Locals contribute to W&J success


Special to the OBSERVER

The Washington & Jefferson College football team has had quite a season so far heading into this weekend’s first-round NCAA Division III playoff game at top-ranked Mount Union.

Just as impressive is who helped get the Presidents there.

For the fifth time in 11 seasons, W&J coach Mike Sirianni (Jamestown/Southwestern) was named the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. Owner of a 101-23 record in 11 seasons, Sirianni will be making his eighth NCAA playoff appearance on Saturday.

In addition, eight W&J players were selected to the first-team All-PAC squad, including safety B.J. Monacelli (Cassadaga/Cassadaga Valley), while eight others, including senior offensive guard Andrew Pingitore (Cassadaga/Cassadaga Valley) and sophomore linebacker Shane Smith (Fredonia/Fredonia), were honorable mention selections.

Monacelli has had a banner final season for the Presidents, capped last week by his fifth interception of the season and the 11th of his career (sixth all-time at W&J). The 2010 Cassadaga Valley Central School graduate has intercepted a pass in four of his last five games and has led the Presidents in that category in each of the last three seasons.

Overall, Monacelli, in addition to his five picks, is second on the team in tackles (57) to go along with four tackles for loss, six passes defended, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick.

Off the field, he’s just as successful, having been selected to the Capital One Academic All-District IV Team earlier this season. The Academic All-District teams are divided into eight geographic regions and District IV includes all Division III football players from a college or university in Pennsylvania. The Capital One Academic All-District teams recognize the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performances athletically and in the classroom.

Monacelli, who owns a 3.493 cumulative grade-point average as a business administration major and communications arts minor, has now moved on to the Academic All-America ballot. He has already been selected as a semifinalist for the National Football Federation National Scholar-Athlete award and is one of the Presidents’ six team captains.

Smith, the 2010 Post-Journal Player of the Year, is third on the team in tackles (52), has two tackles for loss and recovered a pair of fumbles.

Meanwhile, Pingitore, a high school classmate of Monacelli, has helped anchor a line that is averaging more than 38 points and nearly 450 yards in total offense per game.

Senior offensive lineman Sam Aults (Brocton/Brocton) and senior defensive lineman Zach Marsh (Panama/Panama) are also part of the W&J team, which fell at Mount Union, 34-20, on Saturday. Monacelli finished with six tackles while Smith added a sack.