LANCASTER, Pa. – Following a successful 6-4 season under first-year head coach Tom Blumenauer, the Franklin & Marshall football team saw six players recognized as All-Centennial Conference performers. That group featured three first-team and three second-team selections, with five of those individuals receiving the first All-CC recognition of their careers. The group was bolstered by five defensive selections as the Diplomats allowed under 100 yards rushing per game while leading the conference in both interceptions (19) and defensive touchdowns (3).
Senior linebacker Kevonte Beard earned first-team honors as a senior after the 2019 CC Rookie of the Year was a second-team all-conference pick a season ago. Playing a versatile role off the edge and as a traditional linebacker, Beard recorded 58 tackles and 2.5 sacks during his senior season. The co-captain's sacks resulted in 23 yards lost, the eighth-best mark in the conference. Beard made 10.5 of his tackles behind the line of scrimmage and finishes sixth in program history in tackles for loss (35.5) despite just three playing seasons. Those tackles for loss moved the opposing offenses back a combined 132 yards during his career for the fifth-highest mark in program history.
Junior Aaron Rascoe took over as the team's top running back and earned first-team honors during his inaugural year as the starter. His season was highlighted by a three-touchdown game against Gettysburg where he tied the 113-year old school record for rushing touchdowns in a single season (14). Rascoe carried for 740 yards (3rd in CC) on 141 carries. His 5.2 yards per run marked the second-highest average in the conference and is also a top-10 mark in F&M's single-season record books. Rascoe finished the year with 17 total touchdowns, catching three touchdowns on 21 receptions for an additional 323 yards to finish with 1,052 all-purpose yards. He becomes the first player since 2017 (Taalib Gerald & K.J. Pretty) to achieve over 1,000 all-purpose yards in a single season.
Junior Justin Gerhart was another first-team All-Centennial Conference selection at defensive back after leading all of Division III with eight interceptions. Gerhart's total helped the Diplomats lead all Division III teams with those aforementioned 19 interceptions this season. Gerhart's eight INTs are the most for a Franklin & Marshall player since the late 1980s when John Rogers (11 in 1987) and Andrew Zuch (11 in 1988) set and tied the school record in consecutive seasons. Gerhart picked off at least one pass in six of F&M's games, highlighted by a three-interception afternoon against Susquehanna where he also returned one of those for a touchdown before being named Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Week. Gerhart's work against the opposing receivers also featured five pass break ups and 28 tackles (22 solo).
Senior Brian Lafty earned second-team All-Centennial Conference recognition for the first time in his career. The senior captain was one of the anchors of a very strong defensive line that shut down the opponent's rushing attack. Lafty finished the year with 53 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He was named the Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded the first of those sacks and eight total tackles during the home opener under the lights against Lebanon Valley. He registered at least three tackles in each contest, including a season-high 10 stops against Ursinus. During seven different contests – and each of the final six games - Lafty at least combined for one tackle behind the opponent's line of scrimmage.
Fellow defensive lineman Jeff Decker joined Lafty as a second-team all-conference selection. During his sophomore season, Decker started all 10 games and made 47 tackles. Those totals included 10 tackles for loss and featured three sacks. His tackles in the opponent's backfield moved the opposition back 23 yards, a mark which ranked eighth in the Centennial Conference. Decker was named the Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Week after recording nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks against Dickinson to help F&M retain The Wagon during its annual rivalry game. Those nine tackles, five of which were solo efforts, marked a new career high for Decker who finished with at least five tackles in six of the team's 10 regular season contests.
Fellow sophomore Jacob Hille earned second-team All-CC recognition as a linebacker for the first time in his career. Hille led Franklin & Marshall and finished eighth in the Centennial Conference with 72 tackles (35 solo, 37 assisted). Hille picked up double-digit tackles four times throughout the regular season (Susquehanna, Ursinus, Johns Hopkins, and Muhlenberg), including a season-best 12 stops against the Bears. In that showdown with Ursinus, Hille also recorded a sack for one of his five tackles for loss this fall. During the second half rally at Susquehanna, the sophomore additionally forced and recovered a fumble while adding three pass break ups throughout the year.
In addition to the All-Centennial Conference selections, senior defensive lineman Bobby Buchys was named to the Centennial Conference All-Sportsmanship Team. Buchys started all 10 games this fall for the Diplomats and finished with 40 tackles. Those totals included 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss as he set new career highs across the board.
Franklin & Marshall finished with a 6-4 record for the team's seventh consecutive winning season. The Diplomats finished fifth overall in the Centennial Conference with a 5-4 record in league play and have not had a losing record in over a decade. Despite the graduation of a talented senior class, the Diplomats certainly looked poised for a continued success in the future as a number of underclassmen will return after starting in key positions this year, highlighted by four of these all-conference selections who will return to the squad next fall.