Montana Tech and Montana Western took home the top awards when the All-Frontier Conference football team was released today.
Saraceni, a junior running back at Montana Tech, received the Offensive Player of the Year award. Wilson, a senior linebacker at Montana Western, was named the top defensive player.
Oredigger coach Chuck Morrell was named Coach of the Year for the second time after guiding Montana Tech to the Frontier Conference title.
The Orediggers will leave Friday for Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a NAIA national quarterfinal playoff game against Saint Francis.
In all, 10 Orediggers and 10 Bulldogs received post-season honors. 2015 All-Frontier Conference Team
Through Saturday’s playoff win over Dickinson State, Saraceni has run for 1,620 yard and 18 touchdowns. He is 177 yards shy of Don Heater’s school record for single-season rushing yards.
Heater ran for 1,797 yards as the Orediggers went 8-3 in 1971.
Saraceni, the league’s nominee for NAIA Player of the Year, put up the big-time stats despite sitting out one game with an injury.
“That’s an incredible feat,” Morrell said. “Don Heater’s name around here stands at legendary status. It’s one of the most iconic names in all of Oredigger football. To have Nolan in range of that is certainly an accomplishment. It’s a testament to our offensive line and what we’ve had to do to be successful this year.”
Saraceni’s biggest game came when he rushed for 273 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown run, at Carroll College. He was held out most of the fourth quarter in Tech’s 42-7 win.
Wilson registered a team-leading 73 tackles for the Bulldogs, who finished the season at 7-3. That includes nine tackles for a loss. He also recorded three and a half sacks, four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Wilson scored three defensive touchdowns in one game as the Bulldogs opened the season with a 49-6 win at Rocky Mountain College.
“I’m super excited for A.J.,” Western coach B.J. Robertson said. “All along he has been a guy who’s such a student of the game. He represents the program so well on and off the field.”
Morrell also won the Coach of the Year award during the Orediggers 2012 Frontier Conference championship season. The coach deflected the credit to his assistants.
“I really challenged those guys in the off-season and they really stepped their game up,” Morrell said of his assistants. “You look at the balance between our offense, defense and special teams. We’re well balanced, and that’s certainly a testament to what those guys have done. There is no way that type of thing is possible without their efforts.”
Joining Saraceni with first-team selections are sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Sanders and senior linebacker David Meis.
Tech put seven players on the second team. They are receiver Clay Cavender, offensive lineman Ryan Stemple, defensive lineman Jacob Crawford, defensive back DeAngelo Bell, punter Derrick Holt, kicker Matt Berg and punt returner Alec Bray.
Stemple is a junior, while the rest of the second-team selections are seniors.
Wilson was one of four Bulldogs to make the first team, and all were on the defensive side of the ball.
Junior defensive lineman Reno Ward made the team along with senior linebacker Joe Coker and junior linebacker T.J. Benson.
Making the second team from Western were junior running back Sam Rutherford, junior tight end Matt Lickfold, senior offensive linemen Will Thacker and Caleb Degroot, sophomore defensive lineman Tyrell Penner and senior linebacker Dakota Wainwright.
Carroll College, which finished the season with a disappointing 4-6 record, placed six players on the All-Frontier team. Three of the selections were first-team.
Senior offensive linemen Josh James and Ryan Armstrong made the first team for Carroll, along with senior defensive back James Dowgin.
Senior linebackers Shan Durban and Dawson Osborn made the second team. So did junior defensive back Ryan Gregory.
Teams were selected by a vote of league coaches.