BLOG: Hakeem Kinard makes impact for Saint Francis
York Catholic High School graduate Hakeem Kinard has become an integral part of the championship football team at Saint Francis University in Loretto.
Kinard is a 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound sophomore strong safety for the Red Flash, which recently captured its first-ever Northeastern Conference regular-season co-championship.
In a 31-21 victory over Central Connecticut on Nov. 12, Kinard led the Flash with 10 tackles, including six solo stops. He also had a sack. That win clinched the NEC's automatic bid into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the Flash.
Saint Francis finished tied for the NEC crown with Duquesne, but earned the NEC's berth into the FCS playoffs by virtue of beating Duquesne in the regular season, 14-10.
Kinard has helped the Flash to a 7-4 overall record, including a 5-1 NEC mark.
The former Fighting Irish standout didn't record any defensive stats until St. Francis' fifth game, but he's recently become a force in the Flash defense. He followed his 10-tackle effort against Central Connecticut with a seven-tackle performance against Wagner last Saturday (Nov. 19), that included a six-yard tackle for loss.
For the year, Kinard has 29 tackles, including 13 solo stops. The Flash ranks 10th in the FCS in scoring defense (18.8) and eighth in total defense (304.9 yards).
Kinard and the Flash will have a first-round FCS playoff game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Villanova (8-3). The game will be telecast by ESPN3 and will mark Saint Francis' first-ever FCS playoff appearance.
Villanova is ranked No. 9 in the latest FCS poll, while Saint Francis is among teams receiving votes.
Saint Francis is coached by Chris Villarrial, a Hershey native who spent 11 years as an offensive lineman in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills. He graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The Flash is quarterbacked by Zack Drayer from nearby Hershey High School, who has thrown for 2,357 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Suburban grad Merkle named conference Newcomer of Year: York Suburban High School graduate Thomas Merkle was recently named the North Coast Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year in football.
The 5-10, 180-pound Merkle is a freshman quarterback at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.
Merkle completed 276 of his 464 pass attempts for 2,928 yards. He is now the school's single-season record holder in all three categories. He also had 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Merkle also set Kenyon's single-game records with 44 completions and 438 passing yards during the Lords' game at DePauw.
Merkle became the first player in Kenyon football history to be named the NCAC Newcomer of the Year. Kenyon finished 3-7.
Suburban grad selected to Old Dominion first team: York Suburban High School graduate Tanner Martin was recently named to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Men's Soccer First Team for his efforts at Virginia Wesleyan.
The senior led the Marlins in goals (nine) and points (18). It was his first all-conference recognition. Virginia Wesleyan finished 8-6-4 overall.
Sosa captures All-PSAC honor: York Catholic High School graduate Christopher Sosa was recently named to the All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Men's Soccer First team.
It marks the second straight year that the senior midfielder was named First Team All-PSAC. This year, Sosa played in 19 games, starting 17. He scored five goals, which tied him for second on the team. Sosa finished his Millersville career with 77 games played, 11 goals and four assists.
West York High School graduate Darian McCauley also played a key role for Millersville. The freshman started all 20 games in goal. He gave up 30 goals with 73 saves and seven shutouts. The Marauders finished 12-6-2 overall and 6-5-2 in the PSAC.
Sophomore Chase Flickinger, a Spring Grove grad, had a goal and five assists. Sophomore Andrei Kin, a York Suburban grad, added a goal and an assist.
Red Lion grad earns conference recognition: Red Lion High School graduate Jordan Gebhart was recently named to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Women's Soccer Second Team.
She is a sophomore tri-captain at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson. She led the Mighty Macs in scoring with 13 goals and four assists for 30 points. She helped her team finish 12-7-1 overall and 5-3-1 in AMCC.
Reach Steve Heiser at email@example.com.