This is my next to last post of the season, well actually in regards to this team specifically, it will be my last post. I will not do a post mortem write up for the Ferris State game, mainly because a lot of the key players in that game will not be with us next year. A bittersweet way to go out, first time back in the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2 decades, and from the looks of things, HC Carthel is primed to really take us to the next level, back to national title contention. So today my post is going to cover three things, MVP’s and a new set of awards for outgoing Seniors, so lets get to it.
Overall, this season was better than last. We beat Angelo State twice, Midwestern when they were ranked higher than we were, shut out Tarleton to take the President’s cup for the third straight year, beat up West Texas in Canyon, and have 4 straight Chennault Cup wins over the Hoggies down in Kingsville. The quality of the wins and even of the losses were much better and what made a difference was the ability to run the ball effectively and throw it efficiently. Niether one of those would have been able to have been done without a strong offensive line that whipped tail all year long and provided great protection and opened great holes for the backs, and D-Linemen who got after it and came after the opposition on every snap. Next year looks very bright with a lot of the offense and defense coming back. The high point was doubling up to beat Angelo State, and the low point was losing to Midwestern in the tournament Championship game, but this season created a lot of memories for these Seniors going out. So here are your Prairie Lion Nation Football Awards for the 2015 season.
Team MVP: The Lion backfield, Richard Cooper and Theo Wofford. In the entire makeup of the team, these two guys provided themselves to be so invaluable. They returned kickoffs, churned out yards, burned clock, wore defenses down, kept our defense fresh, took the load off Harrison Stewart and the WR’s to do everything, and kept good opposing offenses on the sidelines. They did everything you could ask for and really without these two guys, there would have been some tough things to overcome. When I look at what the team as a whole was able to accomplish, these two guys played a hand in some form or fashion in just about every bit of success that was had by this team. Running, blocking, just doing everything they could do for the team. Theo, we will miss you dearly sir, and Cooper, we cannot wait for next year to see how you will cap off your career.
Offensive MVP: Lance Evans. The kid was a total home run threat and also made some just amazing catches and was also a great possession receiver. He matured a ton in just one season from a back up last year to Vernon Johnson to becoming, along with Darby Smith, a fantastic WR. Lance is a sound fundamental player and made some fantastic plays. He was the main target for the QB’s this year and was defended by some very tough DB’s across the nation and still produced almost a thousand yards receiving with 50 catches and 8 touchdowns. He led the WR core in every stat, and with some great WR’s on this team, that is saying something.
Defensive MVP: Charles Woods. From the start to the end, Woods was the most productive, the most consistent, and a huge part of what made the defense such a good unit. His numbers are just outstanding. 120 total tackles, 60 unassisted, 60 assisted, 7.5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, 6 pass break ups, and first team all conference. I know, some of you may say Toni Pulu should have gotten this award, and there is a strong case for that, but from a numbers and productivity standpoint, I believe Woods makes the best case and when your name is called on the PA system a lot and you play linebacker, you are one heck of a linebacker.
Special Teams: Buck Wilson and Devarus Shores. There was no way I could pick only one of them. Buck Wilson is one of those guys that just has to wait to get the ball in his hands and gives the offense a short field to work with. He was outstanding as a return man this year and when teams started to kick it away from him or kick it to another deep back, who was usually equally as dangerous that says something. He was a huge part in getting us good field position. Shores was nothing short of spectacular as a defender. He blocked……..oh gosh I lost count of how many punts and PAT’s he blocked, not to mentioned forced fumbles, turnovers he caused and of course, the Angelo State game where he made a play that won the game for us and we did not know it until the game was over. Both of these guys were fantastic this year and deserve this award.
Now, as most know, our University Creed is “Ceaseless Industry, Fearless Investigation, Unfettered Thought, and Unselfish Service to Others.” So what I have created is a set of awards that will be given to Seniors only every years end who exhibted the characteristic in the creed of our University and what we were founded on. So, here they are.
Ceaseless: Ceaseless means “one who does not stop a particular action.” When I think of that, I think of Chase Thrasher. Thrasher has dedicated his entire collegiate career to learning to do a job over and over again, and that is to kick the football. Lets face it, the punter and place kicker is rarely, if ever the sexy position in Football, but when you have one that always responds to the call (think Dan Bailey of the Dallas Cowboys), you appreciate it. Chase was ceaseless in his actions in working to become in my opinion, the best punter and kickoff man in the conference. I believe he has the leg to get looked at to go to the next level. Well done Chase, we will miss you.
Fearless: There is one person that exhibits this characteristic, and that is Cole Pitts. Cole is an Alvin, Texas product who may not look like much, but that guy fears nothing. For 4 years I watched him run into and over many a runner, blocker and receiver. It is natural for smaller guys to try to run around or from huge guys, but not for this dude. I saw him take many an O Lineman head on and many a time took them for a ride. You cannot be ruled by fear in Football, and not in life, and Pitts feared nobody. This one is for the fearless one, Cole Pitts.
Unfettered: Unfettered is defined simply as “release from restraint or inhibition.” In other words, someone who just have one focus and keeps on keepin’ on. Toni Pulu. For every single game, Toni had his mind on one thing, make the life of the opposing quarterback a living hell. He had a job to do and that was to get after the backfield snap after snap, game after game. He did that and I believe he gets a shot at the NFL.
Unselfish: In sports, unselfish players are often the best teammates, but not the best players. This is different. Harrison Stewart will leave Commerce as one of the best passers to ever wear the Lion uniform, and he could have been the best. It did not take long for the coaching staff to realize that we had a strong running game, and I am sure Harrison was looking forward to chunking it 40-50 times a game for every game, but he did not putting up gaudy numbers due to the running play calls. Most coaches would have thought that having Harrison back there handing the ball off every other play was wasting him, but not this staff, and not this guy. He exhibited leadership, and sacrifice. He could have thrown for over 4,000 yards and thrown 40 touchdowns, but he was the ultimate team player. Gabe Rodriguez working in the truck package throwing and running for TD’s and of course Cooper and Theo doing their thing. He did not complain or act like he should be the start of the show. Stewart led, did his job, and when he was called on to make plays, he came through. Being unselfish is something that more people will remember you for than most anything else. Congrats on your memorable Season and Career Harrison, you earned it pal.
Side Note: Last year, I got to know and visit a lot with former Lion QB Deric Davis’s family, who were just awesome to me and I look forward to seeing double D playing in the Arena Leagues soon. I also got to know the Stewart family, his parents were two of the most gracious people I have met and to all of the parents who have thanked me for writing about their Sons, I thank you for giving me a reason to write. I will do one more write up, but it will be about the playoff structure and how I would fix it, but this is it for Lion Football 2015. Had another fun ride, and looking forward to next year.