Denison seniors Nate Keirn (Medina, OH/St. Ignatius) and Alex Minton (Bethel Park, PA/Bethel Park) along with Wabash sophomore Joey Annee (Indianapolis, IN/Bishop Chatard) have been named the Players of the Year to highlight the 2019 All-North Coast Athletic Conference football selections.
Minton is the second-consecutive and fourth overall individual at Denison to earn the Mike Gregory Award as the NCAC's Offensive Player of the Year following former Big Red student-athletes Canaan Gebele (2018), DuShawn Brown (2014) and Chris Spriggs (1985 & 1986). The award is presented in honor of Mike Gregory, a multi-sport standout at Denison in the 1920's. Keirn is the second Denison student-athlete that has earned the Hank Critchfield Award as the league's Defensive Player of the Year after Dan Holland collected the hardware in 1986. The award is presented in honor of Hank Critchfield, who was a 1927 graduate of The College of Wooster. Finally, Annee is the recipient of the NCAC's Special Teams Player of the Year award.
Minton, who claimed his second-consecutive first-team selection after earning second-team accolades in 2017, has established himself as one of the top running backs in the nation. The senior is the first running back to collect the Gregory Award since Wabash's Mason Zurek received the honor in 2015. Minton was the only league player to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark through the regular season. The senior led the NCAC in rushing for the second-consecutive year with 1,550 yards. He surpassed the 100-yard mark in seven of the 10 regular season games, including two 200+ yard games, and scored two or more touchdowns on seven different occasions. He currently ranks in the top-10 nationally in five different categories, sitting in third in both total touchdowns (21) and total points scored (126), fourth in rushing yards, and seventh in both scoring (12.6) and rushing touchdowns (18).
Keirn has earned his third all-conference selection after being named to the first team for the second-consecutive season, while earning honorable mention accolades in 2017. He and his teammates allowed just 135 points through 10 games and were among the top defensive squads in the conference with 33 sacks and 15 fumble recoveries. Through 10 regular-season games, he led the league with 11.5 sacks (106 yards), tallying at least one sack in seven of his team's games. The defensive lineman also topped the NCAC with 18 tackles for loss (134 yards), recording 37 total tackles (21 solo and 16 asst.). Keirn also forced three fumbles and earned one fumble recovery this season. Nationally, he currently ranks seventh in sacks, 22nd in tackles for loss and 31st in forced fumbles.
Annee was selected as the league's top special teams athlete after he played a key role in establishing field position for the Little Giants. The sophomore leads the NCAC with an average of 41.2 yards per punt, which currently ranks him No. 12 in the nation. In nine regular season games, he produced 40 punts for 1,647 yards. He pinned opposing offenses inside the 20-yard line 13 different times, which included accomplishing the feat three times in wins against both Wittenberg (Oct. 19) and Oberlin (Oct. 26). Annee also booted a season-long 64-yard punt against Allegheny on Sept. 21.
Wabash freshman quarterback Liam Thompson (Indianapolis, IN/North Central) was named the NCAC's Newcomer of the Year as the top player in the league in his first year of collegiate competition. The Little Giants' signal caller tossed two or more touchdown passes on five different occasions this season, including a career-high three touchdowns against Kenyon on Nov. 2. Through 10 regular season games, he threw for 1,997 yards, completing 148 passes on 240 attempts for a 61.7% completion rate. Thompson recorded 14 touchdowns so far this season with his longest being for 75 yards.
Finally, Wabash head coach Don Morel, in his fourth season at the helm of the Little Giants, was named the NCAC Football Coach of the Year for the second time in his career after guiding his team to a 7-3 regular season record. His squad earned a share of the NCAC title for the second-consecutive season, and ninth title overall, after recording a 7-2 mark in conference play. In his four seasons at Wabash, Morel owns an overall record of 32-8, which includes a 29-7 mark against NCAC opponents.