Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

EWU's Tiuli lands Big Sky's top defender honor


November 29, 2018

In a program generally known for its offense, the Big Sky Conference spotlight this year shines on Eastern Washington University, particularly Jay-Tee Tiuli.

The senior nose tackle was named as the league’s Defensive MVP Nov. 20 as the 2018 All-Conference selections were announced. The Federal Way High School grad is among the 21 EWU players recognized.

The 6-foot, 4-inch, 320-pound Tiuli, was joined by 15 other Eastern seniors to be honored, including two-way first-team All-Big Sky performer Roldan Alcobendas as both a kicker and punter. Senior wide receiver Nsimba Webster and senior defensive end Keenan Williams, a Cheney High grad, joined Tiuli and Alcobendas as first-team performers.

“The league has spoken by naming him as the defensive MVP, and they certainly saw what we see every day at practice,” head coach Aaron Best said.

Tiuli is just the fourth Eagle to earn player of the year honors on that side of the ball, joining J.C. Sherritt (2010), Joey Cwik (2005), Chris Scott (1997) and Jason Marsh (1993).

“We’re very proud of these players, and it is very team driven,” Best said. “When you do well as a team on a particular side of the ball it’s noticed by the league’s coaches. We had an outstanding season in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — and the all-league team reflects that.”

Six players earned second-team accolades, including senior center Spencer Blackburn for the third-straight year. Junior offensive tackle Chris Schlichting, senior offensive guard Kaleb Levao, running back Sam McPherson, senior linebacker Ketner Kupp, senior cornerback Josh Lewis and freshman redshirt defensive end Mitchell Johnson were also second teamers.

On the third team were senior offensive tackle Beau Byus, senior offensive guard Jack Hunter, sophomore quarterback Eric Barriere, senior safety Mitch Fettig, senior tight end Henderson Belk as a fullback and senior long snapper Curtis Billen as a special teams player.

Four Eagles received honorable mention – junior running back Antoine Custer Jr., junior defensive tackle Dylan Ledbetter, senior cornerback D’londo Tucker and senior cornerback/nickel back Nzuzi Webster, who was recognized by the league at safety.

Big Sky Special Awards:

Offensive Player of the Year:

Jake Maier, UC Davis

Defensive Player of the Year:

Jay-Tee Tiuli, Eastern Washington

Freshman of the Year:

Josh Davis, Weber State

Newcomer of the Year:

Dalton Sneed, Montana

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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