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GAC Coaches Pick Henderson State

Henderson State was the unanimous choice by the coaches of the Great American Conference to repeat as football champions, released by the league office Monday.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Henderson State was the unanimous choice by the coaches of the Great American Conference to repeat as football champions, released by the league office Monday.

The Reddies received 10 of the 11 possible first-place votes and 100 points total. Coaches were not permitted to vote on their own team.

The Reddies, who claimed the 2012 conference title last with a 10-0 regular-season record, return 11 all-conference selections including Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Kevin Rodgers, and Freshman of the Year linebacker Tim Llewellyn.

“It will be a big challenge for us to repeat,” said Coach Scott Maxfield. “We play a 10-game conference schedule and everyone will be giving us their best game. This league is much better than a year ago and we will have to be ready to play each week.”

The Reddies, ranked No. 9 in Lindy’s Preseason Top 25 poll and No. 16 by the Sporting News,  return eight starters from an offense that led Division II in scoring (50.4 points per game) and was third in total yards (516.8 yards per game) and passing yards (377.6).

Despite losing its leading rusher, Henderson returns four of its top receivers along with running back Kevin Nichols. Nichols rushed for 340 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in 2012.

Robert Jordan returns for his senior season at wide-out. The 2012 First-Team All-GAC pick and preseason All-American led the league with 65 receptions for 1074 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Dustin Holland returns for his junior season after grabbing 59 passes for 864 yards while earning First-Team All-GAC honors as well.

Juniors Darius Davis and Israel Valentin, both All-GAC honorees in 2012, possess great speed and will again see action both as receivers and return specialists.

Davis caught 27 passes for 522 yards and scored nine times. As a kick returner, the Frisco, Texas product averaged 20.5 yards per kick return.

Valentin, who is a preseason All-American selection as a return specialist, totaled 339 in return yards for an average of 33.9 yards per game. He returned two kicks for touchdowns including a 97-yard return against East Central.

The Fort Worth, Texas native also caught 33 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.

Rodgers, who finished sixth in the Harlon Hill voting in 2012, will attempt to duplicate his numbers from last year. The Rockwall, Texas native passed for 4,002 yards with 41 touchdown strikes and completed 271-of-409 passes.

Rodgers will be protected by four All-Conference linemen including guards Doug Despain and Ricky Gonzales, tackle RJ Taylor and center Kelton Hays.

Defense will be the key to Henderson’s success. It was the Reddie defense that secured wins against Harding and Southern Arkansas with a pair of goal-line stops.

Keaton Stigger, who had 103 tackles in 2012, lead a defense that allowed just 21.2 points per game and was successful in preventing opponents from scoring when within the red zone 37 percent of the time.

Llewellyn will also be a big part of the defense. The sophomore from Dallas, Texas totaled 46 tackles including three for lost yardage.

Glennon Bobo led the team in tackles for lost yardage (13.5) during Henderson’s championship season. The junior defensive end from Ashdown, Ark. ended the season with 37 tackles and six quarterback sacks.

Southern Arkansas, which finished the season with an 8-3 record overall and 6-2 in league play, totaled 85 votes and is picked to finish as the league runner-up.

Harding, which is coming off a second-place finish last year and a NCAA playoff appearance, was tabbed third, garnering 83 votes from the coaches.

Ouachita Baptist was fourth with 73 votes, followed by East Central (65), Southeastern Oklahoma (49) and Southwestern Oklahoma (47).

Rounding out the 11-team conference is Arkansas Tech with 37 votes, Arkansas-Monticello (31), Northwestern Oklahoma (18) and Southern Nazarene (17).


School                          Pts               1st
Henderson State        100               10
Southern Arkansas   85                 1
Harding                         83
Ouachita Baptist         73
East Central                 65
Southeastern Okla.    49
Southwestern Okla.    47
Arkansas Tech            37
Arkansas-Monticello 31
Northwestern Okla.     18
Southern Nazarene   17

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