Tiger Trifecta: Wittenberg Claims Third Straight Senior Bowl MVP
The football program with the most wins in NCAA Division III history keeps breaking new ground.
For the third straight year, a Wittenberg University football standout earned Most Valuable Player honors at the annual Ohio Army National Guard Senior Bowl after quarterback Ben Zoeller, class of 2012 from Louisville, Ky., earned the Offensive MVP award at the 2012 game on Saturday, April 14 at Columbus Crew Stadium. The annual all-star game includes top players from throughout the state of Ohio, regardless of division.
That means Wittenberg football standouts have picked three of the possible six MVP honors since the game was created in 2010 after Zoeller followed in the footsteps of Kyle Lohrman, class of 2010, who earned Defensive MVP honors in the inaugural Senior Bowl, and Eddie Vallery, class of 2011, who duplicated the feat in the 2011 edition of the game. The Tiger standouts all earned their honors while playing on teams filled with student-athletes representing scholarship programs.
Unlike Lohrman and Vallery, however, Zoeller was on the winning side in the game after completing an efficient 10-of-13 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-7 South Team victory. Zoeller was joined on the South Team by wide receivers Josh McKee, class of 2012 from New Carlisle, Ohio, and Michael Cooper, class of 2012 from Springfield, Ohio, and linebacker Zach Hurtt, class of 2012 from Fort Thomas, Ky.
All four players came up big for the South Team. Zoeller, the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Offensive Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011, turned in the best passing percentage in the three years of the game. Owner of numerous Wittenberg and NCAC receiving records, McKee was Zoeller's favorite target, finishing with five receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. Cooper, who ranks fourth in career receptions at Wittenberg, added two catches for four yards.
On the other side of the ball, Hurtt tied for game honors in tackles, piling up 10 total stops. The Tigers' leading tackler in 2011 who ranks fifth in program history with 365 career stops, Hurtt also added a fumble recovery.
Four Wittenberg student-athletes have competed in the Senior Bowl in each of its three years in existence. Joining Lohrman in 2010 were cornerback Brandyn Brown, wide receiver Patrick Williams and quarterback Aaron Huffman. Brown made four tackles in the game, while Williams led both teams with four receptions for 60 yards and Huffman completed 10 passes for 128 yards.
Vallery was joined in 2011 by linebacker Brad McKinley, cornerback Keenan Freeman and wide receiver Anthony Kralich. McKinley and Freeman both finished among the team leaders in tackles, while Kralich hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
The four Tiger student-athletes won back-to-back NCAC championships and posted undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and 2010 before finishing 8-2 and in second place in the NCAC as seniors in 2011. Wittenberg posted a four-year record of 36-8 during their careers in the Red & White.
Wittenberg's football program became the first non-NCAA Division I program to reach 700 all-time wins with a 45-28 victory in the 2011 season opener against Capital. The Tigers have had just one losing season since 1955, and they won two of the first three NCAA Division III Tournament championships ever contested in 1973 and 1975. Since joining the NCAC prior to the 1989 season, the Tigers have won 10 championships, the most in the league.
Written by: Ryan Maurer