Following the 2012 Henderson State Reddies football season – the program’s first unbeaten and untied regular season – the team has emerged as the unanimous favorite following a vote of the Great American Conference’s head football coaches the league office announced Monday.
The Reddies return 11 All-GAC selections from 2012, including eight on offense. That offense led Division II in scoring last season by averaging 50.4 points per game and it became the first school in four years to average at least 50 points per game. Quarterback Kevin Rodgers returns for his junior season. He earned GAC Offensive Player of the Year and became a Harlon Hill finalist after he threw for 4,002 yards and 41 touchdowns. His top target, Robert Jordan, leads a talented receiving corp. Jordan racked up 1,074 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. He added two touchdowns off of punt returns. Two-time First-Team All-GAC linebacker Keaton Stigger returns to head up the Reddie defense.
Southern Arkansas took second in the poll. The Muleriders went 8-3 in 2012 and earned a trip to the C.H.A.M.P.S. Heart of Texas Bowl. SAU’s backfield of quarterback Tyler Sykora and running back Mark Johnson lead the 18 returning starters back for the Muleriders. Sykora threw for 3,393 yards and 31 touchdowns while Johnson led the GAC in rushing for a second-straight season. He rushed for 1,124 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in 2012. The SAU defense brings back its top three linebackers – Sam Cowling, Tate Mustin and Mark Spaight.
Harding narrowly placed third to the Muleriders. The Bisons earned their first-ever berth to the Division II playoffs following a 9-1 regular season. The Bisons return a bulk of their offense that averaged over 33 points per game in 2012. All-American fullback Romo Westbrook averaged 6.0 yards per carry and Second-Team All-GAC wide receiver Donatella Luckett totaled nine touchdowns. The Bisons bring back four offensive linemen from a unit that ranked fourth in the nation in rushing yards per game, 320.55.
Ouachita Baptist took fourth in the poll, followed by East Central. Ouachita Baptist opened 2012 with six-straight wins and climbed as high as No. 10 in the AFCA Coaches Poll. The Tigers’ Chris Rycraw rushed for 990 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. Benson Jordan and Ty Towers combined to throw for more than 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. East Central closed 2012 with three-straight wins to finish with a 6-5 record. A pair of ECU defensive players, Fred Gaines and Qumain Black earned Preseason All-America honors. Gaines led the GAC with seven interceptions in 2012 and Black totaled 51 tackles and three interceptions.
Southeastern Oklahoma State finished sixth in the voting while Southwestern Oklahoma State came in seventh. Arkansas Tech took eighth, followed by Arkansas-Monticello. The Wonder Boys made a coaching change in the offseason as Raymond Monica took over for Steve Mullins. Monica led Kutztown to the Division II playoffs in 2010 and 2011 and its first-ever Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference championship in 2011.
Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southern Nazarene rounded out the poll.
The 2013 GAC football season opens on Thursday, September 5 with a trio of games – Harding at Southwestern Oklahoma State, Southern Arkansas at Southeastern Oklahoma State and Arkansas Tech at Northwestern Oklahoma State. On Saturday, September 7, East Central hosts Arkansas-Monticello and Henderson State welcomes in Southern Nazarene.
OBU Tigers Return Veteran Starters for 2013
After a strong start to the 2012 season, the Tigers finished fourth with a record of 6-4 overall and 4-4 in conference play. Ouachita returns 45 lettermen this season including 10 starters on a defense that ranked third in total defense last year. Six offensive starters return to a squad that ranked second in the conference in red zone efficiency.
2012 All-GAC First Team running back Chris Rycraw returns for his senior year and looks to power the Tiger rushing attack that finished third in the GAC last season. Rycraw, the second all-time leading rusher in the GAC, finished 2012 with 990 rushing yards on 199 attempts and eight rushing touchdowns. He finished fourth in all-purpose yards with a 113.7 yard per game average.
Junior quarterback Benson Jordan will lead a Tiger passing attack that ranked third in the conference in passing efficiency. He finished 2012 with a 61.8 completion percentage, finding the end zone 10 times through the air. Likely targets Drew White and Jalen Jones combined for 81 catches for 870 yards and four touchdowns.
Jordan will be protected by an offensive line that gave up only seven sacks last year, second best in the GAC, and powered the Tiger offense to an average of 23.2 first downs per game.
A trio of senior linebackers returns in 2013. Jackson Guerra led the Tigers in tackles in 2012 and received All-GAC honorable mention honors. Rickey Brown and Augustine Ume-Ezeoke join Guerra to anchor a rushing defense that held opposing rushers to 145.6 yards per game, fourth best in the conference.
Defensive end Antwoin Patterson finished 2012 with 69 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss. He ranked third in the conference with three forced fumbles. The senior is the GAC career leader in forced fumbles with seven.
Senior cornerback Etauj Allen looks to improve on his All-GAC Second Team performance in 2012. He will lead a stingy Tiger secondary that gave up only nine passing touchdowns in 2012, best in the GAC. Allen also finished second in the conference in punt returns with a 13-yard-per-return average, highlighted by a 73-yard touchdown return.
The Tigers kick off the season Sept. 14 at Southern Nazarene. The first home game will be against Southeastern Oklahoma State on Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. The Tigers will finish the regular season against preseason favorite Henderson State on Nov. 16 at A.U. Williams Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Henderson State Reddies Make National Coaches Poll
With eight different preseason All-American selections and nine starters returning on offense, Henderson State is ranked 13th in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25 preseason poll.
The Reddies went undefeated in the regular-season in 2012 and ended the year ranked No. 11 in the AFCA Top 25 after their loss to Missouri Western in the playoffs.
In 2012, the Henderson offense led all of Division II in scoring (50.4 points per game) and was third in total yards (516.8 yards per game) and passing yards (377.6).
The Reddies are also ranked No. 9 in Lindy’s Preseason Top 25 poll and No. 16 by the Sporting News.
Henderson State will open the season on September 7 when the Reddies play host to Southern Nazarene at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium with kickoff slated for 6 p.m.
2013 American Football Coaches Association Preseason Division II Coaches’ Poll – August 19, 2013
Rank School (1st votes) Rec. Pts.
1. Valdosta St. (Ga.) (26) 12-2 766
2. Minnesota St.-Mankato (3) 13-1 726
3. West Texas A&M (1) 12-3 707
4. Northwest Missouri St. (1) 10-3 616
5. Winston-Salem St. (N.C.) 14-1 599
6. Missouri Western St. 12-2 586
7. Shippensburg (Pa.) 11-2 559
8. Colorado St.-Pueblo 12-1 522
9. Ashland (Ohio) 11-1 506
10. Indiana (Pa.) (1) 12-2 416
11. Minnesota-Duluth 10-2 410
12. New Haven (Conn.) 10-1 407
13. Henderson St. (Ark.) 10-1 371
14. Grand Valley St. (Mich.) 8-3 361
15. Midwestern St. (Texas) 9-2 319
16. West Alabama 9-4 297
17. Carson-Newman (Tenn.) 9-3 290
18. Bloomsburg (Pa.) 10-2 227
19. Indianapolis (Ind.) 10-3 212
20. Chadron St. (Neb.) 9-3 195
21. Pittsburg St. (Kan.) 7-3 165
22. Saginaw Valley St. (Mich.) 8-3 141
23. Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) 9-3 140
24. Tuskegee (Ala.) 10-2 124
25. Shepherd (W.Va.) 8-3 108
Others Receiving Votes: Harding (Ark.), 106; Winona St. (Minn.), 77; Albany St. (Ga.), 51; North Alabama, 39; Michigan Tech, 38; Central Washington, 34; Central Missouri, 31; St. Cloud State (Minn.), 30; Delta St. (Miss.), 26; American International (Mass.), 21; Charleston (W.Va.), 21; Ferris St. (Mich.), 21; Emporia St. (Kan.), 20; West Chester (Pa.), 20; Hillsdale (Mich.), 14; Miles (Ala.), 14; Colorado School of Mines, 11; Elizabeth City St. (N.C.), 11; Mercyhurst (Pa.), 11; Washburn (Kan.), 8; Ohio Dominican, 6; Fort Valley St. (Ga.), 4; Tarleton St. (Texas), 3; California (Pa.), 2; Missouri S&T, 2; New Mexico Highlands, 2; North Carolina-Pembroke, 2; Southern Arkansas, 2; Texas A&M-Kingsville, 2; Wayne St. (Mich.), 1.