York University football players recognized at annual gala

The York University Lions football team handed out its major team awards on Tuesday night (Feb. 28) at the program’s annual year-end awards gala.

The top award, the Frank Cosentino Team MVP Trophy, was awarded to receiver Colton Hunchak, who proved this season he is one of the best receivers in the country in just his second year of varsity football.

The Calgary native earned Ontario University Athletics (OUA) second-team all-star honours for the first time after finishing sixth in the OUA in total catches (43) and seventh in receiving yards (588). He was also third in the conference in receiving touchdowns (five) and his yardage total was the fourth-most single season receiving yards in York history.

The Gridiron Scholar Award for Academic Excellence was earned by linebacker DJ Panos (Mississauga, Ont.). He earned Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) academic all-Canadian honours in his rookie season last year with a 7.5 grade point average while studying environmental management.

Defensive end Rossini Sandjong-Djabome (Longueuil, Que.) was a dual winner on the night as he picked up both the Jeff Johnson Rookie of the Year award and the Mike Benevides Lineman of the Year award.

Sandjong-Djabome started all eight games on the defensive line and made an immediate impact, ranking sixth in the OUA in sacks, with five. He was also among the top 50 in the conference in total tackles (30) and added seven tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one pass break-up. He earned a place on the OUA all-rookie team for his efforts.

Hunchak succeeded at receiver, thanks in large part to the strong play of his older brother, Brett Hunchak, who was named the Leonard Jean-Pierre W21 Offensive MVP. This season he was twice named the OUA offensive football player of the week and earned the CIS award once. He put up 2085 passing yards, the highest single-season total in York history and the fourth-most in the OUA this season. He also ranked fourth in touchdowns (12).

On the other side of the ball, veteran defensive back Josh Small (Pickering, Ont.) was earned the Nobby Wirkowski Defensive MVP trophy. Playing in his fifth and final season with the Lions, he finished his career ranking 19th in the OUA with 42 tackles and also added one sack, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and two pass break-ups. Small is no stranger to York awards as he was honoured as the team MVP last year and the rookie of the year in 2012.

Also handed out on Tuesday night were the Andre Durie Special Teams MVP trophy to rookie linebacker Damian Jamieson (Oakville, Ont.) and the Tom Arnott Yeoman of the Year Award for Hard Work and Character to fourth-year receiver Adam Adeboboye (Toronto).

A new award was created this year to recognize the hard work of the players in study hall, and the inaugural Study Hall Award was presented to Andrew Smith (Whitby, Ont.) for his commitment to his academics.

As part of the evening, some key graduating players were recognized with the York Lions Warrior Award for their dedication and commitment to the football team and for embodying the characteristics of perseverance, honour, integrity and passion. The recipients this year were Mitchell Fraser, Chris Kolankowski, Emerson Morassutti, Michael Runowski and Small.