The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) football coaches recently announced their 2009 All-Conference Team and six Gustavus players were named to the first and second teams. Golden Gustie players named to the First Team included senior linebacker Tony Palma (Lino Lakes, Minn./Centennial), senior safety Joe Welch (Hastings, Minn.), and senior punter Matt Knutson (St. Peter, Minn.). The three players who were named to the Second Team included junior wide receiver Eliot Herdina (Blooming Prairie, Minn.), senior offensive tackle Jack Breckner (Wayzata, Minn.), and junior linebacker Paul Stommes (Richmond, Minn./Eden Valley-Watkins). The Gusties finished the 2009 season with a record of 4-6 overall and 3-5 in the MIAC (tie for fourth place).
Tony Palma is being honored as a MIAC First Team selection for the second consecutive season. The four-year letterwinner led the league in tackles with 96 (11.6 per game) and assisted tackles with 53. He also finished the year ranked 25th in Division III in total tackles at 10.8 per game (108 tackles) and fifth in assisted tackles with 69. Palma set the school record for tackles in a game with 24 (8 solo, 16 assisted) against Concordia on November 14 and solo tackles in a game with 12 against Bethel on October 31. He completed his career ranked fifth all-time at Gustavus in solo tackles in a career with 106 and sixth all-time in total tackles with 258. Palma played in 39 of a possible 40 games in his career at Gustavus.
Joe Welch is also being honored on the First Team for the second consecutive season. The four-year starter both on defense and special teams was the fourth leading tackler for the Gusties this season with 73 stops including 42 solo tackles and 31 assisted tackles. Welch led the team in kick returns with 25 returns for 540 yards (21.6 yards per return) and one touchdown, an 87-yard return against Carleton. A 2009 Pre-Season All-America honoree by Lindy’s Magazine (First Team) and D3football.com (Second Team), Welch played in all 40 games of his collegiate career. He ranks second all-time at Gustavus in career solo tackles with 141 and ninth all-time in career total tackles with 253. Welch was named MIAC Special Teams Player of the Week on October 19 for his performance against Carleton, which included an 87-yard return for a touchdown.
Matt Knutson is making his first appearance on the All-Conference Team. The St. Peter native finished second in the MIAC in punting with an average of 37.1 yards per punt. Nationally,
Knutson finished 10th in punts per game at 5.70 and 58th in punting average at 37.2. He is one of only 16 players to punt for more than 2000 yards in Division III this year. Knutson also helped Gustavus rank ninth in Division III in net punting at 35.28. A four-year regular for the Gusties, Knutson ranks second all-time at Gustavus in net punting yards (5590), second in number of punts (167), and fourth in punting average (33.47).
Eliot Herdina led the Gusties in receiving with 46 catches for 555 yards (12.1 per catch) and seven touchdowns. He caught at least one pass in every game this season including at least one touchdown pass in five of the team’s ten games. After just two seasons with the Gusties, Herdina already ranks seventh all-time in TD receptions with 12, 16th in career catches with 85, and 21st in career yards receiving with 900.
Jack Breckner was the starting left tackle for an offensive line that helped the Gusties average 301.5 yards of total offense per game including 122.3 rushing and 179.2 passing. Breckner and his offensive linemates helped the Gusties rush for over 100 yards in the team’s final six games including a season high 235 yards against Augsburg. Breckner was a three-year letterwinner.
Paul Stommes was part of an aggressive linebacking corps that registered 337 tackles for the Gusties this season. Stommes was the team’s third leading tackler with 74 total tackles including 39
solo tackles and 35 assisted tackles. He also registered nine tackles-for-loss and recorded two interceptions including one that he returned 40 yards for a touchdown against Bethel.
As a part of a conference-wide sportsmanship initiative, the MIAC announced the fourth annual All-Sportsmanship Team for football. Members of the All-MIAC Sportsmanship team are selected by their coaches and teammates as individuals who demonstrate ideals of posititve sportsmanship both on and off the field of competition. Tony Palma was the Gustavus player selected by his teammates to represent Gustavus on the All-Sportsmanship Team.