FLORENCE, Ala. – Senior quarterback Raleigh Yeldell finished ninth in Harlon Hill Trophy voting as Newberry's first-ever finalist for the Division II Player of the Year award, which was won by quarterback Justin Dvorak of Colorado School of Mines.
Yeldell was one of two players from Super Region 2 to advance onto the national ballot from an initial pool of 43 nominees from around the country. He became the first player in school history to be a finalist for the prestigious honor and the third-ever nominee from Newberry following running back Vic Gilmore in 1998 and quarterback Josh Stepp in 2006.
The 171 Sports Information Directors of football-sponsoring Division II institutions voted to select Dvorak as the 31st winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy from nine finalists – two each from Super Regions 1 through 3 and three finalists from Super Region 4 due to a tie in regional voting. Each voter cast a ballot with a first-, second-, and third-place student-athlete selected
Yeldell received one first-place vote and appeared on five ballots overall to receive nine total points.
Dvorak will receive the trophy and be honored at a luncheon on the campus of the University of North Alabama on Jan. 6, 2017. He appeared on all but 20 of the 95 ballots cast and was voted first on 51 percent of them, racking up 185 total points. Northwest Missouri State's Kyle Zimmerman finished second with 113 total points and 15 first-place votes, while North Alabama's Jacob Tucker's 86 points and 10 first-place votes placed him third. Zimmerman's Bearcats and Tucker's Lions will square off in the national championship game tomorrow in Kansas City.
Yeldell has a South Atlantic Conference Offensive Player of the Year award, a first team all-SAC nod, four SAC Offensive Player of the Week honors, and one Eastern College Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week awards to his credit this season. The senior played a major role in Newberry’s conference championship, sparkling 7-0 league mark and 10-2 overall record, and No. 2 seed in the 2016 Division II Football Championship.
Under his guidance, the Newberry offense established school records with 5,462 yards of total offense, 3,536 passing yards, 61 total touchdowns, and 436 points scored. The Wolves tied a school record with 10 consecutive wins, have extended their still-active school-record streak for consecutive conference victories to 10, and earned the highest playoff seed in school history.
Yeldell had arguably the best season by any offensive player to wear the scarlet and gray in 2016. He led the nation with a 70.3 percent completion rate, connecting on 260 of his 370 passes for a school-record 3,087 yards and 27 touchdowns. He added 331 yards and six scores on the ground to set a Newberry record and finish eighth in SAC history with 3,418 yards of total offense and 33 touchdowns accounted for.
He also accumulated gaudy career totals, becoming the only Newberry player to pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 1,500 in a career. He finished the season second all-time at Newberry with 11 250-yard passing games, third in total offense with 7,026 yards, third with 47 passing touchdowns, and fourth in career passing yardage at 5,499. He threw at least one touchdown in every game this season, became the first quarterback in school history to throw at least four touchdown passes in a game to different receivers, and has three of the top five passing games in school history. The Wolves have won 17 of the 21 games he started under center over the last three seasons.
In addition to rewriting the Newberry record books, Yeldell ranked among the national and conference leaders in a cornucopia of statistical categories. He topped the SAC in 11 categories and ranked inside the top 21 in Division II in nine, including finishing fifth with 26.0 completions per game, sixth with 308.7 passing yards per game and eighth with 341.8 total yards per game.
Yeldell helped the Wolves to a school-record 729 yards of total offense against Lenoir-Rhyne, one of six games in 2016 that saw Newberry roll up at least 450 yards of offense. He was one of nine Wolves’ offensive players named to all-conference teams, including three all-SAC wide receivers and six total first team offense selections.
Former Mars Hill running back Jonas Randolph became the South Atlantic Conference's only Harlon Hill Trophy winner in 2011.
2016 Harlon Hill Trophy Voting
- Justin Dvorak - Colorado School of Mines QB (185)
- Kyle Zimmerman - Northwest Missouri State QB (113)
- Jacob Tucker - North Alabama QB (86)
- Trey Heid - Augustana (S.D.) QB (47)
- Marty Carter - Grand Valley State (Mich.) RB (45)
- Garry Brown - California (Pa.) WR (35)
- Jeff Ziemba - Shepherd (W.Va.) QB (32)
- Austin Ekeler - Western State (Colo.) RB (18)
- Raleigh Yeldell - Newberry (S.C.) QB (9)