Southland Announces 2021 All-Conference Football Teams


FRISCO, Texas – Southeastern quarterback Cole Kelley is the Southland Football Player of the Year, the league announced Tuesday with the all-conference teams.

The Lions led the way with 14 total honorees on the two teams, followed by UIW and Nicholls each with 13. McNeese placed 10 Cowboys on the lists. HBU accounted for four spots, and Northwestern State rounded out the teams with two selections.

The defending Walter Payton Award winner and a finalist for this year’s honor, Kelley followed up with an even more impressive campaign as the FCS leader in completion percentage (74.2), efficiency (179.5), passing yards per game (398.4), points responsible for per game (29.6) and total offense per game (438.5). He also ranks second in completions per game (30.82) and yards per attempt (9.59) and third in passing touchdowns (38) and rushing touchdowns (16).

A four-time Offensive Player of the Week, Kelley currently ranks among the top-10 in single-season conference history in completion percentage (1st, 74.2), total offense (3rd, 4,824), passing yards (5th, 4,382), completions (6th, 339) and touchdown passes (7th, 38). In conference play, he completed 240-of-324 passes (74.1 percent) for 3,180 yards, 28 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Kelley also ran for 359 yards and 12 touchdowns against league foes.

Another Walter Payton Award finalist, UIW quarterback Cameron Ward is the Offensive Player of the Year after ranking among the top-10 FCS signal-callers in completions per game (27.82), passing touchdowns (38), passing yards per game (349), points responsible for per game (20.7) and total offense (355.1). In 17 career starts, he has surpassed 300 yards in 15 of them with UIW still coming out on top of the only two contests he failed to reach 300 yards.

Kelley and Ward put on a show in the teams’ only meeting on Nov. 6 – a thrilling, 55-52 Cardinal victory – in which the duo posted the most combined passing yards in a game in FCS history (1,257). Kelley’s 647 yards are the fourth-most in FCS history, and Ward’s tally of 610 stands as the ninth-most. Additionally, Kelley’s 50 completions tied for fourth on the single-game completions list.

One of the Southland’s two finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award, McNeese defensive end Isaiah Chambers repeats as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. He led the league in sacks (10.5), tackles for loss (15.5) and forced fumbles (5) while earning a pair of Defensive Player of the Week honors. After not tallying a sack in the opening three games of the season, Chambers recorded all 10.5 in the final eight games, including a career-high four against UIW.

Making an immediate impact in UIW’s high-octane offense, Illinois State transfer Taylor Grimes led the Cardinals in receptions (68), receiving yards (923) and receiving touchdowns (11) to garner Newcomer of the Year recognition. He set a program record with four receiving touchdowns in a win over Nicholls and also broke the school’s single-game marks in receptions (12) and yards (193) in the win over Southeastern.

The Freshman of the Year title goes to Southeastern wide receiver and return specialist Gage Larvadain, who finished sixth nationally in kickoff return average (29.4) in addition to snagging 32 passes for 484 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 123.3 all-purpose yards per game over the final seven contests. Larvadain had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the win over Nicholls and caught the second-most passes in program history with 12 against UIW.

For the third-straight year, the league’s Offensive Lineman of the Year award goes to Nicholls’ PJ Burkhalter, who paved the way for the nation’s No. 5 rushing offense (246.7) and helped the Colonels allow the fewest tackles for loss (3.18). Nicholls ranked eighth nationally with just a sack allowed per game. Led by Burkhalter, who finished his career having started 57-straight games, the Colonels had 14 100-yard rushing performances by four different players.

A finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, UIW’s Eric Morris is tabbed the Southland Coach of the Year after leading the Cardinals to their first outright conference championship and FCS playoff automatic qualifier in program history. UIW (9-2, 7-1 SLC) ranked fourth in the country in scoring offense (39.6) and sixth in total offense (484.8). Morris and the Cardinals also have an FBS upset to their name after a 42-34 triumph over Texas State in September.

2021 Southland Conference Football Individual Superlative Winners

Player of the Year: Cole Kelley, Southeastern

Offensive Player of the Year: Cameron Ward, UIW

Defensive Player of the Year: Isaiah Chambers, MCN

Newcomer of the Year: Taylor Grimes, UIW

Freshman of the Year: Gage Larvadain, Southeastern

Offensive Lineman of the Year: PJ Burkhalter, Nicholls

Coach of the Year: Eric Morris, UIW

2021 Southland Conference Football First Team All-Conference Offense

QBCole Kelley2SoutheasternSr.Lafayette, La.
RBKevin Brown2UIWGr.Mount Pleasant, S.C.
RBCollin GuggenheimNichollsFr.Kenner, La.
TE/HBNolan GivanSoutheasternSr.Berkley, Mich.
WRDai’Jean Dixon4NichollsSr.New Orleans, La.
WRTaylor GrimesUIWJr.Godly, Texas
WRAustin Mitchell3SoutheasternR-Sr.Plaquemine, La.
OLPJ Burkhalter3NichollsSr.Franklinton, La.
OLCaron ColemanMcNeeseJr.St. Louis, Mo.
OLNash JonesUIWSo.Nacogdoches, Texas
OLJair Joseph2NichollsSr.Belle Rose, La.
OLRendon Miles-Character2SoutheasternSr.New Orleans, La.
PKGino GarciaHBUJr.Richardson, Texas
PBrady BuellHBUJr.Traverse City, Mich.

2021 Southland Conference Football First Team All-Conference Defense

DLIsaiah Chambers2McNeeseGr.Houston, Texas
DLPerry GanciNichollsSo.New Orleans, La.
DLMason Kinsey2McNeeseJr.Mansfield, Texas
DLCameron Preston2UIWSr.Crowley, Texas
LBKelechi Anyalebechi3UIWSr.Pearland, Texas
LBAlexis Ramos3SoutheasternSr.Salinas, Calif.
LBKordell WilliamsMcNeeseR-Jr.Carencro, La.
DBZy AlexanderSoutheasternFr.Loreauville, La.
DBKaleb CulpUIWSo.Dallas, Texas
DBKevin JohnsonNichollsSr.New Orleans, La.
DBJarius MonroeNichollsSo.LaPlace, La.
DBAndre Sam2McNeeseJr.Iowa, La.
KRGage LarvadainSoutheasternFr.New Orleans, La.
PRRobert Ferrel2UIWSr.Sparks, Nev.

2021 Southland Conference Football Second Team All-Conference Offense

QBCameron WardUIWSo.West Columbia, Texas
RBDeonta McMahonMcNeeseJr.Frostploof, Fla.
RBTaron JonesSoutheasternJr.Mandeville, La.
TE/HBLee NegrottoNichollsFr.Pass Christian, Miss.
WRRobert Ferrel2UIWSr.Sparks, Nev.
WRKJ FranklinNichollsSo.Prairieville, La.
WRGage LarvadainSoutheasternFr.New Orleans, La.
OLJohn AllenSoutheasternSo.Jackson, Miss.
OLJalen Bell2SoutheasternJr.Amory, Miss.
OLDrew Jones2SoutheasternSr.Des Allemands, La.
OLEvan Roussel2NichollsFr.Lutcher, La.
OLJakob Sell2Northwestern StateJr.Dallas, Texas
PKGavin LasseigneNichollsSo.Raceland, La.
PKeven NguyenUIWSr.Rohnert Park, Calif.

2021 Southland Conference Football Second Team All-Conference Defense

DLBrandon BowenUIWGr.Trophy Club, Texas
DLGarrett CrawfordSoutheasternSo.Slidell, La.
DLAccord GreenMcNeeseJr.New Orleans, La.
DLJequaries MartinNichollsSr.Chilton, Ala.
LBRodney DansbyHBUFr.Houston, Texas
LBIsaiah Paul2UIWR-So.San Antonio, Texas
LBHayden ShaheenNichollsFr.Baton Rouge, La.
DBShemar Bartholomew2Northwestern StateJr.New Orleans, La.
DBRashon DavisUIWGr.St. Louis, Mo.
DBCorione HarrisMcNeeseJr.New Orleans, La.
DBDonniel Ward-McGee2SoutheasternJr.New Orleans, La.
DBJarrius WallaceMcNeeseGr.Villa, La.
KRTyson ThompsonHBUR-Fr.Spring, Texas
PRMason PierceMcNeeseSo.Pearland, Texas

2021 Southland Conference Football Honorable Mention:

QB Lindsey Scott Jr., NICH; RB Marcus Cooper, UIW; RB Stephon Huderson, MCN; TE Jamal Pettigrew, MCN; WR Darion Chafin, UIW; WR Jay Griffin IV, NSU; OL Reid Francis, UIW; OL Caleb Johnson, UIW; OL Dawson Kier, UIW; OL Ethan McMullan, SLU; PK Mateo Rengifo, SLU; P Austin Dunlap, SLU; P Scotty Roblow, NSU; DL John Graves III, SLU; DL Blaine Hoover, UIW; DL Isaiah Longino, NSU; DL Myles Vigne, NICH; LB Jared Pedraza, NSU; LB Jomard Valsin Jr., NSU; DB Elliott Davison, UIW; DB Jack Henderson, SLU; DB Moses Reynolds; UIW; DB Brandon Richard, UIW; DB Colby Richardson, MCN; KR Mason Pierce, MCN; PR Tyson Thompson, HBU.

2 – Two-time all-conference selection

3 – Three-time all-conference selection

4 – Four-time all-conference selection

{Courtesy: release from Southland Conference}

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