Rucker named SAC Offensive Player of the Year

Rucker named SAC Offensive Player of the Year

ROCK HILL, S.C. ( – The South Atlantic Conference Champion Lenoir-Rhyne Bears had nine All-SAC football selections as the annual football honors were released today.

Leading the way on offense were Offensive Player of the Year Craig Rucker from Mars Hill and Offensive Freshman of the Year Nijere Peoples from Wingate. On the defensive side of the ball, Wingate's Cardell Rawlings was named Defensive Player of the Year and Tusculum's Nelson Louis was named Defensive Freshman of the Year. Lenoir-Rhyne's

Jason Poe was named the Jacobs Blocking Trophy award winner and Lenoir-Rhyne head coach Drew Cronic took home Coach of the Year honors.

Rucker, a junior wide receiver from Orlando, Fla., finished the season ranked first in the conference in touchdowns (16), receiving yards (1,234), all-purpose yards (1,549), receiving yards per game (123.4) and receptions (82). He is ranked in the top five in NCAA Division II in receiving yards per game (No. 1), receiving yards (No. 4), receptions per game (No. 5) and receiving touchdowns (No. 5). For his efforts, Rucker was awarded SAC AstroTurf Football Offensive Player of the Week honors twice during the 2018 season.

Peoples, a freshman running back from Charlotte, N.C., led the conference in rushing yards per game (110.4), rushing touchdowns (13) and rushes (176). He finished second in the conference in total yards, rushing for 994 yards during the regular season. He was also fourth in the conference in yards per carry, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He was named the SAC AstroTurf Offensive Player of the Week once during the season.

Rawlings was a force on the defensive line this season. The senior from Smithfield, N.C., racked up 75 total tackles, including 20 tackles for loss and a conference leading 14.5 sacks. He forced three fumbles, had two fumble recoveries and broke up two passes during the year as well. Rawlings is ranked third in NCAA Division II in sacks per game, averaging 1.32 per contest. He is also ranked No. 6 in tackles for loss per game, with an average of 1.80 per game.  He was named SAC AstroTurf Defensive Player of the Year once for his efforts this season.

Louis, a freshman defensive lineman from Moultrie, Ga., had a fantastic season for the Pioneers. He had 53 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, a forced fumble and he broke up a pass. He finished the regular season ranked sixth in the conference in sacks and third among the Pioneers in tackles.

Poe, a sophomore offensive lineman from Fitzgerald, Ga., played in all 11 games for the Bears and help lead them to the 2018 SAC Football Championship. He anchored an O-Line that helped the Bears accumulate 3,227 rushing yards and 1,938 passing yards during the 2018 season.

In his first season at the helm of the Lenoir-Rhyne football team, Cronic led the Bears to the 2018 SAC Football Championship, the Bears' first since 2014-15, with a perfect 7-0 record in conference. Ranked No. 17 in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Coaches Poll, Cronic's Bears have the fourth best rushing offense in the country, averaging 293.4 yards per game on the ground and they are ranked No. 7 in scoring offense, averaging 44.5 points per game. The Bears are currently riding a 10 game winning streak as they head into the 2018 NCAA Division II Football Playoffs.

In addition to Lenoir-Rhyne's nine All-SAC selections, Wingate had a conference leading 11 All-SAC picks, while Tusculum had 10 and Catawba and Carson-Newman had nine selections each. Newberry had six players named to the All-SAC teams, while Mars Hill and Limestone rounded out the list with three picks each.

2018 South Atlantic Conference Football All-Conference 


QB –     Austin Brown, Mars Hill

RB –      Antonio Wimbush, Carson-Newman

RB –      Kenyatta Greene, Catawba

RB –      Nijere Peoples, Wingate

WR –     Markell Castle, Newberry

WR –     J.T. Stokes, Wingate

WR –     Craig Rucker, Mars Hill

OL –       Phil McDowell, Carson-Newman

OL –       Quinzavious Sands, Catawba

OL –       Johnathan Black, Wingate

OL –       Keveon Broadwater, Tusculum

OL –       Jason Poe, Lenoir-Rhyne

TE –       Jourdan Osinskie, Catawba

PK –       McLean Robertson, Wingate

LS –        Kelly Donnelly, Tusculum

RS –        Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne


DL –       Montel Presley, Carson-Newman

DL –       Cardell Rawlings, Wingate

DL –       Dan Louba, Lenoir-Rhyne

DL –       Jamarcus Henderson, Newberry

LB –        Jeremiah Ferguson, Catawba

LB –        Ivan Hogans, Tusculum

LB –        Joe Blue, Newberry

LB –        Temoris Coats, Carson-Newman

DB –       Joshua Simmons, Limestone

DB –       Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne

DB –       Desmond Fairell, Carson-Newman

DB –       Davion Washington, Wingate

DB –       Malik Goodman, Tusculum

P –         Christopher Birozes, Wingate

              Shea Rodgers, Newberry


QB –      Derrick Evans, Carson-Newman

RB –       Jordan Shippy, Tusculum

RB –       Xzavion Huff, Lenoir-Rhyne

RB –       Austin Barnes, Newberry

WR –     T.J. Smith, Lenoir-Rhyne

WR –     Cody Rau, Limestone

WR –     Will Sweeper, Catawba

OL –       Cody Meree, Limestone

OL –       Jordan Seal, Carson-Newman

OL –       Austin May, Wingate

OL –       Caleb LaFleur, Tusculum

OL –       Travis James, Mars Hill

TE –       Drake Starks, Lenoir-Rhyne

PK –       Lee Brackman, Catawba

LS –        Dawson Campbell, Carson-Newman

RS –       Kenyatta Greene, Catawba


DL –       Jordan Hemingway, Catawba

DL –       Brian Bemby, Carson-Newman

DL –       Auntrell Mack, Wingate

DL –       Colton Strickland, Tusculum

LB –        Sherrod Williams, Lenoir-Rhyne

LB –        Randy Hooks, Tusculum

LB –        Elijah Gilmore, Wingate

LB –        Robbie Wallace, Wingate

DB –       David Vereen, Newberry

DB –       Dee Alford, Tusculum

DB –       Cris Page, Catawba

Offensive Freshman of the Year

Nijere Peoples, Wingate

Defensive Freshman of the Year

Nelson Louis, Tusculum

Offensive Player of the Year

Craig Rucker, Mars Hill

Defensive Player of the Year

Cardell Rawlings, Wingate

Jacobs Blocking Trophy

Jason Poe, Lenoir-Rhyne 

Coach of the Year

Drew Cronic, Lenoir-Rhyne

Statistical Champions
Rushing Yards Per Game: Nijere Peoples, Wingate (110.4)
Passing Yards Per Game: DJ Phillips, Limestone (227)
Total Offense Per Game: Austin Brown, Mars Hill (249.1)
Receptions Per Game: Craig Rucker, Mars Hill (8.2)
Receiving Yards Per Game: Craig Rucker, Mars Hill (123.4)
All-Purpose Yards Per Game: Craig Rucker, Mars Hill (154.90)
Passing Efficiency Rating: Shaw Crocker, Wingate (155.9)
Punt Return Avg.: Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne (17.3)
Kick Return Avg.: Lor'remzo Pratt, Tusculum (28)
Punting Avg.: Thomas Cook, Limestone (43.8)
Scoring Average (TDs): Craig Rucker, Mars Hill (9.6)
Scoring Average (K): Chase Allbaugh, Lenoir-Rhyne (8.09)
Field Goals Per Game: Griffin Martin, Limestone (1.33)
Field Goal Percentage: McLean Robertson, Wingate (.818)
Tackles Per Game: Joe Blue, Newberry (10.4)
Sacks Per Game: Cardell Rawlings, Wingate (1.32)
Tackles for Loss Per Game: Jamarcus Henderson, Newberry (1.9)
Interceptions Per Game: Cameron Wrice, Mars Hill (0.40)
Team Scoring Offense: Lenoir-Rhyne (44.5)
Team Scoring Defense: Newberry (17.3)
Team Passing Offense: Mars Hill (268.4)
Team Passing Defense: Newberry (158.4)
Team Rushing Offense: Carson-Newman (347.6)
Team Rushing Defense: Lenoir-Rhyne (108.5)
Team Total Offense: Lenoir-Rhyne (469.5)
Team Total Defense: Newberry (285.0)


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