NAIA
NAIA
Football - Wed, Nov. 16, 2016
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BARBOURVILLE, Ky. – Union College's Izayah Riettie (FR/Lakeland, Fla.) and Justavious Robinson (FR/Alexander City, Ala.) were named the Mid-South Conference (MSC) East Offensive and Defensive Freshmen of the Year, and a total of 10 Bulldogs earned spots on the All-MSC East Team, the league announced Wednesday.

Union placed three players on the first team and seven on the second team. This is the most Union has placed on the first team since placing four in 2012. This is the most the Bulldogs on the all-conference team since placing 11 in 2010.

"This is a testament to the hard work our players put in," said interim head coach Andre Linn. "Also, this is a credit to our assistant coaches getting these young men to have faith in each other and in our game plan."

Making the All-MSC East First Team are Deyontre Jordan (FR/Lakeland, Fla.), Chandler Whittlesey (SR/Columbus, Ga.) and Serge Vita (SR/Pasadena, Calif.). Earning Second Team All-MSC East are Riettie, Robinson, Kermit Gibbs (JR/Louisville, Ky.), Cody Johnson (JR/Maple Rapids, Mich.), Jake Averhart (JR/Corner, Ala.), Seth Nichols (SO/Simpsonville, S.C.) and Tyreke Stone (FR/Dadeville, Ala.).

Riettie recorded 596 rushing yards this season and 54.2 rushing yards per game, both were best amongst freshman in the MSC and 11th overall in the conference. He recorded 10 rushing touchdowns this season, to go along with 7.4 yards per rush. He produced two 100-yard games, rushing for 142 yards and three touchdowns in a 20-7 win over Pikeville (Ky.) and 136 yards and a score against Faulkner (Ala.).

The freshman back also hauled in 10 passes for 106 yards. Riettie logged the longest runs in several years. His 80-yard touchdown run is the longest for a Bulldog since 2010 when Armond Smith ripped off an 88-yarder.

"Izayah split time at running back for us, and he still managed to have great numbers," said Linn.

Robinson averaged 8.4 tackles in his first collegiate season, which ranks him seventh in the conference. He also had the 10th-most sacks in the MSC with six, while compiling 13.5 tackles for loss.

Leading the team with 92 total tackles, Robinson earned the MSC East Defensive Player of the Week award once.

"I am happy for Justavious," said Linn. "He has a lot of room to grow, but that being said, he did lead our team in tackles as a nose guard, which is not an easy feat."

Jordan finished second on the team in scoring with 48 points (seven receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown). He hauled in 29 passes for 433 yards to average 14.9 yards per catch. Jordan ran the ball only three times for 15 yards.

"Deyontre played well during his freshman season. He has a bright future ahead of him," Linn noted.

Whittlesey played in only four games before suffering a season-ending injury. But in those four games, Union went 3-1 with him under center. He completed 69-of-120 passes for 1,047 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 157 yards and two more scores. The Bulldogs averaged 39.5 points and 434.5 yards per game with Whittlesey on the field.

"There's no telling where we would be no had he not been injured," Linn commented. "Chandler is an extraordinary player and leader."

Vita ended the regular season leading the NAIA in tackles for a loss (24.0) and in tackles for a loss per game (2.2). He also ranks fourth in sacks (13.0) and sacks per game (1.2). The senior defensive lineman finished with 81 total tackles and was twice named the MSC East Defensive Player of the Week.

"Serge is one of the top defensive players in the nation and has been difficult for opposing offenses to stop and/or slow down," said Linn.

Gibbs, a junior offensive lineman from Louisville, Ky., helped pave the way for the Bulldogs to average 405.9 yards in total offense and 26.5 points per game this season. The 291 points rank eighth-most in program history.

"Kermit was our most consistent offensive lineman," Linn said. "He did a good job of protecting the quarterback and clearing the way for our running backs."

Johnson, a tight end, only caught 14 passes for 113 yards this season. Still, he played an integral part in the Union offense.

"Cody does all the dirty work for our offense that you don't see on the stat sheet," commented Linn.

Averhart, a junior linebacker, produced his best season to date, finishing with 84 total tackles. He recorded 0.5 sacks and 4.0 tackles for a loss to go along with one interception and four pass breakups.

"A relentless, hard-working player, Jake gives everything he has out on the field," Linn said.

Stone and Nichols were key players in helping the Bulldog secondary shut down the opponent's passing game. Opponents averaged only 180.8 passing yards per game this season.

"Ty and Seth were our shutdown corners for us this year," Linn said. "We look forward to seeing them be just as productive in the years to come.

Stone finished with 39 total tackles with a team-high four interceptions eight pass breakups. Nichols recorded 29 total tackles with two interceptions and 11 pass deflections.

Union finished the 2016 campaign 5-6 overall and 4-2 in the MSC East.