RUSSELLVILLE, AR – On Tuesday, following a vote of the Great American Conference’s head football coaches, the league announced its All-Conference teams and year-end individual awards. Arkansas-Monticello’s Jalen Tolliver captured the Offensive Player of the Year award; Southern Arkansas’ Davondrick Lison earned Defensive Player of the Year; East Central’s Ontario Douglas garnered Freshman of the Year and Ouachita’s Todd Knight won Coach of the Year.
Tolliver finished the season with 67 receptions, good for 1,109 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 16 receiving touchdowns rank in a tie for first in Division II. Lison led the conference in sacks, 7.5, and tackles for loss, 16.5. Douglas led the GAC and ranked second among all DII freshmen with 1,097 rushing yards. He scored eight touchdowns. Knight led the Tigers to their third GAC Championships and their second appearance in the NCAA DII Playoffs.
In addition to Tolliver, Ouachita lineman Justin Gooseberry and Arkansas Tech safety Cua’ Rose landed on the All-GAC First Team by unanimous consent. Gooseberry anchored a line that ranked second in rush offense and scoring offense. Rose led the conference with five interceptions.
Along with Tolliver and Douglas, the All-GAC First Team consisted of SAU quarterback Barrett Renner, running back Michael Nunnery, wide receiver Karonce Higgins and tight end Tanner Hudson. Gooseberry’s twin brother, Cori, plus wide receiver Allie Freeman and all-purpose back Drew Harris also made the First Team from Ouachita. Arkansas Tech placed two on the First Team in fullback Chris Eastburn and tackle Trey Bradley. Henderson State center Cory Stitle and Harding tackle Gavin De Los Santos filled out the First Team.
Renner ranks in the top six in the nation in passing yards and touchdowns. Nunnery finished second in the GAC in rush yards, Higgins caught nine touchdown passes and Hudson totaled 624 receiving yards. Harris set the GAC single-season record with 26 total touchdowns, a mark that ranks second in the nation. Freeman finished the regular season ranked second in receptions, receiving yards and all-purpose yards.
Lison led three members of the Mulerider defense on the First Team. A pair of seniors, defensive tackle Travis Williams and safety Elgin Moore, joined Lison. Two Northwestern Oklahoma State sophomores, Maurice Wright, Jr. and Aharon Barnes, a pair of Weevils, defensive tackle Hakim Gray and cornerback Jeremy Jackson, along with Henderson State end Sam Johnson, Harding linebacker Sam Blankenship, Wonder Boy linebacker KJ Reid and Southeastern Oklahoma State linebacker Justin Young garnered First Team honors.
Williams made 42 tackles from his nose guard position. Moore led the team with 71 tackles. Wright paced the conference in tackles, 104, despite missing three games. Barnes finished tied for second in the conference in passes defended. Gray totaled 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Jackson, who moved from offense to cornerback in the offseason, led the GAC with 18 passes defended, including two interceptions. Johnson placed fourth in the league in sacks and tackles for loss. Blankenship tallied 97 tackles and forced a GAC-leading four fumbles. Reid joined Wright as the only players in the conference with at least 100 tackles. Young placed second on the team with 72 tackles and added a pair of interceptions.
The First-Team specialists consisted of Henderson State punter Cody Mikell, Southeastern Oklahoma State kicker Joel Carlos, Arkansas Tech return specialist Braden Stringer and Tech’s special teamer Cornelius Dortch. Mikell led the conference in punting average; Carlos ranked eighth in the nation with 17 field goals. He also made all 33 of his extra points. Stringer averaged 20.7 yards on punt returns and scored twice. He led the GAC in all-purpose yards per game.
In total, Ouachita led the way with 17 All-GAC selections. Southern Arkansas produced 13 All-GAC picks followed by Arkansas Tech and Southeastern Oklahoma State, each placed 12 on the All-GAC squads.