A squad of 54 college seniors selected from 22 NCAA Division III schools have come together in Mexico to form ‘Team Stars & Stripes’ for the eighth annual Tazón De Estrellas this week.

Among the 54 players is Salve Regina University’s Middle Linebacker and Team Captain, Ethan Gambale. Gambale, an All-NEFC Second Team Linebacker and NEFC Academic All-Conference player, is the only player from Rhode Island to be selected.

An experienced coaching staff will lead Team Stars & Stripes against the host team CONADEIP All-Stars at Zorros Stadium at CETYS University in Mexicali on Saturday, December 17.  The Americans lead the series 4-3 over their rival in the Tazón de Estrellas and Head Coach Don DeWaard holds a 3-1 record.

Gambale, a New Jersey native, made his second All-Conference team after also receiving second team honors last season with the Seahawks. He led the Seahawks in tackling in 2016, notching 70 tackles, 49 solo, 12.5 for loss and three sacks. Gambale also forced two  fumbles, broke up three passes, had a fumble recovery and an interception. He is also started all ten games for  the Seahawks in 2015, while recordomg 79 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, two pass breakups, and one  forced fumble.

Tyler Bernadyn, contributor to What’sUpNewp, caught up with Gambale and Salve’s other team captain back in November before the Seahwaks fell in a championship game to Western New England. Read it here – Tyler’s Two Cents: The Undefeated Team That No One is Talking About

“Just a jersey boy from a small school in Rhode Island down here in Mexico tryna make a name for myself. Grateful for this awesome opportunity thus far and the new friends I’ve made,” Gambale (#5, in blue) posted on Facebook on Wednesday.

The 54 players arrived in Mexico on Sunday, December 11, and in addition to installing their game plan during daily practice sessions at CETYS University, will conduct a service project with local youth and will enjoy a visit to the San Felipe Beach in Baja.

The 22 Division III schools represented on the roster are Central College (8 players), Southwestern University (8), Grove City College (4), Lake Forest College (4), Minnesota Morris (4), Delaware Valley University (3), US Merchant Marine Academy (3), Aurora University (2), Augustana College (2), Kalamazoo College (2), Ohio Northern University (2), Trine College (2), Albion College (1), Beloit College (1), Carthage College (1), Loras College (1), Louisiana College (1), Salve Regina University (1), SUNY Maritime College (1), Trinity (1), Wartburg College (1), Wilkes University (1).

The offense will be led by quarterbacks Riley Gray from Central College and Brian Hicks of Southwestern University.  Gray earned 2016 First team all-Iowa Conference honors with a 64.5 completion percentage, was second in the league with 24 passing touchdowns and his seven rushing touchdowns were tied for third in the league.  Hicks led the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference with a pass efficiency rating of 138.3, earning a First Team selection, after he completed 139 of 328 passes for 1,692 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“We are overwhelmed by the interest among top quality D3 seniors from coast to coast, wanting to represent America, Division III football and their particular school in the Tazon de Estrellas,” said Global Football President and Team Stars & Stripes organizer Patrick Steenberge in a recent press release.  “We have had to turn down a number of deserving young men in recent days due to our roster size and demand.

“Having 22 schools represented is wonderful, and a testimony to the efforts of John Roslien, our Director of Player Operations. He has been by my side for the past 19 years as we create Team Stars & Stripes and take them on another amazing Mexico experience. We are all eager to get there and share a week of football, friendship and culture.”

Team Stars & Stripes Roster

63Andy DiFrancoC5-10252Albion College
6Jack AsquiniMLB5-8233Augustana College
94Danny LattnerWR6-2201Augustana College
90Mike PerryLS6-3230Aurora University
1Justin GibbonsDB6-5210Aurora University
4Mike NoldenWR6-2210Beloit College
2K.J. SimpsonOLB6-1220Carthage College
31Jessie PetersonILB6-2220Central College
16Riley GrayQB6-1195Central College
88Mitchell BoermTE6-5250Central College
60Kyle PepperC6-1275Central College
20Zach MatterFS/SS6-0200Central College
56Cole TannerOL6-2275Central College
32Aaron MarcellusPK5-9205Central College
11Zach MartinelliWR5-8185Central College
43Robert ClevelandRB5-6165Delaware Valley
40Jarrett ReinhardFB/RB5-9225Delaware Valley
0Tyler BingWR5-6170Delaware Valley
21Jeff CrollOLB6-0205Grove City College
10Brett PinsonWR6-0175Grove City College
84Anthony MarnejonP6-0200Grove City College
50Danny DormanDE6-1230Grove City College
3B.J. SmithDB6-0195Kalamazoo College
8Sean BauerLB6-1225Kalamazoo College
75Will DannerOL/DL6-0295Lake Forest College
62Martin ShineOG6-2275Lake Forest College
12Brendan PowerDL6-4235Lake Forest College
22Alex PasiewiczWR6-0200Lake Forest College
76Joe PaguraOL6-2305Loras College
26Brandon BattlesTE6-2250Louisiana College
58Colin EversonDE6-0225Minnesota-Morris
38J.C. CummingsRB5-7195Minnesota-Morris
15Kyle PetermeierWR/TE6-3195Minnesota-Morris
7Evan GuffeyWR6-2180Minnesota-Morris
24Daniel EllerSS6-1200Ohio Northern University
99Scott RappsDT6-6285Ohio Northern University
47Ethan GambaleMLB6-1240Salve Regina University
5Dylan WilburnRB5-7207Southwestern University
70Jacob HartonOT6-2270Southwestern University
19Matt GillenWR6-4195Southwestern University
13Dante SmithWR6-2210Southwestern University
14Bryan HicksQB6-0180Southwestern University
49Dereck HarendaLG6-0245Southwestern University
34Tyler FrisbyLB6-0205Southwestern University
45Zach ColeLB5-11220Southwestern University
18Brian PriceDB6-5210SUNY Maritime College
44Taylor JamesLB5-11220Trine University
53Derek ScottOL6-0265Trine University
9Darrien MyersWR5-9170Trinity College
86Robert BakerTE6-3230US Merchant Marine Academy
72Parker JohnsonOT6-2272US Merchant Marine Academy
25Patrick KeyesDB5-11191US Merchant Marine Academy
93Seth HestnessTE6-5235Wartburg College
30Tanner StengelLB5-11220Wilkes University

Coaching Staff: Head Coach: Don DeWaard (Central College). Assistant Coaches: John Storey (Villa St Angela St. Joseph HS, Cleveland, OH), Rob Cushman (University of Minnesota-Morris, Mike Creaney (Stevenson University), Steve Staker (Coe College), Joe Austin (Southwestern University). Player Personnel: John Roslien (Central College). General Manager: Patrick Steenberge.  Support Staff: Frank Neu, Brett Boddicker, Ben Ewing, Kylie Bradley, Julia Evans (all Central College), Juan Lopez (Tarleton State University), Tim Glon (Ohio Northern University), Dan Vande Lune (University of Iowa/UTEP)

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).