NSU’s Eppler, Nicholls’ Laiche, LU’s Giffen garner Southland weekly honors

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Eppler, Laiche continue to rewrite record books; Giffen nails pair of 50-yarders

FRISCO, Texas – Northwestern State’s Shelton Eppler, Nicholls’ Sully Laiche and Lamar’s Bailey Giffen are the Southland Football Players of the Week, the league announced Monday.

Eppler picks up his first Offensive Player of the Week recognition after completing 26 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-28 upset of first-place Sam Houston State. It marked his fifth 300-yard passing performance and, with his first career rushing touchdown, his sixth game this season with three total touchdowns. Winners of three of their last four, the Demons (3-8, 3-5 SLC) close the season against Stephen F. Austin at 6 p.m. CT Thursday.

After practicing just one day last week while battling the flu, Laiche channeled his inner Michael Jordan and put up one of his finest performances with a pair of sacks, four tackles for loss and a forced fumble in a 34-20 victory over McNeese. The Colonels (7-4, 6-2 SLC) limited the Cowboys to just 34 yars on the ground and 236 yards of total offense. With the conference’s automatic bid on the line, Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana square off at 6 p.m. Thursday.

A junior kicker, Giffen is the Special Teams Player of the Week after accounting for 14 points in a 31-26 loss to Houston Baptist on Saturday. Two of his four made field goals were from 50+ yards and he converted both of his extra-point attempts. The Cardinals (4-7, 2-6 SLC) close out the regular season with the 38th edition of the Battle of the Border game against McNeese at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Offensive Player of the Week: Shelton Eppler, Northwestern State – Sr. – Quarterback – Navasota, Texas
Trailing 28-24 in the third quarter against the Bearkats, Eppler punched it in from five-yards out for the game-winning score and his first career rushing touchdown. Through the air, he posted his fifth 300-yard game of the season, connecting with Kendrick Price for a 67-yard scoring strike and Quan Shorts on a one-yard touchdown.

Eppler walked off the field of the penultimate game of his Demon career as the program leader in single-season total offense (3,309) and the first 3,000 yard passer in school history (3,254), upping his tally of game, season or career records to 14.

Honorable Mention: Dai’Jean Dixon, Nicholls; Jerreth Sterns, Houston Baptist; Chason Virgil, Southeastern Louisiana; Donovan Williams, Sam Houston State.

Defensive Player of the Week: Sully Laiche, Nicholls – Sr. – Defensive Lineman – Gramercy, La.
Laiche made his presence known early, recording his first tackle for loss on McNeese’s second play from scrimmage with a stop of running back Justin Pratt in the backfield. By halftime, he had tallied the first of two sacks and three tackles for loss. Laiche’s second sack came on the Cowboys’ final series of the game as his strip sack set up fourth-and-14.

Over his last four games, Laiche has 29 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, seven sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. With 35.5 career sacks, he is the active FCS leader and ranks fourth in Southland Conference history.

Honorable Mention: Shemar Bartholomew, Northwestern State; T.J. Campbell, Central Arkansas; Daniel Crosley, Lamar; Tre’ Spann, Southeastern Louisiana.

Special Teams Player of the Week: Bailey Giffen, Lamar – Jr. – Kicker – Bryan, Texas
Giffen got Lamar on the board with a 51-yard boot through the uprights and made it a one-score game just before halftime with a career-long 53-yarder. He matched the conference-high for field goals made (four) and his 53-yard conversion was just one-yard shy of HBU kicker Gino Garcia’s 54-yard kick back in September.

Honorable Mention: Gavin Lasseigne, Nicholls; Matt McRobert, Sam Houston State; Hayden Ray, Central Arkansas.

Southland weekly award winners are nominated and voted upon by each school’s sports information director. Voting for one’s own athlete is not permitted. To earn honorable mention, a student-athlete must appear on 25 percent of ballots.

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