe Martin.
Five Toreros were tabbed Honorable Mention - freshman receiver Brandon White, senior fullback Nick Scudellari, senior offensive lineman Matt Peleti, senior offensive lineman Pat Thompson, and senior kicker Mike Levine.