INDIANAPOLIS – Senior Cory Contini (Dover, Ohio) was named the G-MAC Offensive Player of the Year while senior Ross Thompson (Delphos, Ohio) picked up the same accolade on the defensive side as the G-MAC announced the football all-conference team on Friday.
Quarterback Evan Ernst (Mason, Ohio) was tabbed as the conference's Freshman of the Year as well.
Eight Panthers garnered First Team All-Great Midwest honors. Joining Contini on the offense were senior linemen Andrew Lucke (Mason, Ohio) and Robert Vargo (Martins Ferry, Ohio). Defensive selections included seniors Tawain Gordon (Columbus, Ohio), Brian Hunter (Mayfield, Ohio), Nick Isaacs (Cincinnati, Ohio), along with Thompson, and sophomore Logen Neidhardt (Hicksville, Ohio) was honored as the first team punter.
Landing on the second team offense were juniors EJ Colson (Middletown, Ohio) and David Turner (Fort Wayne, Ind.), along with Ernst. Second team defenders included junior Camren Moore (New Carlisle, Ohio) and sophomores Jayden Davis (Springfield, Ohio) and Aarin Smoot-Baker (Columbus, Ohio).
Honorable mention selections included seniors Tristan Kehres (Shelby, Ohio) and Wyatt McLeod (Myakka City, Fla.), junior Cedric Washington (Knoxville, Tenn.), sophomores Devanaire Conliffe (Willoughby, Ohio) and Jake Garrison (Clarksville, Ohio), and freshman Ashton Gilkey (Westerville, Ohio).
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Contini caught 54 passes for 950 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 17.6 yards per catch. His 16 TDs are the third most in the country this season. He set school records with 3,239 career yards and 38 receiving TDs, and his 39 TDs scored are also a record. Contini caught at least one TD in nine games this year, with three multi-TD performances. He was last year's G-MAC Offensive Back of the Year and a first team all-region selection, as well as a two-time Academic All-American.
Thompson bounced back from an injury-plagued 2017 to set a school record with 110 tackles this season, giving him 294 in his career, which tied the school-record. A two-time G-MAC Defensive Player of the Week this fall, he had six games with 10 or more tackles this year. Thompson also had four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss this year, recovered two fumbles, had two interceptions and broke up five more passes. His 28.0 career tackles for loss are fourth in ODU history.
Ernst made his first collegiate start against Findlay in week four and wound up leading the nation in completion percentage (74.5) and passing efficiency (184.4.) Overall, he completed 196-of-263 passes for 2,506 yards, 28 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He ranks fifth nationally with 9.5 yards per pass attempt and threw for at least 280 yards in five games. He set a school-record with seven TD passes against Alderson Broaddus on Sept. 29.
Lucke and Vargo keyed an offense that ranked 14th in the country in scoring (40.5 points per game) and total offense (439.1 yards per game.) ODU was also 22nd nationally in third down conversions (45.2 percent) and 39th in sacks allowed, while leading the country in completion percentage and ranking second in passing efficiency. Both started all 11 games this year, with Vargo making 35 starts in his career at right and left tackle.
Gordon was a Second Team All-Great Midwest selection last year and set a career-high with 70 tackles this year while also blocking three kicks. He had a sack and 6.0 tackles for loss and also broke up eight kicks. He blocked two kicks against Alderson Broaddus and broke up two passes in a trio of games. He played in 42 games in his career, making 30 starts, and recorded 151 tackles with four interceptions.
Hunter repeated as a First Team All-Great Midwest pick and made 61 tackles this year with 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss. He finished third on ODU's all-time list with 14.0 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss. He played in 41 games in his career, making 28 starts, and was named the G-MAC Defensive Player of the Week after tallying seven tackles with two sacks at East Stroudsburg. Hunter also forced two fumbles this year.
Isaacs missed all of 2017 with injury and had a strong close to his career, racking up 64 tackles with 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles, broke up two passes, and blocked two kicks. He finished fifth in the league in sacks and 11th in tackles for loss. He had 12 tackles against Ashland and 10 against both Alderson Broaddus and Malone.
Neidhardt was the 2017 Special Teams Player of the Year and followed that with a stronger sophomore campaign. He averaged 43.0 yards per punt with a long of 67, and placed 17 of his 43 punts inside the 20 with just four touchbacks. Neidhardt ranked 10th in the country in punting average and ODU ranked fifth nationally in net punting (39.1). He had five games where he placed at least two punts inside the 20 and had a punt of at least 44 yards in every game.
Colson finished the season with 781 yards on 156 carries, averaging 5.0 yards per carry and 78.1 yards per game, and also tallied 10 touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes for 130 yards and a score. Colson ran for a career-high 174 yards against Hillsdale, had 117 yards and two scores at Findlay, and ran for 98 yards and three TDs at East Stroudsburg. He has 1,925 yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons at ODU.
Turner ranked second in the G-MAC with 75 catches and was third with his 27.3 yards per kick return. He finished with 733 receiving yards and four TDs and 116.8 all-purpose yards per game as well, which was seventh in the league. He had 15 catches for 134 yards against Alderson Broaddus and 11 catches against both Tiffin and East Stroudsburg. Turner has 176 catches for 2,001 yards and 14 scores in his career.
Moore finished third in the league with 93 tackles and also had an interception while breaking up six passes this year. He had 10 or more tackles in four games this year, including 14 stops at Walsh, and had a pass break up in each of ODU's first five games. In 32 career games, he's made 197 tackles with 6.0 tackles for loss. Moore had 52 tackles in each of his first two seasons.
In his first year as a starter at safety, Davis finished with 64 tackles (2.0 TFL) with an interception and fumble recovery. He picked off a pass at Findlay, making 10 tackles in that contest, and also had 10 tackles against Ashland. Davis tallied nine stops against Alderson Broaddus and eight against both Cal and Hillsdale.
Smoot-Baker started all 11 games and recorded 42 tackles (8.5 tackles for loss) with six sacks and a forced fumble this year. He also returned a blocked kick for a touchdown against Alderson Broaddus. He had two sacks in wins against Walsh and Kentucky Wesleyan and also tallied 3.0 tackles for loss against Kentucky Wesleyan. He's made 72 tackles with 14.0 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 21 career games.
A First Team All-Great Midwest and All-Region pick last year, Kehres had his season cut short after three games this year. He did tally 28 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in those contests, including 12 stops and a forced fumble against Ashland. Kehres played 23 games in his career, totaling 105 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks.
McLeod had a career-season this year, grabbing 22 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. He had a 53 yard TD against Lake Erie in the finale and also caught touchdowns at Findlay and Tiffin. He had at least one catch in 10 games and finished his career with 32 catches for 364 yards and four touchdowns.
Washington finished the season with 28 catches for 419 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 15.0 yards per catch. He had five grabs for 91 yards against Hillsdale and five catches for 86 yards and two TDs against Alderson Broaddus, while also hauling in a 30 yard TD against Ashland. In his career, he has 62 catches for 958 yards and six scores.
Conliffe built on his season in which he was named the G-MAC Freshman of the Year and totaled 36 catches for 540 yards and seven TDs, averaging 15.0 yards per catch. He had three catches for 116 yards and two TDs against Cal, and caught one TD in each of the last five games of the season. He also had 82 yards on four catches at Findlay, and now has 57 catches for 854 yards and 14 scores in his career.
Garrison is in his second year as a starter on the offensive line. The Panthers ranked 14th in the country in scoring (40.5 points per game) and total offense (439.1 yards per game.) ODU was also 22nd nationally in third down conversions (45.2 percent) and 39th in sacks allowed, while leading the country in completion percentage and ranking second in passing efficiency.
Gilkey stepped into the program and made nine starts at corner this year, finishing with 30 tackles, two interceptions and three pass break ups. He picked off a pass to help seal the win at Findlay and also had a pick at Lake Erie. He had five tackles and a fumble recovery against Hillsdale as well.
Ohio Dominican finished the season with a 9-2 record and went 6-2 in the G-MAC. The Panthers were ranked as high as No. 12 nationally this year and appeared in the regional rankings every week. ODU has won at least seven games in every season since 2011.
Contact: Scott Miles