The Reading Express’ inaugural season in the nationwide Indoor Football League produced a new level of excitement for a team that now sits at 100 games in franchise history. The team recently celebrated their mark as IFL Atlantic Division champions and IFL playoff run into the round of eight at the Crowne Plaza in Wyomissing.
“Even though our season ended prematurely, we had another great season of Reading Express football,” said Reading Express Head Coach Chris Thompson. “Getting back to the playoffs and winning our 5th Division Championship was a great accomplishment for this young, inexperienced indoor football team. Not to mention it was our first year in the IFL, and playing against a whole new level competition with so many new faces. We’re excited for 2012 to get here. We’ve got unfinished business to attend to.”
Part of that celebration was the presentation of season awards, given to select players for their contribution during the 2011 season. Thompson and his coaching staff presented the hardware, from Terre Trophy, to the following players.
Excellence-In Football Coaches Award – QB Chris Malleo
Malleo appeared in all 14 games in the regular-season, compiling 1,588 passing yards with 32 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. He added another 14 touchdowns on the ground, en route to leading the team in rushing with 554 total yards. Malleo led the Express to a dominating victory against the Chicago Slaughter in the first-round of the playoffs, and helped keep the Express in contention against the Green Bay Blizzard in the second-round. In two playoff games, Malleo racked up 425 yards passing with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. He also rushed for 68 yards, picking up another four touchdowns.
Offensive Player of the Year – WR Collin Taylor
Taylor led the team in receiving yards for the 2011 regular season, collecting a total of 626 yards with an average pickup of 11.7 yards per reception. He also nabbed 14 touchdown passes, including a thrilling 48-yarder. Taylor hit his stride in the two playoff games, grabbing 12 catches for 197 yards, which translates into 16.4 yards per catch. His five playoff touchdowns included another thriller, this one for 43 yards.
Defensive Player of the Year – LB Anthony Kelly
Kelly led the team in tackles with 84, 44 of which were solo, during the regular-season. He also picked up two sacks on the year, and a blocked fied goal attempt that was returned for a touchdown. In the playoffs, Kelly registered another 12 tackles, with ten of those being solo. Kelly also picked up another two sacks.
Special Teams Player of the Year – KR/DB Jesse Cooper
Cooper excelled at both kick returner and defensive back in 2011, but his special teams play gets him the award. He led the team in all-purpose yards in both the regular season and playoffs, picking up 713 and 298, respectively. His 623 regular-season kick return yards was good enough for a 19.5 average, an impressive figure for the indoor game. He ramped up the returns in the postseason, averaging 20.4 per return to net a total of 245 yards, including a 55-yard scamper for a touchdown. On the defensive side of the ball, Cooper is charged with 29 total tackles and one sack, not to mention six interceptions, one for a touchdown. He also broke up ten passes. During the playoffs, he added another four tackles, all solo.
Rookie of the Year – LB Michael Thompson
Thompson dazzled as a rookie, picking up 80 tackles, including 51 solo, 2.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble during his first season indoors. His 4.5 sacks during the playoffs led the team. In those two playoff games, Thompson also netted a fumble recovery for a touchdown and 11 tackles.
Offensive Lineman of the Year – OL Chris Nunn
The big man up front, Nunn played a huge role (no pun intended) in pass protection during the entire 2011 season. Appearing in all 14 regular-season and 2 post-season games, Nunn was once again a solid foundation to the Express offensive line. Nunn was also awarded Second Team All-IFL as on offensive lineman.
Defensive Lineman of the Year – DL Mike Dell
Dell picked up seven sacks during the regular season and added 39 tackles (30 solo) and two forced fumbles. In the playoffs, Dell added another 3.5 sacks and ten tackles.
The Reading Express are one of the most established franchises in indoor football. In six full seasons, the team has amassed an overall record of 73-27 with five division championships, two conference titles and the 2009 AIFA National Championship. In 2011, Reading begins play as a new member of the Indoor Football League. The team plays on The Reading Hospital Medical Group Field at Sovereign Center in Reading, Pa.
Photo by Anthony Skorochod