From Great American Conference communications
RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. – Fresh off completing the program’s first-ever undefeated regular season, Great American Conference champion Henderson State dominated the league’s All-GAC teams and swept the league’s yearly awards, the conference announced on Tuesday following a vote conducted by the league’s 11 coaches.
Quarterback Kevin Rodgers unanimously won the Offensive Player of the Year. Linebacker Maxie Graham claimed the Defensive Player of the Year. Fellow linebacker Tim Llewellyn earned the Freshman of the Year and Reddies’ head coach Scott Maxfield received the Coach of the Year. Rodgers, the only sophomore up for the Harlon Hill Award, finished the regular season leading the nation in passing efficiency and placing second in the country in touchdown passes with 40. Graham led the GAC in tackles per game, 10.2, and added 10.0 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks. Llewellyn totaled 37 tackles, 28 of those came in the Reddies last five games.
Overall, the Reddies placed 10 on the First Team, four on the Second Team and four on the Honorable Mention list. The top targets of Rodgers, Robert Jordan, Dustin Holland, Elliot Hebert and Darius Davis all received recognition. Jordan and Holland made the First Team. Three Henderson State linemen made the First Team. Graham led three Reddie defensive starters on the First Team and Israel Valentin landed on the First Team as the return specialist. He returned opening kickoffs for touchdowns against Arkansas Tech and East Central.
Harding placed seven on the First Team and had 15 total representatives on the All-GAC teams. Kelvin Martin, Romo Westbrook and Austin Smithey represented the offense. Three from the nation’s fifth-ranked defense made the First Team – Ty Powell, Aaron Gillespie and Roderick Cohn. John Gay earned the First-Team kicker honor. Powell ranked in the top three in sacks and tackles for loss. Martin and Romo helped the Bisons finish the regular season rank fifth in Division II in rushing offense.
East Central’s defense placed four players on the First Team, including both safeties – Norris Wren and Fred Gaines. Wren set the school’s all-time tackles record and Gaines picked off seven passes, tied for third in the NCAA. Armonty Bryant led the league in sacks and tackles-for-loss per game and set the ECU career sack record while Jason Catchings ranked fourth in the GAC in tackles for loss to join the Tiger safeties on the First Team. Brian Gonzalez earned First-Team punter status and also claimed Honorable Mentions honors as a kicker.
Although the record-setting Southern Arkansas offense placed only one skill player, running back Mark Johnson, on the First Team, quarterback Tyler Sykora led four offensive players on the Second Team. Johnson led the GAC in rushing yards per game. Sykora ranked second to Rodgers in passing yards and touchdowns. He threw for 3,081 yards with 30 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. Lance Castleman blocked Sykora’s blind side and made the First Team, as did cornerback Don Unamba, who ranked in the top 10 in nation in passes defended.
Ouachita Baptist and Southwestern Oklahoma State each placed a pair on the First Team. The Tigers’ Chris Rycraw led the league in rushing yards with 990. Wide receiver Brett Reece caught 44 passes for 685 yards with seven touchdowns. SWOSU’s Devin Benton, the 2011 Freshman of the Year, earned First-Team honors in 2012. As an interior lineman, he ranked fourth in the league with 14.0 tackles for loss and seventh in sacks with 5.0. Ryan Corbin caught 47 passes for 400 yards to land on the First Team at the tight end spot.
The final First-Team spot went to Cody Lewis from Arkansas Tech as the top special teamer. The Wonder Boys also placed Brandon Cathey on the Second Team and three – quarterback Tanner Marsh, wide receiver/kick returner Cassius Washington and fullback Tyler Moon – on the Honorable Mention. Washington earned Honorable Recognition at both receiver and kick returner.
Southeastern Oklahoma State placed five on the All-GAC teams – two on the Second Team and three on the Honorable Mention. Offensive lineman Travis Kincheloe and safety Izzy Eziakor made the Second Team.
Northwestern Oklahoma State, Southern Nazarene and Arkansas-Monticello each had one representative on the All-GAC teams. The Rangers’ Jared Jackson landed on the Second Team as the kick returner. Crimson Storm linebacker Michael Hicks and Boll Weevil wide receiver Jamal Nixon made the Honorable Mention list.
Eric Moyer is the Assistant Commissioner for Communications for the Great American Conference.