NEC Football Champs Win Four Major Awards; Place Ten on All-NEC Teams
Fairfield, CT – The 2013 Northeast Conference Champion Sacred Heart football team placed a program record 10 players on the All-NEC Football first and second teams, announced on Wednesday morning. Sacred Heart also won four major awards, including Head Coach Mark Nofri being named NEC Coach of the Year.
Sacred Heart garnered five defensive slots and five offensive slots, including eight first team members. Junior running back Keshaudas Spence (Dorchester, MA) was named Offensive Player of the Year, Redshirt freshman R.J. Noel (Lowell, MA), named Offensive Rookie of the Year, and junior defensive lineman Troy Moore (Worcester, MA) was named Defensive Player of the Year.
A complete list of the Pioneers honored:
Head Coach Mark Nofri, 2nd Season
Coach of the Year
After serving as Sacred Heart's interim coach in 2012, Coach Nofri took over as permanent Head Coach this season and led the Pioneers to a 10-2 regular season, the 2013 NEC Championship, and the program's first-ever berth into the FCS Playoffs. Following a 2-9 season a year ago, Sacred Heart completed the biggest turnaround in the country this season (+8 wins). SHU had not won more than five games since 2008. The 2013 Pioneers scored 423 points, second most in school history. In its 10 wins, Sacred Heart defeated its opponents by an average of 20 points per game. Sacred Heart clinched the NEC title with one week to play in the season.
ALL NEC FIRST TEAM
R.J Noel, R- Freshman, QB, 6-1/190, Lowell, MA
*Offensive Rookie of the Year
First year QB R.J. Noel led the Pioneers to a 10-2 record and the 2013 NEC Championship, as well as the school's first-ever berth into the FCS Playoffs. Starting all 12 games for the Pioneers, the Lowell native ranked second in the conference with 2,702 total yards, including 665 yards on the ground. His 23 scoring tosses ranked first in the NEC and tied for 16th in the country. He also added seven touchdowns on the ground. Noel tossed only seven interceptions, which ranked second in the conference (minimum 100 attempts). Noel was named NEC Rookie of the Week seven times, including three straight to end the Pioneers regular season.
Troy Moore, Junior DL, 6-3/285, Worcester, MA
*Defensive Player of the Year
Moore was a key part to a Sacred Heart defensive line that led the NEC in sacks (41), tackles for loss (120), and rushing defense (110.4 yds/gm). Sacred Heart's 120 tackles for loss led the entire country. Starting all 12 games for SHU, Moore finished the regular season first on the team with 8.5 sacks, and second on the team with 16.5 tackles for loss. The Massachusetts native was named NEC Defensive Player of the Week after a three sack, six tackles for loss performance at Bryant on October 18th.
Keshaudas Spence, Junior Running Back 5-10/230, Dorchester, MA
*Offensive Player of the Year
On his way to breaking the Sacred Heart single-season rushing record in 2013, Spence ran for 1,475 yards and 11 touchdowns. Spence currently ranks second in the NEC in rushing yards and 6th in all of the FCS. With his 22-yard touchdown run in a week 12 win over Duquesne, Spence broke Ed Pricolo's 2004 single season rushing record (1,339 rush yards). The junior running back is now just 281 yards shy of Pricolo's all-time Sacred Heart rushing record of 3,052 career yards. Spence ran for a career high 211 yards in a 59-36 win over Central Connecticut State on October 12th. The workhorse back all season long, Spence also broke the Sacred Heart single-season rushing attempts record with 256 carries this season.
Gordon Hill, Junior Safety, 6-1/220, Sicklerville, NJ
Playing in the secondary, as well as the front seven at times, junior safety Gordon Hill had a tremendous 2013 season. Hill ranked second on the team with 79 tackles, and led the Pioneers with four forced fumbles. Hill also racked up 3.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, 10 pass break-ups and two interceptions. Hill returned both of his interceptions for touchdowns. He also snagged two Robert Morris onside kick attempts, including returning one 44 yards for a touchdown in the Pioneers' NEC Championship-clinching 42-25 win over Robert Morris. Hill was named NEC Defensive Player of the Week after the Robert Morris game, in which before the onside kick TD, he racked up nine tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Paul Link, Senior OL 6-3/208, East Greenwich, RI
A captain this season, Link was a vital cog for a Sacred Heart rushing attack that averaged 235.8 yards per game, ranking first in the NEC and 13th best in the country. Under Link's leadership, the SHU offensive line yielded just 9 sacks in 12 games this season, once again tops in the conference.The O-Line did not allow a sack in the final four games of the season.
Jaime Martinez, Senior OL 6-4/340, Brooklyn, NY
Starting at right tackle all 12 games for the Pioneers, Martinez was an important piece to a stellar SHU offensive line that led the NEC in rushing. Averaging 235.8 yards on the ground this season, Martinez constantly carved out holes for SHU running backs to run through. The Sacred Heart offensive line also led the league in allowing just nine sacks this season and has not allowed a sack in the past four games.
Kellen Sperduto, Sophomore LB, Oldwick, NJ
Sperduto, in his second season, was a tackling machine for the Pioneers. The New Jersey native finished the season tops on the team in tackles with 101 and second in the NEC behind just Robert Morris linebacker Mike Cook. Sperduto also led the Pioneers with 17 tackles for loss, while adding four sacks, and a fumble recovery. On October 5th, Sperduto broke the Sacred Heart single-game tackles record, recording 22, in a 23-20 loss to Wagner.
Tyler Dube, Junior WR, Southington, CT
Starting in all 12 games for the Pioneers, Dube became Sacred Heart's main weapon on the outside. Dube led the team in receptions (49), receiving yards (775), receiving touchdowns (9), and highlight reel catches. Dube racked up a career-high 191 receiving yards on seven catches, averaging over 27 yards per catch in a 59-36 win against CCSU on October 12th. Dube followed that up the following week with three first half touchdowns in a 56-28 SHU win at Bryant. Dube finished the regular season fifth in the NEC in receiving yards per game (64.6)
ALL NEC SECOND TEAM
J.D. Roussel, Senior CB 5-10/185, Pawtucket, RI
Roussel tied the Sacred Heart all-time single-season interceptions record with six takeaways this season. The senior DB hauled in three of those, once again tying a Sacred Heart record, in a 16-0 win at Bucknell on September 28th. For his efforts in the Pioneers' first shutout since 2002, Roussel was named Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
James Rentz, Freshman LB 6-1/230, St, Augustine, FL
In his debut season at Sacred Heart, James Rentz had a tremendous impact on the Sacred Heart defense. The Florida native racked up four sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and an interception. In Sacred Heart's NEC Championship-clinching win at Robert Morris, Rentz made an incredible one-handed interception at the goal line.
Sacred Heart will make its first-ever appearance in the FCS Playoffs this Saturday, November 30th at Fordham.