ROCK HILL, S.C. — Carson-Newman placed a league-best eight players on the All-SAC first team and 10 overall on the SAC’s preseason all-conference teams, the league office announced Thursday.
Quarterback Derrick Evans, running back Antonio Wimbush, offensive lineman Phillip McDowell and Morristown East’s Jordan Seal, as well as long snapper Dawson Campbell represented the Eagles on the first team offense.
Defensive lineman Montel Presley, defensive lineman Brian Bembry and defensive back Desmond Fairell earned first team defensive accolades.
Offensive lineman Reese Fain and linebacker Antonio Henderson earned second team honors.
Evans earned All-SAC honors on the second team in the postseason for a second straight year. As a junior, the quarterback completed 45-of-91 passes for 637 yards and three scores. He also rushed 131 times for 439 yards and six scores, an average of 39.9 yards per game. His most complete game on the ground came against Mars Hill when he tallied 13 carries for 92 yards and a pair of scores, his lone multi-touchdown effort on the year. He had his lone 100-yard rushing performance against Limestone with 131 yards rushing on 14 carries and a score.
In his redshirt junior season, Antonio Wimbush received national recognition for his efforts to return to the field from a torn ACL and meniscus. Wimbush was named one of three inaugural winners of the Mayo Clinic’s Comeback Player of the Year. The junior was bullish in the offseason with his rehab and work ethic. Within six months of his surgery, he was squatting 525 pounds. Carson-Newman Director of Sports Performance Johnny Long has called Wimbush, pound-for-pound, the strongest player on the football team. After a hard offseason rehab, Wimbush turned in another stellar season to earn All-SAC first team honors for the second time in his career to go along with all-region accolades from the D2CCA and All-America honors from Don Hansen’s Football Gazette.
He finished the season with 1,206 rushing yards to lead the South Atlantic Conference. The season-ending total represents the 18th best single-year on the ground for an Eagle rusher. He found the end zone seven times on the ground and once more through the air. Wimbush had a string of four straight 100-yard games at the mid-point of the season and finished the year with 100-yard rushing efforts in five of Carson-Newman’s final six games.
He moved up to 11th on both Carson-Newman’s career rushing yards and rushing touchdown charts. Wimbush earned South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week honors following his performance at Virginia Union when he had 21 carries for 184 yards and three scores. That rushing tally marked a career high for Wimbush. He also went for more than 150 yards rushing against both Limestone and Virginia-Lynchburg. His 8.0 yards per carry are the eighth highest single-season total in Carson-Newman football history and the second highest total in NCAA Division II this year.
McDowell rewrote Carson-Newman’s knockdown record book in his junior year. McDowell took over the Eagles’ all-time record in career knockdowns in week six against Limestone. McDowell bypassed Robby Ignagni (44) and now has 57 for his career. While that alone is impressive, McDowell did it in grand fashion by besting his own single-game record with a whopping 10 knockdowns. McDowell played 54 snaps against the Saints. He had a knockdown every 5.4 plays. He helped Carson-Newman to lead the South Atlantic Conference and nation in rushing yards with 347.6 yards per game on the ground. The Eagles led the nation in rushing yards per game for the first time since 2012.
Seal proved efficient and effective at moving people around en route to All-SAC second team honors for a second straight season. Seal tallied the second most knockdowns in a single-game in school history when he had eight against Mars Hill. He graded out in seven of Carson-Newman’s 11 games. Seal finished the year with 24 knockdowns and has 37 for his career. He needs seven more knockdowns to move into second on Carson-Newman’s career charts. He had a five-knockdown performance against Wingate and a four-knockdown effort against Virginia-Lynchburg. He helped Carson-Newman to lead the South Atlantic Conference and the nation in rushing yards with 347.6 yards per game on the ground.
Campbell’s presence on the All-SAC teams gives Carson-Newman an all-league long snapper for a sixth year out of seven. Carson-Newman only had two kicks (one punt, one field goal) blocked on the year with Campbell snapping.
Presley earned first team All-SAC accolades on the defensive line for a second straight season. Presley turned in 36 tackles, 5.5 for loss and a sack. Presley’s best game came against Lenoir-Rhyne when he made seven stops against the Bears. He also topped five tackles against Newberry and Catawba. He blocked a kick against Tusculum.
Bembry brings home All-SAC second team honors for a second straight year. Bembry was a wrecking crew up front for the Eagles. He led C-N in sacks with five and ranked third on the team with eight stops behind the line of scrimmage. He finished the year with 32 tackles. He had a season-high seven tackles against Lenoir-Rhyne. He also had a multi-sack effort against the Bears. He forced a fumble against Limestone.
For a second straight year, Fariell earned postseason All-SAC honors as well as a spot on the Don Hansen All-Region team. Fairell has been a remarkable modicum of consistency for the Eagles. The corner finished the year with four interceptions for a third straight season to lead Carson-Newman and the South Atlantic Conference. Fairell turned in a multi-interception performance against Virginia-Lynchburg, the second multi-pick day of his career. He also recovered two fumbles on the year to lead the South Atlantic Conference in takeaways. He earned TSWA State Defensive Player of the Week honors following his performance against Virginia-Lynchburg. Fairell is in a tie for eighth on C-N’s all-time career picks list at 12 with Carson-Newman Hall of Famer Joe Fishback. His next interception will move him into a tie for seventh on the all-time list with Tim Foutz (13 picks from 1983-84). JJ Simmons sits in sixth with 15 from 1995-98. Fairell also had 50 tackles on the year, topping out at eight against Virginia Union.
Fain made the move from tight end to offensive lineman. He appeared in nine games and started the final seven of the year. He had nine knockdowns on the season. He helped Carson-Newman lead the nation in rushing yards per game and helped power Antonio Wimbush to All-America and Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year honors.
For a second consecutive year, Henderson finished second on the team in tackles. He wrapped up the year with 67 stops, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also logged a forced fumble and a blocked kick. A modicum of consistency on defense, Henderson had at least five stops in nine of the Eagles’ 11 games. His season high came in the opener against West Florida when he had nine stops, including six solo tackles. He matched that in week 10 against Lenoir-Rhyne. he also had an eight-tackle day against Limestone. Henderson produced multiple tackles for loss against Virginia Union (2.0), Limestone (2.0) and UNC Pembroke with a career high 3.0. He blocked his lone kick of the year against Lenoir-Rhyne. He forced a fumble against Wingate.