BY RYAN TOUHEY
After winning their first Northeast Conference (NEC) title since 2014 on Nov. 17, 10 members of the Sacred Heart University football team received recognition by the NEC for their performances this season.
According to the Sacred Heart athletics website, three players received NEC First Team honors, five players received Second Team honors, and two other members received individual standout awards. One of those members who received a standout honor was head coach Mark Nofri, who was named NEC Co-Coach of the Year. This is the third time that Nofri has won the award while being the head coach of Sacred Heart.
“It’s a nice recognition and it’s great to have,” said Nofri. “But I’m just a part of the piece because we [the team members]are all working together in the same direction when we have success like this.”
The players who were named to the First Team were junior defensive end Chris Agyemang, senior offensive lineman Andrew Starr and fifth-year wide receiver Andrew O’Neill, who has received this honor two previous times.
According to Sacred Heart athletics, Agyemang had 29 tackles on the year, with 26 assists and seven sacks, which was fourth in the NEC. Both Agyemang and Starr garnered All-New England honors as well.
O’Neill, who had missed three games this year due to an injury, had 33 receptions for 475 yards, averaging 59.4 yards per game, along with three touchdowns.
“My dad is always keeping me up to date on things like that,” said O’Neill. “It definitely felt sweeter than usual.”
The NEC Second Team comprised of five Sacred Heart players. This group consisted of senior running back Jordan Meachum, senior offensive lineman Knikeem Lewis, graduate defensive end Aaron Donalson, graduate defensive back Terrell Smith and graduate quarterback Kevin Duke.
According to Sacred Heart athletics, Meachum rushed for 1,400 yards this season, while averaging 127.3 yards per game, which was third in the NEC.
Donalson had 49 tackles on the year and 37 of them were unassisted. He also had seven sacks. Smith had 21 tackles on the season. Duke attempted 218 passes and had 120 completions. He threw for 13 touchdowns and rushed for 473 yards, which was third best on the team.
“It’s a great honor to have been selected along with my teammates, we did this together,” said Duke. “The best part of it is that we didn’t have a single nominated for preseason All-Conference. That right there shows how hard these guys worked to get to this point.”
First-year running back Julius Chestnut received the other standout honor along with Nofri. He was named the NEC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
According to Sacred Heart athletics, Chestnut rushed for 713 yards this season, while scoring seven touchdowns. He rushed for 64.8 yards per game, which was eighth-best in the conference.
Chestnut was also voted as a finalist for the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Jerry Rice Award. The award, which is named after the Hall-of-Fame wide receiver, recognizes the top freshman player in the Division I college football.
“That [the finalist nomination]is quite an honor and it couldn’t come on a more deserving individual,” said O’Neill. “He is the humblest individual I think I’ve ever been around, especially with how good he is and how good he can be.”
Sacred Heart finished their championship season 7-4 overall, and 5-1 in conference-play.