League Champion WNEU Dominates 2016 NEFC
All-Conference Teams and Special Awards
Western New England University won the 52nd and final New England Football Conference championship in 2016, but the NEFC All-Conference teams and Special Award winners in balloting conducted by the NEFC coaches were split fairly evenly between the Golden Bears and Conference runner-up Salve Regina University. The Seahawks and WNE each captured two of the eight special awards and placed a total of 28 players on either the first or second teams.
Leading the way is NEFC Offensive Player of the Year Sam Pascale. The senior running back from Cheshire, Conn., led the NEFC in rushing with 147 yards per game and tied for the Conference high with 17 touchdowns.
The Defensive Player of the Year is junior defensive lineman Sam Edouard of Western New England University. The Roosevelt, N.Y., native averaged 4.2 tackles per game and had four tackles for losses.
Pascale and Edouard lead a list of 60 players selected to the All-Conference teams. All eight of the NEFC institutions are represented on the teams.
Salve Regina offensive center Nico Aronson was named the Lineman of the Year. The junior from Wayne, N.J., paved the way for the Seahawks to lead the league in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense. Salve Regina allowed only two quarterback sacks all season.
Endicott’s Jesse Simoni, a defensive back from East Greenbush, N.Y., has been named the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and Coast Guard Academy wide receiver Darius Adams was the pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Simoni was a three-time NEFC Defensive Rookie of the Week in 2016 and averaged 3.5 tackles per game with three interceptions in 10 games as a freshman. Nassau, Bahamas, native Adams had never played football before this, his junior year at the Academy. Adams had 47 receptions for 1,054 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016.
Western New England mentor Keith Emery has been selected by his peers as Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. The twelfth year head coach led WNE to its third NEFC crown, the first coming in 2011 when he was selected as the Boyd Division Coach of the Year. Emery has a 77-45 (.631) record with the Golden Bears, including this year’s 10-0 mark.
The Hal Chalmers Senior Scholar Athlete Award was won by Maine Maritime Academy defensive end Robert Bradley, Jr. An International Business and Logistics major, Bradley was recently named to the Academic All-District first team and now appears on the national Academic All-America ballot. Bradley is from Slidell, La.
Endicott linebacker Christian Martinez from Tariffville, Conn., was the recipient of the Senior Achievement and Perseverance Award. Martinez fought back from an injury that sidelined him his entire junior year and endured a position change to become a starting linebacker as a senior.