PRINCETON, W.Va. The West Liberty University football team's efforts in writing one of NCAA Division II's best comeback stories this season were rewarded on Tuesday when the 2012 All-West Virginia Conference Team was announced.
The Hilltoppers bounced back from a 1-10 season in 2011 to post a winning record this fall a 6-5 mark that included victories against two regionally-ranked opponents and WLU head coach Roger Waialae saw 11 of his players earn All-WVIAC recognition in the annual voting by the league coaches.
Heading the list of West Liberty's All-WVIAC honorees were three first-team selections from the Hilltoppers' outstanding defensive unit senior defensive tackle Leonidas Redding, junior cornerback Justin Black and junior safety Marco Ricchetti.
Senior defensive end Nick Augustyn was a second-team choice while honorable mention laurels went to senior wide receiver Brandon Schroeder, junior nose guard Nate Maleski, senior linebacker Kyle Agustin, junior linebacker Marquis Bradley and junior safety Jovontae Johnson. Senior defensive tackle Matt Betz and senior offensive tackle Dino Herrera received special mention.
Conference champion Shepherd and the University of Charleston led the way with 8 first-team selections.
Charleston also picked up two of the major individual awards with Pat Kirkland being voted WVIAC Coach of the Year and tailback Jordan Roberts earning Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Concord linebacker Jake Lilly was the WVIAC Defensive Player of the Year while Glenville State's Rahmann Lee (Offensive) and Fairmont State's Lance Fullwood (Defensive) were tabbed as Freshmen of the Year.
Following are brief capsules on West Liberty's All-WVIAC selections:
Leonidas Redding, a 6-3, 280-pound senior from Cleveland, Ohio, started every game at various positions along the WLU defensive front. The playmaking lineman finished with 23 tackles, including at least one tackle-for-loss in seven of the Hilltoppers' 11 games.
Justin Black, a 5-10, 180-pound junior from St. Petersburg, Fla., started all 11 games at cornerback. He had 43 tackles, including 3 tackles-for-loss, along with 2 interceptions and 11 passes defended. Black scored on a 75-yard interception return against Seton Hill and also led the team with 248 yards on 12 kick returns this season.
Marco Ricchetti, a 6-3, 200-pound junior from Martins Ferry, started all 11 games at weak safety. He led West Liberty and was fifth in the WVIAC with 101 tackles. A three-time WVIAC Defensive Player of the Week, he tied for the WVIAC lead with 5 interceptions, including a fourth-quarter interception in his own end zone to preserve a 23-22 win against UNC-Pembroke.
Nick Augustyn, a 6-3, 265-pound senior from Pasadena, Calif., started 10 of 11 games at defensive end. Dominant pass rusher finished with 29 tackles, including a team-high 10.5 tackles-for-loss and 3.0 quarterback sacks.
Brandon Schroeder, a 6-1, 195-pound senior from Canonsburg, Pa., started every game at wide receiver. First-team Academic All-District selection led all West Liberty receivers with 47 catches for 547 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Nate Maleski, a 6-2, 295-pound junior from Bridgeport, started all 11 games in the middle of the WLU defensive front. Outstanding run-stuffer finished with 40 tackles, including 9.0 tackles-for-loss, and led the team with 4.5 quarterback sacks.
Kyle Agustin, a 6-2, 230-pound senior from Los Angeles, Calif., played in all 11 games with 10 starts at linebacker. Ranked second on team with 92 tackles, including 8.5 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 quarterback sacks. He was also charted with 8 pass break-ups and an interception.
Marquis Bradley, a 5-10, 215-pound junior from Los Angeles, Calif., played his way into the starting lineup for the final 8 games of the season. He finished third on the team with 70 tackles and 10.0 tackles-for-loss. He also contributed 2 interceptions, 5 pass break-ups and a team-high 3 fumble recoveries.
Jovontae Johnson, a 5-11, 175-pound junior from St. Petersburg, Fla., juco transfer started every game at free safety. Led the team with 13 passes defended, including 4 interceptions. He scored on a 22-yard fumble return at Fairmont State and had an interception return TD wiped out by a penalty at Seton Hill.
Matt Betz, a 6-0, 275-pound senior from Louisville, Ohio, started 9 games at defensive tackle after sitting out 2011 season as a medical redshirt. He finished with 22 tackles, 6.0 tackles-for-loss and 3.5 quarterback sacks.
Dino Herrera, a 6-4, 285-pound senior from Fontana, Calif., started all 11 games at right tackle on the WLU offensive line. Steady veteran provided quality leadership and stability to an injury-riddled unit.