ROCK HILL, S.C. — Six Tusculum student-athletes have been named to the 2017 All-South Atlantic Conference Team announced league officials with the release of the SAC Football Awards. The SAC Football Awards are selected by the conference’s eight head football coaches.
Martez Thompkins and Hunter Cantrell earned All-SAC first team honors while Jay Boyd, L’Keith Brown, Dee Alford and Ian O’Grady garnered second team recognition.
Martez Thompkins, a senior defensive back from Atlanta, Georgia, led the Pioneers with his three interceptions, which are tied for third-most in the league. He totaled 27 tackles (19 solo) with three stops for loss, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble and led the team with his 13 passes defended (10 break-ups, 3 INT). His 13 passes defended are second in the league and 34th in NCAA Division II.
In his 38-game career with the Pioneers, Thompkins has been credited with 97 tackles, including 67 solos, four tackles for loss and one sack. His 29 career passes defended are the fifth-most in program history while his eight career interceptions are fourth and his 150 interception return yards are second in the TC record book. He has also posted 11 kickoff returns for 257 yards, averaging 23.4 yards per return.
In Tusculum’s 2015 road win at Virginia-Wise, he tied a TC single-game record with two interceptions for a TC record 149 return yards, including a 59-yarder for a touchdown. For his efforts, Thompkins was named the SAC Defensive Player of the Week.
Hunter Cantrell, a senior punter from Sparta, Tennessee, shares All-SAC first team honors with Limestone punter Alex Haynes. Cantrell finished the season with a 41.64 punting average, which was second in the SAC and 14th in the country. His average this year was also the fifth highest in a TC single-season. Of his 56 punts, 26 were pinned inside the 20-yard line, the most of any punter in the conference. He recorded a six punts over 50 yards, including a season-long 56-yarder at Limestone.
He posted a season-best 45.5 yards per punt at Limestone in a NCAA Division II-Showcase Game where the ESPN3 announcers named him “Hunter the Punter”. In TC’s 31-30 double-overtime win at Newberry, Cantrell averaged 43.1 yards on his eight punts with all eight of his kicks inside the 20-yard line. He was named D2Football.com National Special Teams Player of the Week and he SAC Special Teams Player of the Week.
He leaves Tusculum as its all-time leader with his 241 punts and 9,504 punting yards and is fourth with his 39.44 career punting average. His 63 career punts are the second-most in school history, just six shy of the all-time mark held by former TC All-American John Gregory from 2006-2009.
L’Keith Brown, a senior linebacker from Athens, Georgia, has recorded double-digit tackles in three of his last four games and has accounted for a tackle for loss in eight of his 10 outings this season. He finished his senior campaign with 88 tackles and his 8.8 tackles per game average is the second-highest in the league. Brown led the conference with his three forced fumbles, which are 21st in the country. For 2017, he tallied nine tackles for loss and two interceptions.
Brown ends his collegiate career with 336 tackles, which are the third-most in Tusculum history. His 38 career tackles for loss are seventh in the TC record book, while his eight forced fumbles are third and his three fumble recoveries are eighth in school history.
Boyd earns All-SAC honors as a return specialist for a second straight season. The Viera, Florida sophomore finished third in the league in kickoff returns averaging 24.7 yards per return. His 664 combined total return yards are the most in the league and 31st in the nation.
In the defensive secondary, where he was last year’s SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year, Boyd finished 2017 with 58 tackles, including two tackles for loss, one forced fumble and six passes defended, including a pair of interceptions.
During his first two years in Greeneville, the 2016 All-American has totaled 102 tackles, including eight for loss, 14 passes defended, two forced fumbles and seven interceptions (T5th in TC history). His 47 career kickoff returns are already the fifth-most in TC history while his 1,186 kickoff return yards are also fifth. He is fourth with his 25.23 career kickoff return average.
Dee Alford, a sophomore cornerback from Griffin, Georgia, recorded 44 tackles, including three for loss and led the conference with his three fumble recoveries, which are eighth in the nation. He also tied for the team-lead with his three interceptions which hare fourth in the conference. He also finished with seven passes defended (4 break-ups, 3 INT), and forced a fumble and a sack.
Alford returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown in Tusculum’s season-opener at North Greenville. He added 10 tackles (9 solo) and an interception at Limestone, before following with an interception and a fumble recovery in a road win at UNC Pembroke. He posted his third straight game with an interception against Lenoir-Rhyne to go along with a pair of break-ups. In Tusculum’s upset win over No. 12 Wingate, he tallied four tackles and a sack.
Ian O’Grady, a senior from Orlando, Florida, has shined as Tusculum starting long-snapper for the past four seasons. He becomes only the third Pioneer long-snapper to earn All-SAC honors in program history. He started in all 10 games this season, handling all of the snapping duties on special teams.
Tusculum captured the SAC Team Regular-Season Statistical title for passing defense, allowing 170.1 yards per game, which is 24th in NCAA Division II.
The Pioneers finished the season with a 5-5 overall record, including 3-4 in league play to finish fourth in the conference, the team’s second straight top-tier finish in the SAC. TC also posts its first non-losing campaign since 2014.
– SAC –
2017 South Atlantic Conference Football Awards
SAC Offensive Player of the Year: Lawrence Pittman, Wingate
SAC Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Kitchens, Catawba
SAC Offensive Freshman of the Year: Jerko’ya Patton, Limestone
SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year: Earl Adams, Mars Hill
Jacobs Blocking Trophy: Daniel Owens, Wingate
SAC Coach of the Year: Joe Reich, Wingate
First Team Offense
QB – Patrick O’Brien, Catawba
RB – Jared Dillingham, Carson-Newman
RB – Nelson Brown, Lenoir-Rhyne
RB – Lawrence Pittman, Wingate
WR – Sam Mobley, Catawba
WR – Keshaun Taylor, Mars Hill
WR – Craig Rucker, Mars Hill
OL – Phil McDowell, Carson-Newman
OL – Quinzavious Sands, Catawba
OL – Brandon Berridge, Mars Hill
OL – Dakota Mozingo, Newberry
OL – Daniel Owens, Wingate
TE – Jordan Osinskie, Catawba
PK – Lee Brackman, Catawba
RS – BJ Muckelvene, Wingate
First Team Defense
DL – Montel Presley, Carson-Newman
DL – Jamarcus Henderson, Newberry
DL – Keito Jordan, Newberry
DL – Auntrell Mack, Wingate
LB – Sha’Heem Stupart, Carson-Newman
LB – Trey Evans, Catawba
LB – Joe Blue, Newberry
LB – Kyle Kitchens, Catawba
DB – Darius Williams, Carson-Newman
DB – Desmond Fairell, Carson-Newman
DB – Cris Page, Catawba
DB – Martez Thompkins, Tusculum
P – Hunter Cantrell, Tusculum
P – Alex Haynes, Limestone
LS – Will Brasington, Catawba
Second Team Offense
QB – Derrick Evans, Carson-Newman
QB – David Salmon, Mars Hill
RB – Eamon Smart, Catawba
RB – Jerko’ya Patton, Limestone
RB – Blake Hayes, Wingate
WR – Dorren Miller, Carson-Newman
WR – Markell Castle, Newberry
WR – Vyncint Smith, Limestone
OL – Jordan Seal, Carson-Newman
OL – Brandon Floyd, Catawba
OL – Jalen Soto, Lenoir-Rhyne
OL – Tyler Anderson, Newberry
OL – Connor Baroniunas, Wingate
TE – Jake Jensen, Wingate
PK – Nick Smith, Limestone
RS – Jay Boyd, Tusculum
Second Team Defense
DL – Brian Bembry, Carson-Newman
DL – Omar Staley, Catawba
DL – Jordan Hemingway, Catawba
DL – Kelvin Atkins, Limestone
DL – Cardell Rawlings, Wingate
LB – Sherrod Williams, Lenoir-Rhyne
LB – Evan Patrick, Limestone
LB – L’Keith Brown, Tusculum
LB – Robbie Wallace, Wingate
DB – Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne
DB – Jawanza Adams, Newberry
DB – Dee Alford, Tusculum
DB – Kam Johnson, Wingate
LS – Ian O’Grady, Tusculum
SAC Statistical Champions
Rushing Yards Per Game: Lawrence Pittman, Wingate (114.7)
Passing Yards Per Game: David Salmon, Mars Hill (276.6)
Total Offense Per Game: David Salmon, Mars Hill (267.7)
Receptions Per Game: Keshaun Taylor, Mars Hill (6.4)
Receiving Yards Per Game: Keshaun Taylor, Mars Hill (128.1)
All-Purpose Yards Per Game: Keshaun Taylor, Mars Hill (152.20)
Passing Efficiency Rating: Patrick O’Brien, Catawba (157.7)
Punt Return Avg.: BJ Muckelvene, Wingate (25.1)
Kick Return Avg: Chance Walker, Newberry (26.9)
Punting Avg: Alex Haynes, Limestone (42.1)
Scoring Average (TDs): Derrick Evans, Carson- Newman (9.8)
Scoring Average (K): Freddy McCollum, Wingate (7.4)
Field Goals Per Game: Freddy McCollum, Wingate & Nick Smith, Limestone (1.2)
Field Goal Percentage: Lee Brackman, Catawba (.800)
Tackles Per Game: Robert Wallace, Wingate (9.5)
Sacks Per Game: Kyle Kitchens, Catawba (1.14)
Tackles for Loss Per Game: Kyle Kitchens, Catawba (1.6)
Interceptions Per Game: Darius Williams, Carson-Newman (0.5)
Team Scoring Offense: Carson-Newman (33.1)
Team Scoring Defense: Catawba (17.6)
Team Passing Offense: Mars Hill (302.9)
Team Passing Defense: Tusculum (170.1)
Team Rushing Offense: Carson-Newman (274.5)
Team Rushing Defense: Carson-Newman (95.7)
Team Total Offense: Mars Hill (413.5)
Team Total Defense: Carson-Newman (277.9)