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Wildcats Earn Pioneer Football League Honors

by | Apr 27, 2021

Head Coach Scott Abell and the Wildcats during the game vs. Jacksonville State University.


ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Davidson head coach Scott Abell and freshman defensive end Jonathan Hammond earned the conference’s Coach of the Year and Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.

Hammond proved to be a problem to opposing offenses from his first game as a Wildcat. The Dunwoody, Ga., native strip sacked Joey Baughman of then-nationally ranked Elon, his first of three forced turnovers in the abridged season. Hammond recorded 22 tackles, 16 solo, 9.5 for loss and 4.0 sacks. He also recovered two fumbles, one leading to a touchdown in the home-opening win over Presbyterian. 

Defensive coordinator Jon Berlin‘s unit now boasts a pair of PFL Defensive Freshman of the Year as Hammond joins safety Dreylan Hines who was recognized for this accolade in 2018.

“Jonathan had a huge impact defensively for us. He was a constant disrupter for opposing offenses,” said Berlin. “We are very proud of what he was able to accomplish during this championship season.”

In just his third season at the helm, Abell guided the ‘Cats to their first postseason berth and conference title in 52 years. A finalist for the 34th Eddie Robinson Award, given to the FCS National Coach of the Year, he quickly turned Davidson football into a national name, winning the PFL just three years after taking over the reins of a program that had a single league win from 2013-17.

Abell becomes the first PFL Coach of the Year since Tripp Merritt earned his peers praise in 2006. In three short seasons, Abell has already jumped into a tie for ninth in all-time wins with 18.

“The Coach of the Year Award represents our entire staff, team and program. It is truly a team and program award,” said Abell. “I am blessed to be surrounded by so many talented and dedicated people.”

Davidson football showed their depth with 11 players named to the All-Pioneer Football League Team and another nine given honorable mentions, announced by the conference Tuesday.  

Four Wildcats headline the PFL All-Conference first team, while another seven landed on the second team. It is the most players named all-conference since Davidson joined the PFL in 2001 – the 2006 squad had nine selections.

“I’m excited to see so many of our players represented on one of the All-PFL teams,” said head coach Scott Abell. “This speaks volumes about our roster and our team.”

The dynamic Davidson duo in the backfield, sophomore Dylan Sparks and Coy Williams, junior offensive lineman Khalil Miller and classmate linebacker Jake Alexander earned the squads four first team nods. All four are first-time all-conference honorees.

Sparks and Williams were a one-two punch, combining to score 11 touchdowns. Sparks led the team with 574 yards on the ground, while Williams tallied 521. Miller helped solidify the nation’s top-ranked rushing attack as Davidson averaged 280.0 yards-per-game on the ground, the statistical champions for the second time in three years under PFL Coach of the Year Scott Abell.

Alexander helped prove the ‘Cats 2019 defensive resurgence was not a fluke. The Belmont, N.C., native recorded 40 tackles, 4.0 for loss, a sack, and forced a fumble. 

It is no surprise the second team featured three of Miller’s line mates; seniors Will Berkey and Gordon Sandorf and junior Cole Foley. Junior tight end Jackson Sherrard was the final offensive player recognized. Sherrard caught his first touchdown of the season on the biggest stage at Jacksonville State in the FCS Playoffs.

The PFL Defensive Freshman of the Year Jonathan Hammond and senior cornerback Jaylon Bolden also made the second team. Hammond was disruptive in his first season under defensive coordinator Jon Berlin, forcing three turnovers, recovering two more, to go along with 22 tackles, 9.5 for loss, and 4.0 sacks.

Bolden’s move from wide receiver to defensive back in 2019 was completely validated this spring with his addition to the All-PFL Team. The Rowlett, Texas, product was a problem for opposing quarterbacks, recording a pair of interceptions and eight passes defended. He also recorded 39 tackles and blocked a kick.  

Sophomore kicker Caden Bonoffski made the second-team with an ice-in-his-veins type season. Bonoffski kicked a career-long 48-yard field goal at Stetson and two weeks later beat Morehead State with a game-winning kick from 32 yards out. He was six of seven on field goals attempts and converted 21 of 24 extra points.

Nine more Wildcats were named honorable mention including three more defenders; senior defensive end James Boyle, junior linebacker Jalen Jeffersonand sophomore corner back Kaedon Jenkins. Offensively senior Tate Kipperman made it a sweep across the offensive line, while classmate quarterback Tyler Phelps, junior wide receiver Jalen Staples, slot receivers Eli Turner Jr. and Mark McCurdy and junior punter Evan Pritchard wrapped up a strong contingent of Davidson players recognized by the league.

The Academic All-PFL is set to be released Wednesday, Apr. 28.

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