By CAITLYN HAYGARTH | HSU Sports Network
RUSSELLVILLE — Andrew Edwards joins 11 other members of the Henderson State football program to be selected for the All-GAC teams following the completion of the 2022 season, the league announced Wednesday. Henderson’s 12 recipients was the third most of any team in the conference.
Edwards highlighted the award winners after becoming the first Reddie since Tim Llewellyn in 2012 to be named Freshman of the Year. The redshirt freshman from Bentonville, Arkansas was brilliant in his nine starts this season, completing 63.8 percent of his passes (146-229) for 2137 yards, 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
Among Division II leaders, Edwards led all freshman in passing touchdowns, was 18th in completion percentage, fifth in passing efficiency (168.61), 13th in passing yards per completion (14.54) and 44th in total passing yards while also being tied for the fewest thrown interceptions among signal callers who have thrown at least 230 passes in 2022.
Xavier Malone was named a unanimous All-GAC First Team honoree thanks to his 67-reception, 1382-yard senior season after being named to the All-Conference Second Team last year. Malone’s 1382 yards was second in the entire country while his 15 receiving touchdowns were fourth in the nation. The Mound Bayou, Mississippi was also 12th in DII with 20.63 yards per reception and second with 125.6 yards per game while only being tied for 20th with 67 receptions on the season.
In just two season, the senior wide out leaves Mound Bayou, Mississippi native has written his name all over the HSU record book. With his performance this year, Malone holds the second most receiving yards all-time in a single season, is third in program history with 2352 career receiving yards after just two campaigns with the Reddies, is fourth in career receiving touchdowns and is fifth with 135 career receptions.
Senior Deldric Shields found his way onto the All-GAC team for the second year in a row, this time making his debut on the First Team. The former Angelo State transfer recorded 39 tackles, four pass break-ups, two and half tackles for loss, one sack and one interception in his final year as a Reddie.
Korien Burrell earned All-Conference Second Team honors for the first time in his career as he became the first Henderson rusher to run for over 1000 yards since Jaquan Cole in 2015. The sophomore back from Beaumont, Texas ran for 1064 yards – 18th in Division II – on 175 carries and registered 14 touchdowns, which is tied for the fourth most single-season rushing scores in program history.
Tight end Mike Benning finished off his HSU career on the All-GAC Second Team alongside Burrell, filling the No. 2 spot on the HSU receiving corps with 317 yards and three touchdowns on 28 receptions, including a long score of 66 yards against Southern Arkansas earlier in the season. Center Conner Justus and guard Blaise Smith also earned Second Team honors, helping pave the way for Henderson’s fifth-ranked rushing attack in the league while only allowing the sixth fewest amount of sacks in the GAC.
Defensive end Gary Lewis and defensive tackle Denzel Walter were named Second Team honorees with two pass rushers combining for 14 and a half tackles for loss and six a half sacks. Both Lewis and Walter totaled 39 tackles each on the year while Lewis was tied for fourth in the league with 10 tackles for loss.
Making their way onto the Honorable Mentions list was sophomore linebacker Jakob Neel, freshman wide receiver Jody Easter and junior long snapper Thomas Hathorn. Neel led the entire Henderson defense with 63 total tackles, including four and a half tackles for loss and one a half sack.
Easter did the majority of his damage this year in the return game, pacing HSU with an average kickoff return of 20.53 yards, which was 77th in the nation, while also totaling 92 yards in the rushing and receiving game. Hathorn continued his stellar HSU career by not having a bad snap in all three years of his long snapping duties for Henderson.