STEPHENVILLE – First-team selections Jeff Thomas and Tyrell Thompson highlighted the postseason honors for Tarleton when the Lone Star Conference announced its postseason award winners Friday afternoon.
“I’m just so proud of each one of these guys,” said head coach Todd Whitten. “They fought hard all season long. We have more men represented in the first and second teams this year than we did a year ago, so I think that shows that this program is headed in the right direction. I’m looking forward to getting the opportunity to coach these guys one more time (in the Corsicana Bowl on Dec. 2).”
Thomas and Thompson highlighted the Texan honors with first-team selections.
A senior wide receiver from Duncanville, Thomas played in all 11 games for the Texans and led the team in receptions (53), receiving yards (788), and receiving touchdowns (6). He was top-5 in LSC in receiving yards per game (71.6), receptions, receiving yards, and receptions per game (4.8). Meanwhile on the defensive side of the ball, Thompson shined in his debut season for the purple and white as the Copperas Cove native finished the regular season fourth on the team in total tackles (55) and second on the team in tackles for a loss (9.0). He also led the team and was top-10 in the LSC in sacks (4.5 while adding seven quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles, two of which were returned for touchdowns by a teammate.
Tarleton had seven players named to the league’s second team, which is over double the amount of second-team selections from a year ago. Del’Michael High, Xavier Turner, and Daniel McCants took home honors on the offensive side while Chase Varnado, Basil Jackson, Devin Hafford, and Ron Reid earn defensive acclaim.
High, a senior receiver from Mesquite, finished the season with 47 catches for 681 yards and six touchdowns to tie Thomas for the team lead. He boasted two 100-yard receiving games for Tarleton, including a season-high 121 yards on nine catches at Western New Mexico.
Turner, a junior from North Richland Hills, was a two-time LSC Offensive Player of the Week selection in his debut season at Tarleton. He led the team in carries (132), rushing yards (642), and rushing touchdowns (10) and had 30 receptions out of the backfield for 169 yards and a touchdown. He had two 100-yard rushing performances, including a career high of 145 yards on the road at No. 4 Midwestern State and a pair of three-touchdown performances. He also became the second player in school history to pass, rush, and catch a touchdown in the same game, which he did at Midwestern State.
McCants, a sophomore running back from Killeen, earned his award for his efforts in the kick return game for Tarleton where he had four games with at least 100 kick return yards. McCants was tied for the national lead in kickoff return touchdowns (2) and had a season-high return of 92 yards for a touchdown at Western New Mexico on Oct. 7. For the season, he averaged 29.7 yards per kickoff with 623 total kickoff return yards on 21 returns and had 57 rushes for 287 yards and two touchdowns on offense.
Varnado, a senior defensive end from Stephenville, played in all 11 games for Tarleton and finished fifth on the team and second among defensive linemen in total tackles with 54. He had 6.0 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks on the season. He had a season-high nine tackles against Eastern New Mexico and ran back a 40-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown to help Tarleton defeat Angelo State on Sept. 16.
Jackson, a senior from Arlington, played in nine games for Tarleton and spent the entire season among the top five in the nation in tackles per game before finishing the regular season at No. 4 with 11.9 tackles per game. Jackson was the Lone Star Conference leader in tackles per game (11.9) with 107 total tackles, including 55 solo stops, 52 assisted tackles. He also had 10.0 tackles for a loss of 37 yards and 3.5 sacks, including a crucial fourth-down sack at Texas A&M-Kingsville to lead the Texans to victory. He also had two pass breakups, six quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Hafford, a sophomore cornerback from Atascocita, took big steps in his sophomore season as he developed into Tarleton’s top corner back. He played in all 11 games and led the team in passes defended (16) and pass breakups (14) while also nabbing two interceptions. He also led the Lone Star Conference in passes defended and was second in the LSC in passes defended per game (1.45). Hafford was second on the team in tackles (73), including 54 solo stops and in the top 15 in LSC in tackles per game (6.6). His 16 passes defended also had him among the nation’s top 20.
Reid, a junior punter from Burleson, was a two-time player of the week – one from the LSC and one from D2Football.com – this season. He was among the top 15 in the nation and No. 2 in LSC in punting average (41.5). He pinned at least one punt inside the 20 in all 11 games this season, including three against West Texas A&M on Sept. 23 He averaged 41.5 yards per punt with 2,613 total yards on 63 boots.
Tarleton had five players recognized among the honorable mention team, including three offensive players and two defensive.
Center Noah Perez, quarterback Zed Woerner, and tight end Brant Bailey were honorable mention honorees after leading the Tarleton offensive unit to 29.8 points per game on 364.6 yards per contest. Woerner threw for 2,213 yards and 20 touchdowns while Bailey caught four passes for 46 yards.
Defensively, Jackson Burrell and Andrew Blackshire were named honorable mention all-conference for the first time in their careers. Burrell made 36 tackles and had two interceptions while Blackshire finished third on the team in total tackles with 58 and was tied for the league lead with three interceptions.
Rounding out the awards was senior QB Zed Woerner, who was named Academic All-Conference for the third consecutive season. To qualify for all-conference, players must maintain a 3.30 grade point average, have competed in 50 percent of the team’s contests, and reached sophomore status. The all-academic team is voted on by sports information directors from across the Lone Star Conference.
Tarleton will have one more opportunity to don the purple and white this season as the Texans received an invitation to compete in the Corsicana Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 2. Tickets for the Corsicana Bowl are on sale now in the Tarleton Ticket Office.