Thomas Jefferson grad Giansante enjoys ride deep into FCS playoffs

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

For Jimmy Giansante, the 2013 football season had a Jaguar-esque feel to it.

During his time at Thomas Jefferson High School, Giansante grew accustomed to football seasons that extended deep into the playoffs as the team went 42-2 during his time in the program, winning the PIAA and WPIAL Class AAA championships in 2007 and 2008.

Now a redshirt junior on the University of New Hampshire football team, the Wildcats' recently completed season resembled those years at Thomas Jefferson.

Giansante and his Wildcat teammates went 10-5 and made it deep into the playoffs, advancing to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, where they fell, 52-14, to North Dakota State on Dec. 20.

That left New Hampshire just one game short of an appearance in the FCS national championship game.

“It was a great season. That last game was rough,” Giansante said. “It was bitter-sweet, knowing we were one game away from making it to the national championship, which would have been awesome.”

While the pain of that loss lingers, Giansante said enough time has passed that he and his teammates now have the perspective to appreciate what an impressive season it was.

“If you take a step back and look, it was still a great season,” he said. “At the end, there were only four teams left playing, and we were very fortunate to have been one of them.”

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Giansante was a starting receiver for the Wildcats. He finished the year fourth on the team with 31 receptions, which went for 306 yards and two touchdowns.

The local product has seen his production grow steadily each year at New Hampshire.

Giansante redshirted during his first season in 2010, preserving a year of eligibility while maturing physically and gaining experience in the Wildcats' system.

As a redshirt freshman in 2011, he played in 12 games, starting two, and caught 11 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns. He started seven games as a redshirt sophomore in 2012, catching 14 passes for 200 yards, before emerging as a full-time starter this season.

“My position is the ‘Z' position. I normally am lined up on the same side as the tight end,” Giansante said. “I enjoy every second of it. I get some passes thrown my way, and I get a lot of assignments blocking. We have so many weapons on this team, you could really go to anyone and good things will happen.”

Giansante knows his role with the Wildcats will increase next season. He will be counted on to catch more passes, due to the graduation of senior Justin Mello — one of the team's top targets this year.

Additionally, as a senior, Giansante will be counted on to provide even more of a leadership role.

“I will be a fifth-year senior, and (I) and a few of the other guys who are going to be fifth-year seniors know the younger guys are going to look up at us more,” Giansante said. “The responsibility is going to be on us to be leaders. I'm excited.”

For now, though, the focus will be on offseason workouts. The taste of getting so close to the FCS title game and the taste of a brutal playoff loss are fresh for Giansante.

“We know we could have played better (in the semifinal round),” he said. “But getting so close, we know we were just one game away.”

Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.

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