MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – The Wesleyan University football team earned 13 NESCAC All-Conference selections, with six players garnering First Team laurels, as voted on by the conference coaches and announced by the league office Tuesday.
In the 17-year history of the NESCAC All-Conference teams, Wesleyan's 13 selections are the second most by a Cardinals' squad all-time, trailing only the 2014 team that registered 14. Wesleyan's 13 selections were also second-highest amongst its peers.
Senior wide receiver/running back Devon Carrillo, senior tight end Ben Kurtz, junior wide receiver Mike Breuler and sophomore offensive lineman Joe Wilson were all named First Team Offense, while senior defensive lineman Jordan Stone and junior defensive back Nate Taylor earned First Team Defense.
Additionally, senior offensive lineman Matt Polacek and sophomore quarterback Mark Piccirillo were named to the Second Team Offense, and senior defensive back Zac Cuzner, junior defensive back Elias Camacho, junior linebacker Shayne Kaminski and sophomore defensive lineman Grant Williams were named to the Second Team Defense. Carrillo was also named a Second Team Specialist for his stellar in the punt return game.
For Carrillo, the all-conference accolades mark the second of his career as he was named a second team punt returner as a freshman in 2013. This year, the versatile senior excelled in multiple areas as he amassed 807 all-purpose yards, and averaged 100.9 per game to rank ninth in the NESCAC. He also led the league in punt return yards (267), finished second in the conference in rushing touchdowns (12), and finished 12th in receiving yards (349). Carrillo went 2-for-3 passing for 51 yards and two touchdowns as well, including a 48-yard score, and finished the season with 15 total touchdowns.
A lot of his rushing success could be attributed to two-time All-NESCAC selection Wilson, who was also named Second Team Offense as a freshman last year. His strong play in 2016 helped Wesleyan amass 416.0 yards per game – third in the conference behind Middlebury (418.9) and Trinity (418.6). The Cardinals also scored 31.5 points per game, and were consistently one of the top offenses in the NESCAC all season. Two of Wesleyan's top contributors were Breuler and Kurtz. Breuler, a Second Team Offense selection a year ago, shined in his junior campaign as he finished third in the NESCAC in receiving touchdowns (7), sixth in receiving yards (512), and seventh in receiving yards per game (64.0). He scored six touchdowns in his final three games, including a three-TD performance against Williams in which he caught four balls for 125 yards. Kurtz capped off his impressive four-year career with his first all-conference honor as he racked up 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Stone captured his second consecutive First Team honor as he headlined a stifling Wesleyan defense. The senior ranked eighth in the NESCAC in sacks with 4.5, and finished fifth on the team in tackles with 26 (11 solo; 15 assists). In the secondary, Taylor wrapped up his impressive junior season with his first All-NESCAC honor of his career. He finished third in the league, and first on the team, with three interceptions. Taylor also broke up a pass and blocked a kick. The duo helped lead one of the nation's top defenses, which allowed league-lows of 13.1 points and 220.6 points per game. In addition to leading the conference, Wesleyan also ranked fifth in NCAA Division III in total defense and 10th in scoring defense.
Earning all-conference honors for the first times in their careers are Piccirillo and Polacek. Piccirillo, who earned the starting nod under center during the offseason, excelled in his first year as a starting quarterback for the Cardinals. He led the league in completion percentage (62.3%), finished second in passing yards per game (202.3), and third in passing touchdowns (10). He went seven games without an interception, and only threw two all season. Additionally, he led the team in rushing and ranked eighth in the conference with 52.0 yards per game, while also scoring five rushing touchdowns. Polacek protected the sophomore quarterback all season and played an instrumental role in the offensive success.
Kaminski and Williams both excelled in the front seven for the Cardinals' defense, as Kaminski tied for a team-high 61 tackles (36 solo; 25 assists) and ranked eighth in the conference. He also finished 11th in the league in sacks (4), and forced a fumble. In just his second season, Williams racked up 3.5 sacks to sit tied for 14th in the league, and also recorded 21 tackles. Camacho and Cuzner each earned their first all-conference honors as well, as the duo shined in the secondary all season. Both players registered two interceptions, while Cuzner broke up four passes and Camacho finished with three break-ups. Wesleyan led the NESCAC in both pass defense (143.0 ypg) and rush defense (77.6 ypg), and also ranked second in the nation in first downs allowed (94).
Wesleyan's historic 2016 season concluded with a 6-2 record, and included a Little Three title for the second time in the past four seasons. The Cardinals defeated Amherst and Williams by a combined score of 79-14, in which they shut out the Purple & White, 20-0, and routed the Ephs, 59-14.