Etuka earns first team selection, while Connell (2nd), Martin (2nd) & Edouard (3rd) also recognized
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (December 6, 2016) – A program record four members of the Western New England University football team have been named to the D3football.com All-East Region Team, it was announced last night.
Senior cornerback Obi Etuka (Middletown, Conn.) earned a first team selection, while senior running back Nick Connell (East Marion, N.Y.) and junior offensive lineman Dillon Martin (Ashland, Mass.) were named to the second team and junior defensive lineman Sam Edouard (Roosevelt, N.Y.) landed on the third team.
Western New England's four selections this season are the most in program history after the team had three players recognized last fall in Etuka (3rd team), defensive lineman Connor DeVarney (3rd) and offensive tackle Kenneth Vollaro (1st). Etuka is the first two-time honoree in program history and the second Golden Bear to be named to the first team, joining Vollaro. Kevin Cook, Western New England's all-time leading rusher, was the first player to garner D3football.com All-East Region accolades back in 2014 with his third team selection.
This year's three All-East Region teams, selected in balloting by East Region sports information directors and D3football.com staff, were chosen from 254 nominations by Division III member schools. A total of 76 players were selected. Players nominated for All-Region are eligible to be considered for D3football.com All-America honors, which will be announced the evening of Dec. 16, in D3football.com's pregame coverage for Stagg Bowl XLIV.
Etuka adds to his impressive list of accolades after earning his third consecutive All-New England Football Conference (NEFC) first team selection and second straight New England Football Writers DII/DIII All-New England Team nod. The Middletown, Conn. native recorded 42 tackles (2.5 for loss), 12 pass breakups and six interceptions in 2016. He became Western New England's all-time interceptions leader with his two-pick performance in the Golden Bears' 37-0 shutout of MIT on October 15, and he registered interceptions in the team's final two regular season contests as well as its NCAA triumph over Husson on November 19. His career statistics include 143 tackles (6.5 for loss), two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, 36 pass breakups and 21 interceptions in 43 games.
Connell, Western New England's lone team captain, earns D3football.com All-East Region honors for the first time in his career after rushing for 1231 yards and 13 touchdowns on 238 carries (5.2 avg.) this fall. Also an All-NEFC first team selection for the second straight season, Connell was at his best late in the 2016 campaign, topping the 100-yard mark in five of the Golden Bears' last seven games. He ran for 170 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries in Western New England's 41-22, NEFC-title clinching win at Salve Regina on November 5, earning the New England Football Writers DII/DIII Gold Helmet award following his effort.
The East Marion, N.Y. native followed that up by rushing for a career-high 188 yards and two touchdowns (including the game-winning score with 11 seconds remaining) on November 12 as the Golden Bears closed out their regular season with a 36-29 win over Coast Guard. Connell finished his Western New England career as the program's fourth all-time leading rusher with 2778 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Helping to pave the way for Connell was Martin, a two-time All-NEFC first team selection that didn't surrender a single sack over the course of the 2016 season. With Martin helping to lead the offensive line, the Golden Bears ranked 23rd nationally in rushing (239.0 YPG), topping the 200-yard mark in seven of 12 games.
Rounding out Western New England's four All-East Region selections is Edouard, the 2016 NEFC Defensive Player of the Year. The junior was a dominant force on the Golden Bears' defensive line all season, recording 57 tackles (5.0 for loss) and one pass breakup while consistently being double and triple-teamed. The Roosevelt, N.Y. anchored a defensive unit that surrendered NEFC-lows in both yards (265.9) and points (17.1) per game during the regular season.
Western New England posted its second consecutive undefeated regular season (10-0, 7-0 NEFC) this fall en route to the program's third NEFC title. The Golden Bears, who completed a wire-to-wire run as the No. 1 ranked team in the New England DIII Football Poll, defeated Husson for their first ever NCAA Tournament victory before falling to Alfred in a second round thriller.