This has been a tough season for Texas small college football teams according to the high standard they set every year. One year after having six teams make the playoffs across FCS, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III, this season saw that number cut in half.
One reason for the lower number of teams in the playoffs is injuries. Many coaches have told me that Sam Houston State is the most talented team in the country this year but every one of their scholarship quarterbacks was injured at one time this season.
Another reason is the outrageously ridiculous standards needed to make the D-III playoffs. Only five teams across the country earn at-large bids. Texas Lutheran made a surprise run at the American Southwest Conference title, but a season-opening slip cost the Bulldogs a playoff spot. Hardin-Simmons is another team that had playoff aspirations until a tough loss at home to TLU and a heartbreaking 43-yard field goal in the final seconds led to a defeat on the road against No. 1 Mary Hardin-Baylor.
There is enough talent among the small colleges that I could easily fill out four teams worth of players. However, having more than one team would lessen the exclusivity of this team. So, I must lose sleep thinking about all the outstanding players that did not make the team this year and feel free to debate amongst yourselves the players who deserved to receive mention.
I want to say a quick thank you to all the players, coaches, fans and fellow sportswriters I have met covering small colleges. It is an honor to share this passion with so many people. Most importantly, I want to thank every Sports Information Director at every school. Very few understand how overworked and underpaid you are and each and every one of you is amazing.
I have delayed long enough, so without further ado I present to you the second annual Small College All-Texas Team.
All-Texas Small College Team: Offense
QB: Bailey Zappe, Houston Baptist (Victoria East)
The junior from Victoria East High School showed amazing improvement this season as he led an offense that averaged 462.6 yards per game and led HBU to its most wins in program history. Zappe completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 3,811 yards with 35 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. The future is bright for both Zappe and the Huskies heading into next season.
RB: Daniel McCants, Tarleton (Killeen)
McCants took over as the starting running back this season and was huge in leading the Texans to their second consecutive undefeated regular season and outright Lone Star Conference title. The senior from Killeen, Texas gained 1,457 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns before an injury in the final game of the regular season sidelined him for the first round of the playoffs.
RB: Jaquan Hemphill, Hardin-Simmons (Coleman)
After having his junior season cut short due to injury, the All-American running back returned to have a fantastic senior season. The Coleman native gained 1,310 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns this season for the Cowboys. Hemphill averaged 6.9 yards per carry this season and finishes his brilliant career with 3,895 yards rushing and 46 touchdowns for HSU.
WR: Zimari Manning, Tarleton
Manning etched his name into the Texans record books this year after gaining 2,409 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns on 68 receptions. The 6-2, 200-pound senior set the program record for touchdowns and receiving yards in a season. Manning also finished the regular season leading all NCAA divisions in receiving touchdowns. The Long Beach, Calif. native’s next stop may be the NFL.
WR: Ben Ratzlaff, Houston Baptist
The Huskies struck gold when Ratzlaff transferred into the program prior to this season. The junior from San Diego, Calif. was dynamic for HBU as he gained 1,139 yards and 12 touchdowns on 87 receptions for the Huskies this season. Ratzlaff wasted little time becoming Bailey Zappe’s favorite target and had five games with over 100 yards receiving including four straight games early in the season.
TE: Jordan Johnson, West Texas A&M (Rice Consolidated)
One look at Johnson’s statistics from this season may lead to questions as to how he is on this team. All Johnson did this year was score touchdowns as he led the Buffs with 11 touchdowns and 68 points scored this season. The senior from Eagle Lake did most of his damage on the ground with eight rushing touchdowns while adding three receiving touchdowns and completed his only attempted pass for a touchdown.
OL: Amon Simon, Texas A&M-Commerce (Humble Atascocita)
Simon continues to add to his impressive resume as he earned LSC Offensive Lineman of the Year honors this season. The redshirt junior from Atascocita High School was the leader of an offensive line that averaged 409.1 yards per game this year including 178.5 yards rushing while leading the Lions to an impressive fifth consecutive NCAA Division II playoff appearance and fourth straight regional semifinal appearance.
OL: Steven Sellers, Mary Hardin-Baylor (Wylie)
Sellers has quickly become one of the top offensive linemen in NCAA Division III and was named American Southwest Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year for his efforts. The junior from Murphy led a UMHB offense that has averaged 404.6 yards per game including 201.1 rushing yards per game for the defending national champions.
OL: Colby Thomas, Sam Houston State (Manvel)
In a season filled with multiple injuries at different positions, Thomas was a mainstay on the Kats offensive line. The junior from Manvel High School has been a consistent starter for SHSU and was a first-team All-Southland Conference selection this season. Thomas led an offensive line that averaged 428 yards per game including 146.9 rushing yards. Thomas is one of many young starters that will return for the Kats next season.
OL: DeJohn Jones, Prairie View A&M (Garland Lakeview Centennial)
Jones has been a consistent force along the Panthers offensive line that has paved the way for one of the most dynamic offenses in the SWAC. The junior from Lakeview Centennial High School is the leader of an offensive line that has helped PVAMU average 485.5 yards including 207 rushing yards per game this season. Jones should be a first-team All-SWAC selection this season.
OL: Travis York, Texas Lutheran (Seguin)
The starting left tackle for the Bulldogs ended his final season in outstanding fashion as he earned first-team All-ASC honors for his play. The senior from Seguin, Texas was a key member of an offensive line that averaged 424.1 yards including 256.2 rushing yards per game and led TLU to its most wins since 2015. The Bulldogs finished with their highest finish since they joined the ASC in 2016.
PK: Storm Ruiz, Stephen F. Austin (Clear Springs)
Ruiz became known around Nacogdoches, Texas as “Mr. Automatic” as he made 21-of-26 field goal attempts including a career-long 54-yard field goal against rival Northwestern State in the final game of his collegiate career. The senior from Clear Springs High School was a first-team All-Southland Conference selection this year. Ruiz was also automatic following a touchdown as he made all 30 of his extra-point attempts.
KR: Dominique Ramsey, Texas A&M-Commerce (Converse Judson)
Known as one of the top punt returners in the country, Ramsey showed that he is also among the best at returning kickoffs as he averaged 37.5 yards on 11 returns this season. The redshirt junior from Converse Judson High School has consistently given the Lions outstanding field position. His exploits may not be over this season as the Lions hope he returns from injury to help the Lions during their playoff run.
All-Texas Small College Team: Defense
DL: Andre Walker, Houston Baptist
Walker had a brilliant senior season for the Huskies as he led all FCS with 15 sacks. The Slidell, La. native also accounted for 55 tackles, 28 solo, and 19.5 tackles for loss while forcing two fumbles. The four-year starter for the Huskies was named first-team All-Southland Conference this year. He has also been a two-time Academic All-Southland Conference selection and should earn his third selection this year.
DL: B.J. Jefferson, Tarleton (Houston Eisenhower)
A stellar season has led to multiple honors for the Texans defensive lineman. Jefferson was named the J.V. Sikes award winner as the Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The Acres Home native is a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year award. The senior finished tied for the lead in DII with 25.5 tackles for loss. He also recorded 95 tackles, 41 solo, and eight sacks this year.
DL: Joey Longoria, Mary Hardin-Baylor (Pearland)
Longoria had an outstanding senior season capping an incredible career. The Pearland native was named the ASC Defensive Lineman of the Year for the second consecutive season and is a semifinalist for the Gagliardi Trophy awarded to the best Division III player in the country. Longoria was a force along the defensive line with 55 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks while facing constant double and triple teams.
DL: Trace Mascorro, Sam Houston State (Refugio)
After spending two years wreaking havoc in Conference USA at UTEP, Mascorro brought his talents to FCS and dominated. The 2017 All-Conference USA Freshman team selection had 41 tackles, 24 solo, with five sacks and forced two fumbles for the Kats this year. The Refugio High School product was named the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year and was a first-team All-Southland Conference selection.
LB: Jeremiah Chambers, Abilene Christian (Vista Ridge)
Chambers announced himself as one of the best linebackers in the country last season and followed with another incredible year. The senior from Cedar Park Vista Ridge High School had 110 tackles, 70 solo, five sacks, forced one fumble, recovered three fumbles and led the Southland Conference with 20.5 tackles for loss. Chambers earned his second straight selection to the first-team All-Southland Conference.
LB: Tevin Jones, Mary Hardin-Baylor (Belton)
It has been a wild ride for Jones, and he showed this season why he is one of the best linebackers in the country. The senior from Belton High School was named the ASC Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts in leading the Cru. He led UMHB with 125 tackles, 57 solo, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks and forced a fumble for one of the top defenses in the country.
LB: Chris Hoad, UT Permian Basin (Leander Rouse)
Death, taxes and double-digit tackles each game. Hoad has been so dominant that he was nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy awarded to the best player in Division II. The senior from Leander Rouse High School followed an impressive 133 tackle performance last year with 157 tackles, 72 solo, 11 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles. The former walk-on was named the LSC Linebacker of the Year for the second consecutive season.
DB: Prince Robinson, Tarleton (North Forest)
Known as being one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the country, Robinson had a tremendous season. The senior from Houston was named the LSC Defensive Back of the Year after registering 57 tackles, 41 solo, four interceptions and breaking up 13 passes. Robinson returned three interceptions for touchdowns this year and returned seven interceptions for touchdowns over the last two years.
DB: Michael Lawson, Lamar
In a year when the state of Texas is filled with an abundant amount of great defensive backs, Lawson stood out as one of the best. The junior from Patterson, Calif. was named to the first-team All-Southland Conference team as both a defensive back and a punt returner. Lawson finished with 94 tackles, 65 solo, 8.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions and returned one interception for a touchdown.
DB: Jai Edwards, Tarleton (Humble Atascocita)
While teams would game plan to try and keep Edwards from disrupting their offense, running backs and receivers feared the hard-hitting safety. The Atascocita High School product had 76 tackles, 43 solo, with 8.5 tackles for loss, one sack and three quarterback hurries. The senior All-American and two-time first-team All-LSC team member has caught the eye of multiple NFL scouts.
DB: Jefferson Fritz, Mary Hardin-Baylor (Kaufman)
Rarely is one player feared in two areas the way that Fritz is feared by opposing teams. Known for his ability to take away half the field at safety, the junior from Kaufman High School is also one of the best punters in the country. He was so skilled at both positions that he was named first-team All-ASC as a defensive back and a punter. Fritz had 33 tackles and two interceptions this year while averaging 44.1 yards per punt while placing 11-of-33 punts inside the 20-yard line.
P: Matt McRobert, Sam Houston State
One of the best stories in the state of Texas is the success of McRobert for the Kats this season. One year after suffering a freak season-ending injury, the redshirt junior earned first-team All-Southland Conference honors. The Berowra, Australia native has an uncanny ability to place the ball inside the 20-yard line. He finished this season with a 43.7-yard average per punt while placing 35-of-85 punts inside the 20-yard line and has twice hit 74-yard punts which is the longest in program history.
PR: Tobias Harris, West Texas A&M (Pflugerville Hendrickson)
One year after being named LSC Freshman of the Year, Harris was even more dynamic this year. The Pflugerville, Texas native averaged 22.9 yards per punt return this season. The sophomore returned one punt 72 yards for a touchdown and had two other returns over 80 yards. Harris is also a talented kick returner as he averaged 22.8 yards per kick return with a 90-yard touchdown while being one of the top cornerbacks in the LSC.
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