PITMAN, N.J. – The No. 21 Salisbury University football team has had a successful first season in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, winning the league co-championship and automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament. That success continued on Friday, when the conference released its all-conference football teams, and the Sea Gulls had 11 players named to the teams, while freshman Shane Gaines was named the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year and Head Coach Sherman Wood was named the Coach of the Year.
Wood has led the Sea Gulls to a 7-2 overall record, while going 7-1 in the NJAC to lead the team to its first NJAC championship and fifth-total conference championship. With the NJAC's automatic bid, Salisbury is making its 10th appearance in the NCAA tournament and seventh under the leadership of Wood.
Gaines has come on strong for the team in his first season in maroon and gold, currently ranking third with 54 total tackles. He has started at safety for the team since day one, averaging six tackles per game and sitting second on the Gulls with seven pass breakups. He has also notched a forced fumble and an interception on the year.
Canonico garnered the first-team fullback selection, as Salisbury's second-leading rusher with 746 yards on the season, which ranks sixth in the conference. As the team's starting super back, Canonico has averaged 82.9 yards per game on the ground and has scored eight touchdowns, good for second most on the team. He has set the tone for the Salisbury offense with runs up the middle of defenses all year, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, to go with a long of 51 yards.
Seifert is a key component for Salisbury's dominance in the trenches as one of the leaders on the defensive line. He has racked up 26 tackles for the Sea Gulls, including two for loss, while adding 1.5 sacks on the year. Seifert has also added a fumble recovery and a pass breakup on the year. The breakup came on a batted pass on the final defensive stand for Salisbury in the team's comeback win over Frostburg State University to clinch the NJAC title.
Steindl has stepped in as the starting punter for the Sea Gulls this season, seamlessly transitioning from All-American Kyle Hamby, to continue Salisbury's tradition of strong special teams. Steindl ranks second in the conference with an average of 38.5 yards per punt, while leading the league with a 36.6 net average. In 28 opportunities, Steindl has only had one touchback, while having seven kicks land inside opponents' 20-yard line. His long for the season is currently 56 yards.
The Sea Gulls landed three players on the all-conference second-team offense in seniors Jerome Johnson, Isaiah Taylor, and Kevin Perretta, while sophomore Alex Potocko was honored with a second-team special teams selection.
Johnson has led Salisbury's rushing attack this season, and is currently ranked fifth in the NJAC with 861 yards on the ground. He leads the Sea Gulls in every rushing category, while he averages 95.7 yards per game and 11.2 yards per carry. Johnson has found the end zone 10 times, while rushing for a long of 62 yards; his 10 scores sits third in the conference this season. This marks Johnson's second all-conference selection, as he was named to the All-Empire 8 Conference second-team offense in 2013.
Making his third appearance on an all-conference team, after earning All-Empire 8 honorable-mention selections in 2012 and 2013, Taylor is having one of the best years ever for a Salisbury wide receiver. Taylor currently leads the team and ranks fourth in the NJAC with 701 receiving yards, seven receiving touchdowns, and 77.9 receiving yards per game, earning him an All-NJAC second-team selection for offense. His yardage total is the highest since Chris Holston totaled 954 yards in 1986, while his touchdown total is the most since Holston caught eight in 1985. Taylor also currently ranks ninth in the country and first in the conference with a 23.4 yards-per-catch average. His 30 catches on the year is the most since Ryan Brooks caught 37 in 1996.
Perretta, earning his second all-conference selection after an All-Empire 8 honorable mention last season, returned for his senior year to lead the offensive line, as it blocked for the second-best rushing attack in the country. As the team's starting center, Perretta helps pave the way for a running game that averages 345.7 yards per game. The line has also allowed only .78 sacks per game, which is 11th in the nation.
Potocko earns his first all-conference selection after ranking seventh in the NJAC, scoring 7.3 points per game. He has made five-of-six field goals attempted this season, as his 83.3 field-goal percentage comes in at second in the NJAC. Potocko drove home a 36-yard field goal in Salisbury's 38-35 victory at Wesley College, which eventually set up the head-to-head advantage to give the Gulls the NJAC's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Salisbury rounded out the All-NJAC selections with four honorable mention players. Juniors Ryan Jones, Riley Cannon, and Justin Field made it on offense, while junior Shane Marvel earned a defensive spot.
Jones has stepped in as the Sea Gulls' starting quarterback and has enjoyed the most productive season as a passer since 2011. His passer efficiency currently sits second in the NJAC at 174.9, while he averages 181 yards of total offense per game, which ranks sixth in the league. So far in 2015, Jones has passed for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns, both of which are the most since Dan Griffin threw for 1,208 yards and 15 scores in 2011. Jones has also added 504 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, ranking third on the team; his rushing scores also sit at eighth in the NJAC.
Cannon and Field both start on the left side of the Sea Gulls' offensive line, with Field at tackle and Cannon at guard. The pair had paved the way all season for the Gulls' second-ranked rushing attack in the country, with the 345.7 yard-per-game clip.
Marvel had been the defensive leader in the middle, pacing the team with 64 tackles, including 30 solo, from his inside linebacker spot. He is averaging 7.1 tackles per game, ranking ninth in the conference, while he has added two and a half tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and one pass breakup.
The Sea Gulls now look forward to a first-round NCAA tournament matchup with No. 25 State University of New York at Cortland. Salisbury travels to the Red Dragons on Saturday, November 21 for a 12 p.m., kickoff.
To view the full All-NJAC release, click here.