Nicholls State, SLU top 25 FCS teams

Published 9:17 am Monday, June 8, 2020

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A pair of college football teams that combine to have three local players are in the 2020 Athlon Preseason Top 25 for FCS.

Nicholls State University and Southeastern University, both in the Southland Conference, are ranked 14th and 17th respectively.

SLU has two players from Washington Parish in redshirt senior fullback Damien Dawson and redshirt sophomore Brendon Kelley.

Dawson, a 2016 Franklinton High School graduate, has played in 32 career games with the Lions and made six catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. Dawson made the 2018 Southland Commissioner’s Fall Academic Honor Roll.

Kelley, who graduated from Pine in 2018, played in three games last season. Kelley was on the 2019 Southland Commissioner’s Fall Academic Honor Roll.

Southeastern went 8-5 last year. The Lions reached the second round of the playoffs, but lost to Montana, 73-28.

The Lions open the season on Sept. 3 with a road game against Tulane.

Nicholls State has one local player in 2015 Franklinton High School graduate P.J. Burkhalter.

Burkhalter has played in 39 career games.

Burkhalter was a 2018 All-Southland Conference Honorable Mention player.

Last season, he was the Southland Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year and was a first-team FCS all-America player by the Associated Press, STATS, Phil Steele and Walter Camp. Burkhalter was an All-Southland Conference and All-Louisiana first-team player. He was also a HERO Sports FCS All-America second-team player.

Burkhalter has also had a pair of preseason awards for the 2020 season.

He is an all-American HERO Sports first-team player, and most recently, he was selected to the Athlon Sports 2020 Preseason FCS All-America team.

Nicholls State posted a 9-5 record last year and captured its second-straight Southland Conference Title.

The Colonels made it to the second round of the playoffs, but lost to eventual national champion North Dakota State, 37-13.

The Colonels begin the 2020 season at home against Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 5.

The top 25 features four teams from the Southland Conference.

The other two are the University of Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State, which are 11th and 16th, respectively.

North Dakota State University tops the poll.