FAIRFIELD, CT (October 15, 2012) - The Sacred Heart football trio of senior Robert Shepherd (Groton, CT), junior Justin Sexton (Murreita, CA) and freshman Kellen Sperduto (Oldwick, NJ) were named winners of this week's Northeast Conference Football awards. Shepherd was named the NEC Special Teams Player of the Week, Sexton earned Defensive Player of the Week accolades and Sperduto was tabbed the league's Rookie of the Week.
Sacred Heart's drive starts were, on average, 10 yards better than those of Dartmouth's, and Shepherd was one reason why. The veteran punter was more-than effective during the Pioneers' 27-10 road win over the Ivy League member Big Green. Three of Shepherd's six punts forced Dartmouth to start inside of its own 20-yard line. Three of his first five attempts were not returnable, and, of the two that were, Dartmouth managed just one-yard returns. Shepherd, who averaged 37.3 yards per kick in Week 7, accounted for a long of 50 yards and avoided having any of his punts result in touchbacks. In addition to his 50-yard first-quarter punt that netted 49 yards, Shepherd accounted for another special teams highlight with his first attempt of the second half. After SHU's drive stalled just past midfield, Shepherd's 39-yard punt was downed at Dartmouth's 7-yard line.
Sexton spearheaded Sacred Heart's suffocating defensive performance at Dartmouth and added to his NEC-leading tackles total in the process. The junior linebacker contributed a game-high 13 tackles, including eight solo stops, to an effort that limited the Big Green's offense to three points over the course of the 27-10 victory (Dartmouth's lone TD came on a KO return). The 6-foot-3 Sexton limited the opposing ball carrier to no more than a one-yard gain on six of his tackles. Sexton logged his lone tackle for a loss with Sacred Heart nursing a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. He dropped Brian Grove for a loss of two on a 2nd-down play, helping derail Dartmouth's drive before it was able to get started. Sexton leads the Northeast Conference in total tackles (68), solo tackles (46) and tackles per game average (11.3/g).
Sacred Heart lost starting linebacker Niko Sierra to injury in the second quarter of its Week 7 matchup at Dartmouth, but the Pioneers' defense didn't suffer thanks to Sperduto's emergence. Filling in for the veteran playmaker, Sperduto totaled eight tackles (five solo) and recorded 2.0 hits for a loss in Sacred Heart's 27-10 road win. The 6-foot-1 freshman made his biggest impact with Dartmouth backed up in its own end on its first possession of the third quarter. Sperduto teamed up with Troy Moore to sack the Dartmouth quarterback for a four-yard loss on a 2nd-and-9 play from the 8. Sperduto's performance was one reason why Dartmouth's offense managed to score only three points over the course of 60:00.
The Pioneers are back in action this Saturday with a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Duquesne Dukes.