Sunday, August 27, 2017

LSC Football Roundup Week 1

Please keep Hurricane Harvey's victims in your prayers.

LSC Landscape going forward
With the announced addition of 8 Heartland Conference schools to the LSC in 2019, we thought we should take a look at what the combined conference would look like.  In fact, we felt it was our duty to do so.

With that, we will have combined power rankings for all the sports starting this fall. Power Poll (Preseason)
  1. Texas A&M-Commerce - starting season off with national runner up North Alabama
  2. Midwestern State - Mustangs have never made NCAA playoffs three years in a row
  3. Texas A&M-Kingsville - is dodging Harvey a harbinger for upward trending Hogs?
  4. Eastern New Mexico - will change at HC disrupt the always surprising Hounds?
  5. Tarleton State - if all the transfers gel as a team, Texans could be surprise of LSC.
  6. Angelo State - Can Rams win more than 5 without Kyle Washington?
  7. West Texas A&M - will rebuilding year result in fewer wins?
  8. Western New Mexico - could surprise a couple of teams this year.
  9. UT-Permian Basin - will be better even if W/L doesn't show it. 

Week 1 Schedule
McKendree at Angelo State, 6:00 (ASU Notes)
#5 Texas A&M-Commerce at #6 North Alabama, 6:00 (TAMC Notes) (UNA Notes)
Quincy at #24 Midwestern State, 7:00 (MSU Notes)
#18 Southwest Baptist at Eastern New Mexico, 8:00 (ENMU Notes)

Tarleton State at Delta State, 2:00 (TSU Notes) (DSU Notes)
Western New Mexico at San Diego, 4:00
Sul Ross at UT-Permian Basin, 6:00
#13 Azusa Pacific at West Texas A&M, 6:00 (WTAM Notes)
Central Washington at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 7:00 (TAMK Notes)  (CWU Notes)


Daily News headlines
 UTPB ready to host Sul Ross - Lee Scheibe, Odeessa American
Rams' suffocating 'D' puts on show in opener -  Charles Bryce, San Angelo Standard-Times
Seales, Mustangs run wild in openerAndy Newberry, Times Record News
Perez eager for Tarleton opener -  Brad Keith, The Flash Today
Getting Personal with Carter JamesKale Steed,
Three keys to a Buff victoryKale Steed,
Maroon and White Zone game previewKale Steed,

After Season ending injury, Mykelbust ready for action - Kale Steed,
MSU coach knows uncertainty of season openers - Andy Newberry, Times Record News
Coyotes, Raiders give MSU defense a boost  - Andy Newberry, Times Record News

LSC announces 8 team expansion in 2019 -Kale Steed,
Crosby Cougar alum Lewis comes to the rescue - Elliott Lapin, Houston Chronicle
Rams want home cooking to start in openerCharles Bryce, San Angelo Standard-Times
Tarleton athletics accepting donations for hurricane victims - The Flash Today
UTPB  hosting a supply drive at this Saturday's football game at Football home opener
Wk 1 LSC Power Rankings - Kale Steed,
Faber, Cook battling for reins - Charles Bryce, San Angelo Standard-Times

Whitten has big expectations for offensive line - Brad Keith, The Flash Today
MSU offensive linemen have much to live up to - Andy Newberry, Times Record News
Rams eager to prove doubters wrong in 2017 - Charles Bryce, San Angelo Standard-Times


Moses back to help Javelinas to new heights - Coy Slavik, Corpus Christi Caller-Times
UTPB getting ready for 2017 season - Lee Scheide, Odessa American

Game Previews 
(for a look at OOC opponents, click on the team preview link and scroll down to non-conference schedule)

McKendree at Angelo State, 6:00 (ASU Team Preview) - This could be a low scoring game, with two good defenses and two average offenses.  Last year, the teams combined for 9 turnovers, which led to 4 TDs and a FG with McKendree getting the upper hand in a 33-19 win. If Jake Faber (or Carsen Cook) can get off to a strong start, it could boost the Ram offense and set the stage for a solid season for Angelo State.  Rams in a close one 24-14.

Quincy at #24 Midwestern State, 7:00 (MSU Team Preview) - Quincy was 5-6 last year, dropping 6 of their last 8 games.  The offense, which averaged 409 yards and 30.7 points, returns four starters on the OL, including two all-conference picks and 3 time All-GLVC TE Owen Schoenenberger, but must replace their QB, leading rusher and leading receiver.  The defense, which allowed 24.5 points and 323 yards per game returns 8 of their top 11 in tackles from last year, all LBs and DBs.  The Mustangs defense and rushing attack should make this a comfortable season opener, MSU 35-14.

#18 Southwest Baptist at Eastern New Mexico, 8:00 (ENMU Team Preview) - Another GLVC-LSC matchup.  Last year SBU took a 49-35 contest with a lot of help from ENMU.  The Greyhounds turned the ball over 4 times, twice inside their 15, leading to 14 Bearcat points.  SBU returns QB T.J. Edwards, who lead SBU to 42 points and 504 yards per game in 2016.  ENMU should be able to run the ball again (444 yards in last year's game), as SBU gave up 413 yards and 29 points per game.  Another shootout, but ENMU shouldn't be so generous this time.  ENMU 35-31.

Game of the Week
#5 Texas A&M-Commerce at #6 North Alabama, 6:00 (TAMC Team Preview) - Let's get the prediction out of the way, the Lions will win.  More specifically, the top-ten ranked, pre-season conference favorite Lions will win.  That much is guaranteed.  Of course that could mean either team.  UNA is the defending national champion and a D2 national power year in and year out, having made the playoffs 12 out of the last 14 years and 21 times since 1980.  They won 3 consecutive national championships in 1993, 1994, and 1995, defeating Texas A&M-Kingsville in the semifinals in 1993 and the championship game in 1994.  None of any that may matter, because the 2017 UNA Lions do not return much of their personnel, and that includes the head coach.   Chris Willis takes over after 5 seasons as the Lions' DC and 15 years overall as an assistant at UNA.

He will have to replace outstanding QB Jacob Tucker (2,800 yds passing, 900 yds, 16 TDs rushing, 3rd in Harlon Hill).  It will likely be either RS Soph. Blake Hawkins, Rico Bruton-Jr. (Mt. San Antonio) or Matt Markham-Jr. (Harding transfer).  Hawkins was the fourth leading rusher (185 yards) and was 20-32 for 225 yards and 3 TDs passing in limited action last year, while Bruton was a second team all-conference for the Mounties and Markham redshirted after transferring in.  Returnees on offense include RB Damon Cox (519 yds, 8 TDs), WR Dre Hall ( 80-1,179, 9 TDs), WR Delvon Carpenter (42-786, 6 TD in 2014), WR Hagan Scott (22-208, 1 TD), and just one starter on the OL, Lance Harrod.  Newcomers Alex Norwood (WR), Kentucky transfer Tanner Fink (TE) and linemen Khadedryck Todd (Jones CC), Devin McCallister (ND State College of Science), DeVaris Nalls (Murray State) and Cole Hardin (Vanderbilt).

The UNA defense might need to introduce themselves to each other with just 2 returning starters, and 6 transfers.  Up front returning starter Freddie Reed is joined by newcomers Maurice Burton (Scottsdale CC) and Jaylin Dailey (Mississippi Gulf Coast) and returning backups Eddquerion Harris and Frank Williams.  The linebacking corps is all new, with true freshman Christon Taylor and transfers Kenneth Steele (Mesa CC) and Joshua Amanfo (East Arizona CC) slated to start.  Maurice Carnell is the sole returning starter in the secondary, and will be joined by backup Dorsey Norris and transfers Chris Johnson (Albany) and Josh Thurman (NE Mississippi CC).

Texas A&M-Commerce returns a lot more experience across the board and had 4 players named to the preseason All-American team (QB Luis Perez-1st, OL Jared Machorro-1st, yusef Sterling-Lowe-2nd and Travon Blanchard-2nd just a couple of days after announcing he is walking on for his senior year).  This will probably be a pretty close game, but we give the edge to TAMC in a big win, 28-21.


Tarleton State at Delta State, 2:00 (TSU Team Preview) - With just four returning starters on offense, the key for the Texans is to stop (or slow down) RB Chris Robinson.  Robinson rushed for 976 yards and 19 TDs and had 551 yards and 5 TDs receiving and has three returning starters on the OL, including Derrick McClelland, a Gene Upshaw nominee.  No other starters are back at skill positions.  The defense was not good in 2016, allowing 39 points and 420 yards per game (5.9 per play).  DSU has 5 returning starters, with 4 of them at LB or secondary.  This could bode well for the Texans looking to get their running game in gear.

This is an interesting matchup if for no other reason there are so many new starters for both teams.  Experience at QB should help Tarleton be more consistent on offense and take this one.  Tarleton 31-17.

Western New Mexico at San Diego, 4:00 (WNMU Team Preview) - The Mustangs are 0-6 vs. the University of San Diego, including a 27-0 setback last year.  The Toreros went on to make the FCS playoffs, defeating Cal Poly 35-21 in the first round, before losing to North Dakota State 45-7 in round 2.  They outscored their opponents 35.7-15.6 and outgained them by a 441-267 margin.  Looks like a long night for WNMU as USD rolls to a 35-7 win.

Sul Ross at UT-Permian Basin, 6:00 (UTPB Team Preview) - A rematch of the Falcons' first game and first win in the program's history.  Sul Ross finished last year 6-4, and have improved in each of HC John Pearce's three years (2-8, 3-7, 6-4).  Dual threat QB James Davis leads a veteran group on offense, while Zack Roberson (22 TFL, 12.5 sacks) is back on defense.  This could be a pretty good game, but UTPB should be able to put it away.  UTPB 28-21.

#13 Azusa Pacific at West Texas A&M, 6:00 (WTAM Team Preview) - Azusa Pacific has had WT's number the last two seasons, squeaking by the Buffs 27-24 in 2015 and taking a more decisive 28-10 last year.  The Cougars lost just two regular season games (23-27 at Colorado Mines and 24-33 at Colorado Mesa), earning their first NCAA playoff berth.  QB Andrew Elffers leads an experienced group back.  Elffers (despite a poor game against WT) threw for 2,100 yards and had a 21-3 TD-Int ratio.  He has two of his top three receivers and top two running backs returning as well.  Aaron Berry, Mykal Walker and Taliuaki Suliafu headline a stingy defense that gave up just 16 points per game.

Redshirt freshman, Justin Houghtaling, is penciled in at QB, with Myron Buchanan and Jordan Johnson joining him in the backfield and Avery Lewis, Markel Steward and Jazz Thind at wideout.  That's a total of 0 yards passing, 0 yards rushing and 11 yards receiving.  At least there is experience up front.  This week's game notes lists 2016 starters Dillon Vaughan and Travis Vornkahl, 2016 part-time starter Nathaniel Nanai, 2015 starter Michael Whitfield, and true freshman Marshall Crabb as starters and 2016 starter Moses Mondesir as a backup.

The defense is more seasoned with a front comprised of veterans Gerred Johnson, Solomon Perdue, Lance Hyder and Kaelin Young (transitioning from LB).  Carter James is joined at linebacker by senior Trevor Myklebust, Hayden Dennis and another true freshman Eric Collins.  The secondary has Chazz Slatinsky returning, but the rest of the two-deep are either new to the team, or saw little to no action last year.

The most interesting thing about this game is the changes in philosophy for the Buffs on both sides of the ball.  They are trying to be more physical and disciplined and this will be a tough opponent to gauge their progress.  APU takes this one 31-17.

Central Washington at Texas A&M-Kingsville, 7:00 (TAMK Team Preview)
Central Washington pays a visit to Kingsville in the season opener.  The Wildcats were 7-3 last, dropping games to FCS Portland State and two to Azusa Pacific.  They held a 34-21 scoring edge and 433-340 yardage advantage.  Jonathan Hillel looks to be the starting QB.  As a backup, he threw for 384 yards and 5 TDs backing up Justin Lane.  If not Hillel, then it could be Reilly Hennessey, an East Washington transfer.  Running backs Christian Cummings, Austin Pernell and Jordan Tufaga (677 combined yards) and wide outs Justin Peterson and Christian Gasca (38-684, 6 TDs) and TE Kyle Self (17-206, 2 TD).  James Moore leads three returning starters on the OL.  

The strength of the defense will be at LB and the secondary.  All-American LB Kevin Haynes and Sean Elledge were busy last year, combining for 185 tackles and 36.5 TFL last year.  In the secondary, Max McIntosh, Jackson Huerta, Darien Williams and Tyren Sams had 192 tackles, 6 interceptions and 20 passes broken up.  The are some holes up front with Bo Banner the leading returnee.

The Javelinas start the 2017 season with a 7 game winning streak, second best in the nation behind national champion Northwest Missouri.  The defense should be the strength of the team early on.  All-American DL Brandon Jones (9.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL) and Braedon Robinson (career 32.5 TFL) are the headliners, but LBs Trevor Moses, DeMarcus Spurlock, Peyton Tilley and DBs Josh Wilson, Jarrod Sanders and Devonte Williams are solid veterans as well.  Newcomers Junior Henderson and Teke Cheetham-West should make their presence known also.

The offense is a bit of a mystery with just 5 returning starters.  Conner Smith appears to be the pick to start at QB but that is not set in stone.  RB Nick Pelrean, TE Stehley Reden and WR Jordan Thomas return to give the offense several productive options at the skill positions, as does UNLV transfer Keith Whitely.  Special teams could play an bigger than usual role early on.  Julio De la Garza is one of the best kickers around.  Return men Jordan Thomas and Sean Landez could be getting some help from recent Oklahoma State transfer Jeff Carr.

The final game of the opening weekend could be one of the better matchups.  Two solid teams looking to get over the playoff-hump and this could be a catalyst game.  Home-field advantage helps the Hogs, TAMK 35-24

The Lone Star Conference will expand to 19 member institutions as league officials announced Tuesday that eight schools have accepted invitations to join the LSC in the fall of 2019.

The LSC Council of Presidents voted unanimously this summer to offer full membership to the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, Dallas Baptist University, Lubbock Christian University, Oklahoma Christian University, Rogers State University, St. Edward’s University, St. Mary’s University, and Texas A&M International University.

"We look forward to collaborating on and off the athletic field knowing that our student athletes will benefit from this expansion,” said Texas Woman’s Chancellor Carine M. Feyten, chair of the LSC President's Council.

With 19 members, the LSC will become the biggest conference in NCAA Division II. The LSC, founded on April 25, 1931, started as a five-member conference of Texas-based schools and with the latest expansion will become a 19-member league with 13 members in Texas, three in Oklahoma, two in New Mexico, and one in Arkansas.

“This is an exciting time for the Lone Star Conference. The addition of these eight schools makes the LSC the largest and most dynamic conference in NCAA Division II. These nineteen institutions will represent the very best in Division II through a shared commitment to excellence in academics, athletics and student-athlete development,” said LSC Commissioner Jay Poerner. “I am thankful to the leadership of the LSC Council of Presidents for its guidance in leading this expansion effort.”

  •  Located in Fort Smith, Ark., UAFS has an enrollment of more than 6,600 students. The Lions sponsor 10 NCAA Division II sports (volleyball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women's basketball, baseball, men's and women's tennis). 
  •  DBU is located in Dallas with an enrollment of 5,156 students. The Patriots sponsor 14 NCAA Division II sports (volleyball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's basketball, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field). 
  •  Located in Lubbock, Texas, Lubbock Christian has an enrollment of 1,912 students. The Chaparrals sponsor 15 NCAA Division II sports (volleyball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field). 
  •  Oklahoma Christian is located in Oklahoma City, Okla., with an enrollment of 2,600 students. The Eagles sponsor 16 NCAA Division II sports (men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, men's and women's swimming). 
  • Located in Claremore, Okla., Rogers State has an enrollment of 3,889 students. The Hillcats sponsor 14 NCAA Division II sports (men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field). 
  •  St. Edward’s is located in Austin, Texas, with an enrollment of 4,056 students. The Hilltoppers sponsor 13 NCAA Division II sports (volleyball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's tennis). 
  •  Located in San Antonio, Texas, St. Mary’s has an enrollment of 3,567 students. The Rattlers sponsor 11 NCAA Division II sports (volleyball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's golf, men's and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men's and women's tennis). 
  •  Texas A&M International is located in Laredo, Texas, with an enrollment of 7,200 students. The Dustdevils sponsor 11 NCAA Division II sports (volleyball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf, men's and women’s basketball, baseball, softball). 

    Adding the eight institutions marks the LSC’s first expansion since UT Permian Basin and Western New Mexico joined the conference in 2016. The league has had 38 institutions compete as members over its 86-year history. The LSC conducts conference championships in 17 sports (eight men and nine women). Men's championships include football, cross country, basketball, baseball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, golf and tennis. Women's titles are determined in volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, softball, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, tennis and golf.

LSC landscape going forward

By now you've seen where the LSC is welcoming eight universities into the conference.  Let's take a quick look over the past few years at the various sports with the additions.

Men's Sports
Football - no change as none of the new schools play football

Soccer - no change, because the LSC did not have enough participating institutions, so MSU, WTAM, UTPB and ENMU were members of the Heartland anyway.  The Mustangs are the pre-season pick to win the conference are ranked #6 in the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll.  St. Edwards is #9 nationally and a close second to MSU in the conference poll.  MSU advanced to the national quarterfinals in 2016, and playoff appearances in 2014 and 2015.  SEU also has qualified for the playoffs the last three years, advancing to the regional final last year, losing to MSU.

Cross Country - DBU is the top Heartland program, winning the conference crown and finishing 10th in the regional meet.  WTAM was the top LSC/Heartland team in the national meet, finishing 20th and is the only team ranked in the pre-season poll, coming in at #18.  Geoffrey Kipchumba (WTAM) and Baylor Harvey (Rogers State) are the top returning individuals.  Cross Country is dominated by the RMAC.  At last year's regional championships, they took the top 4 spots, 8 of the top 9, and 10 of the top 12.  At the national meet, 4 of the top 9 spots went to the RMAC, including Adams State's 12th national title.

Basketball - Men's basketball will add some quality depth, but the top LSC teams are a bit better.  Last year, the LSC sent 5 teams to the NCAA regional tournament, while UAFS was the only Heartland team. In  2016, UAFS, DBU and LCU received the invite, along with 3 LSC teams.  In 2015, St. Mary's was the lone Heartland representative.  In those three years, the Heartland's record was 1-5.

Track & Field - Slight change here.  Lubbock Christian competed in the LSC as a track affiliate and finished last at the LSC meet in both men and women.  OCU finished 38-T with 6 points and Rogers State earned 4 points in last year's national meet, finishing tied for 55th.

Tennis - This will be a great improvement to men's tennis.  Last year was the first year the LSC had enough teams to count as conference since 2012, and at that it is just four teams.  Cameron, St. Mary's, Midwestern State, and WNMU were ranked in the top 25 nationally at season's end and St. Edwards was also ranked in the top 50.  Those five squads were all top 25 teams in 2016 and top 35 in 2015.

Baseball - This will likely be the top conference in the nation.  UAFS, Lubbock Christian, St. Edwards.  UAFS won 35 games last year and went 2-2 in the regional tournament.  LCU has won 75 games over the past two seasons and advanced to the NCAA South Central Regional tournament.  St. Edwards has averaged 40 wins over the past 5 years, gone to the NCAA regional tournament 6 straight years, and advanced to the College World Series in 2013, falling in the national semifinals.

Golf - an upgrade in both depth and top-talent.  In 2016, men's golf was dominated regionally by west coast schools.  Heartland and LSC schools were 8-13-13-16-17-20 (MSU, TAMUI, DBU, Cameron, St. Mary's and St. Edward's) at the Super Region 4 tournament, with none advancing to the DII Championships.  Things were better in 2016 with OCU and DBU finishing 2nd and 3rd in the Super Region 4 tournament and qualifying for the DII Championship.  WNMU was 6th, St. Mary's 11th, St. Edward's 14th, Cameron 14th and MSU 19th.  DBU finished 10th and OCU 14th at the DII Championships.  WTAM was the lone qualifier for the DII Championship in 2015, finishing 17th.  They qualified by finishing 5th in the SR4 tournament.  Cameron was 7th, DBU 10th, WNMU was 11th, St. Edward's 12th, MSU 17th and St. Mary's 20th.

Women's Sports 
Volleyball - This shoudl be a daynamite volleyball conference.  The LSC has had the upper hand in numbers of quality teams, sending 3 teams to the regional championships in 2014, 2015 and 2016, while the Heartland only had one each year.  ASU won the regional title in 2016, but UAFS took it in 2014 and 2015, advancing to the final four in 2014, giving the Heartland the edge in top team.    

Soccer - This looks like a combination of equals.  In this years United Soccer Coaches pre-season poll, Texas A&M Commerce is ranked #15 and St. Edwards is #23, while Midwestern State is receiving votes.  In 2016, the Heartland and LSC each sent two teams to the NCAA regional tournament - SEU, DBU, TAMC and MSU.  TAMC advanced to the regional final.  In 2015, again two teams from each conference - SEU, DBU, TAMC and ASU.  DBU won the region, losing in the national quarterfinals.  In 2014 it was the same four teams, with TAMC advancing to the regional finals.

Cross Country - DBU owns the Heartland, winning the past 10 conference titles and the unanimous choice to do it again this fall.  They finished 6th at the regional meet.  Like the men, this is an RMAC dominated region, as 9 of the top 12 teams in last year's regional meet were RMAC schools.  The new LSC would have seen DBU 7th, MSU 9th, ENMU 10th, WTAM 14th, LCU 16th and Rogers 20th.  Better depth, but the RMAC is far and away the top regional conference.

Basketball - The conferece will be stronger both in depth and top-talent.  Lubbock Christian won the national championship in 2016, capping a perfect 35-0 season, the first year the Lady Chaps were eligible for postseason play.  St. Edwards was the sole SC regional participant last year, losing to the Angelo State in the first round, while UAFS was the sole representative going 1-1.  By comparison, the LSC sent four teams to the regional tournament in 2017, with WT beating ASU in an all-LSC final and advancing to the national tournament, losing in the quarterfinals.  Three LSC teams qualified in 2016, all three losing to LCU by 20 or more points.  Again in 2015, three LSC teams went to regionals, with WT dominating and making it to the national quarterfinals before bowing out.

Track & Field - No change here.  Lubbock Christian competed in the LSC as a track affiliate and finished last at the LSC meet in both men and women and none of the other schools had any national qualifiers.

Tennis - Another case where a strong conference improved to one of the best in the nation.  St. Mary's, Dallas Baptist, St. Edward's are nationally ranked annually, as are Midwestern State and Cameron (and Tarleton was #25 in 2017).  Regionally, the new conference would have had the top 6 spots, and 7 of the top 8.

Softball - This will be the best conference in D2.  The final NFCA poll had Angelo State #2, WTAM #17 and St. Mary's #23.  The final South Central Regional poll had those at 1-2-3 and Cameron, TWU, Tarleton State, Texas A&M-Commerce and LCU at 5-6-7-8-9.  Angelo State was the national champion in 2004, the national runner-up in 2017, and has won the South Central region 3 other times.  WTAM won a national title in 2014 and the regional title in 2016.  Not to be outdone, St. Mary's won a national championship in 2002 and 3 other South Central region titles, the last coming in 2015.  There are several other quality teams from each conference with just a few slam dunks.

Golf - Two really good conferences combine to form a great one!  WT won the Super Region 4 tournament last year, with DBU 2nd, St. Mary's 3rd, Tarleton State 5th, St. Edward's 6th and Midwestern State 7th.  At the NCAA Division II Championship, DBU finished 2nd, just 1 stroke behind Barry University.  WT was 4th, and St. Mary's 5th.  In 2016, it was Tarleton State, DBU, WTAM, St. Mary's, Oklahoma Christian and St. Edward's finishing 1-2-3-4-7-12 at Super Region 4.  DBU and Tarleton State tied for 6th in the DII championship, and WT was 11th.  In 2015, Tarleton State, St. Edward's, WTAM, MSU and DBU were 1-2-4-7-9 at SR 4 and at the DII Championships Tarleton was 4th and St. Edward's 6th.

To recap, the combined conference will create elite baseball, men's tennis, volleyball, women's basketball, softball, women's golf and women's tennis programs.  There will be improvements in quality depth in cross country, men's golf, men's basketball and women's golf.

Men's Soccer and Track & Field won't see any changes, b/c only one conference sponsored each sport and schools from the other conference were affiliates in those sports.  Football doesn't see any changes either, b/c none of the Heartland schools have football teams, nor have publicly stated intentions of starting a program.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

LSC Football Roundup - 8-26

Kale Steed, 

The West Texas A&M football team under first-year head coach Hunter Hughes wraps up fall camp with their final scrimmage set for 8:30 a.m. today on Happy State Bank Field at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium.

Unlike last Saturday’s first scrimmage, fans will see more of a controlled scrimmage. There will be live action, however, expect to see more special teams and game situation scenarios.

“I want to see how are kicking game goes,” Hughes said. “I want to see how we substitute in and out. This will be more of a dress rehearsal for the season opener. They’ll be some contact, but not like we have been. It will be quick whistles, and you won’t see 12 play drives. There will be more situation type stuff.”

The Buffs open the season hosting No. 13-ranked Azusa Pacific at 6 p.m. Sept. 2.

Andy Newberry, Times Record News

Bill Maskill has been winning football games at Midwestern State since 2002. And it’s not just 18-22 year-old men that he gets to buy into Midwestern State, a team atmosphere and Wichita Falls.

Maskill coaches his coaches and sells them on the big picture. He doesn’t have to demand loyalty. He earns it by creating a culture of unity.

I posed the questions to coordinators Rich Renner and Adam Austin about why they’re still here in Wichita Falls? The answers came back to people here in Wichita Falls, starting with man in the head coach’s office. Renner is in his 10th season as defensive coordinator and 12th year on this staff. Renner could be a head coach., no doubt about it. He’s bright with a never-ending desire to learn something new every day. I’m not sure he’s ever met a stranger.

Andy Newberry, Times Record News

It may have felt to Midwestern State coach Bill Maskill like his Mustangs started practice just yesterday, but Friday instead marked the beginning of game week.

MSU, 8-3 last season and 18-5 over the past two years, will open the 2017 season at home Thursday against Quincy University (5-6).

The Mustangs had a intrasquad scrimmage Thursday night at Memorial Stadium where they tried to simulate game-like conditions as best they could. That included a nifty completion with a catch and tip-toe just inside the sideline to set up a last-second field goal. With the Mustangs in so many close games the past few seasons, that kind of detail work has usually paid off. Maskill hopes this camp with no two-a-days has gotten the team ready.

“We got a long ways to go,” Maskill said. “Coming under the lights for the first time (Thursday) the speed really showed up. We looked a lot faster tonight than what we are in practice. We’re getting our legs back a little bit.”

The Flash Today

Tarleton State is one week from kicking off its 2017 NCAA Division II football season, with the season opner starting at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.

The Texans were just 5-6 last season, but this time around, head coach Todd Whitten has had a full year of leading his staff through a rigrorous recruiting process that has brought a boat load of fresh talent to Stephenville. The 2017 recruiting class was still growing last Monday when offensive linean Cody Hayes, who began his college career at Texas Tech and has since played a season at Navarro College in Corsicana, officially became a Texan.

Among the new Texans are 22 college transfers – mostly moving up from junior college to a four-year university. The Flash Today has collected links to theri Hudl highlight videos so you can take a peek for yourself at just what Whitten and staff have been adding. Each player’s name is a hyper link that when clicked takes you to their Hudl page.

Friday, August 25, 2017

LSC Roundup

Andy Newberry, Times Record News

Midwestern State continued to make clutch plays to win tight games in 2016, but the Mustangs weren’t really as good defensively as 10-year coordinator Rich Renner would have liked.

Yards and points aren’t the tell-all measuring sticks they might have been in some eras. However, MSU doesn’t want to finish seventh in the Lone Star Conference in points allowed (28 per game) and ninth in interceptions again, either.

Graduation and injuries had taken a toll last year at linebacker and Renner felt that showed at times. The youthful energy would fly to the ball sometimes, but also make a few missteps.

“My hair probably got a lot grayer last year because I was dealing with redshirt freshmen,” Renner said.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

LSC Roundup 8-24

Brad Keith, The Flash Today

Todd Whitten continues to make a living reeling in big fish from a small pond of Texas junior colleges. Whitten, head football coach at Tarleton State, has found the Southwest Junior College Football Conference fertile recruiting ground with numerous transfers playing a key role in him becoming the winningest head coach in the senior college era at Tarleton.

He refers to it as the “Texas Junior College League,” and understandably so. Of the seven current members of SJCFC, six are in Texas – Navarro College in Corsicana, Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Kilgore College and Tyler Junior College in East Texas, Blinn College in Brenham and Cisco College. The other member and most recent addition to the league is New Mexico Military Institute. Ranger College, Texarkana College and others no longer have football.

The majority of the players Whitten recruits from the league come from that pocket of four East Texas junior colleges that together have accounted for seven of the league’s 17 national championships. Tyler Junior College won a co-championship in 1960, Kilgore was champ in 1966 and 1978, Navarro reigned supreme in 1989 and 2010, and Trinity Valley was king in 1994 and 1997.

Photo published for Thirteen years after signing Ross, Whitten still pulling talent out of Texas JUCOs

Donnie Palmer II, Times Record News

Midwestern State University will be looking to replace 2,381 yards of passing offense this season. Traditionally, at least in recent years, it won’t be just one guy replacing what primarily came from Quade Coward in 2016.

And the Mustangs began the fall camp with eight players getting a look at quarterback. Junior Layton Rabb is on top of the two-deep chart. Rabb was 17 of 26 last year in a backup role with three touchdowns and one interception. Senior Javin Kilgo was second on the depth chart in the spring and unofficially is still second.

Rabb’s best game last season was in mop up duty against UT-Permian Basin, where he completed 7 of 8 passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the Mustangs’ 78-21 rout of the Falcons. Rabb has been in the system for three years, so his knowledge of the offense gives him an advantage over the other quarterbacks in camp.

“He’s coming out and leading the way,” offensive coordinator Adam Austin said. “He’s been very consistent. You can tell that he put in the work this summer. His body has changed, his confidence has changed.”

Donnie Palmer II, Times Record News

The Midwestern State secondary may have been green in some areas last year. It led to giving up a little too much green to offenses at times. And not enough takeaways, either. But it was understandable, a lot of veteran playmakers had graduated the previous two seasons.

But the fruits of playing those youngsters and first-time starters means the MSU secondary is seasoned and ready to make a difference in 2017. The season opens Aug. 31 against Quincy University at Memorial Stadium.

Returning is All-LSC Safety and vocal leader Sir’Vell Ford, who led the team in tackles with 80 (42 solo, 38 assists) and tied for team lead in interceptions with two. That’s a number Ford and the team hope to see rise.

“My roles are to make everybody else right and then make sure everybody flies to the ball,” Ford said. “That’s what we’re known for.” Ford said a late loss to Eastern New Mexico, which led to a playoff game on the road, still “haunts and drives” him.

Sir'Vell Ford

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Texas A&M-Commerce 2017 Outlook

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for all of the team previews

2016 Recap
*** Ignore the University of Faith game, it was a scrimmage scheduled to fill a hole left by the North Alabama cancellation ***  

The Lions won their first four games, two in blowout style, one a solid win and one a wild finish that TAMC was able to hold on to get the win.  That set up the game that many thought would decide the LSC race.  The game was tight through the first three quarters, with MSU holding a 13-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter.  It looked like the Lions took control of the game, scoring on three consecutive drives and leading 25-13 with 5:29 to play in the game.  But Quade Coward would lead MSU on two long scoring drives and the Mustangs escaped with a 26-25 win in Commerce.  The Lions would cruise through their remaining five regular season games, outscoring WNMU, ASU, WTAM, UTPB, and TSU 224-69.  TAMC would host an NCAA first round game and cruise to 34-23 win over Colorado Mesa.  Grand Valley State would end the season in the second round, blowing out the Lions 55-32.

For the season, TAMC led the LSC in scoring both offensively (39.8) and defensively (21.7).  They were second in yards gained (447.3), first in passing yards (299.8) and fifth in rushing yards gained (147.6).   Luis Perez was the only LSC quarterback to throw for more than three thousand yards, leading the LSC with 3,326 and 32 TDs.  Richard Cooper had 1,004 yards and 7 TDs rushing and Ovie Urevbu had 632 yards and a 6.7 per carry average. Lance Evans and Darby Smith were a potent WR duo, combining for 75 receptions for 1,294 yards and 14 TDs.   First team All-LSC honorees were Perez, Cooper, Evans and OT Jared Machorro.  Linemen Christian Rodriguez and Jason Osei, TE John Thomas, and Smith were named to the second team, while honorable mention honors went to OL John Aguilar, Poet Thomas and Mark Ellis and TE Chris Chumley.

On the other side of the ball, they allowed 410.2 yards per game (6th), 151.2 rushing (4th) and 259 passing (7th).  Tavita Faaiu lead the team with 8 sacks and 12 TFL, Brucks Saathoff was the leading tackler with 68 and Yusef Sterling-Lowe had four interceptions.  All-LSC on defense were (first team) Faaiu and Uriah Harris and honorable mentions DLs Mike Onuoha, Kieston Carter and Adam Sagapolu, LBs Cameron Rogers, Saathoff and Hatari Byrd and DBs Sterling-Lowe and Trey Porter.

Special team honorees were RS Shawn Hooks (1st), P Hector Dominguez (1st) PK Kristov Martinez (2nd), DS Austin Jordan (HM).

2017 Outlook - Offense
It all starts with Luis Perez.  The senior QB was named the preseason co-LSC offensive player of the year and will likely be a Harlon Hill candidate.  Gabriel Rodriguez has experience as the backup.  Ovie Urevbu is the top returning rusher, and has Tristen Slaughter and Richard Whitaker (combined 175 yards, 3 TDs) returning as well.  Lance Evans and Darby Smith have to be replaced, but D'Arthur Cowan, Justice Luce, and Buck Wilson (combined 107 catches, 1,255 yards, 10 TDs) should be able to pick up the pace.  Jared Machoro has also received pre-season notice, named to several All-American teams.  He is joined on the line by HM-LSC honorees John Aguilar, Malik Ellis and Poet Thomas.  This a senior laden group that should be even better in 2017.

*** Record Watch *** Luis Perez set a single season record last year with 3,326 yards and 32 TDs.  He trails Tyrik Rollison by 2,036 yards and James Gray by 19 TDs.

2017 Outlook - Defense
The defense returns a lot of experience all over the field.  Michael Onuoha, DD Fletcher, Leon Searcy, Pierre Leonard, Devonta Leary and Josh Reynolds return on the defensive line.  Brucks Saathoff, Garrett Blubaugh, Neema Behbahani, and Kieston Carter are back at linebacker.  Yusef Sterling-Lowe leads a group of 8 returnees who had double digit tackles last year.  All in all the players mentioned above had a combined 580 tackles, 56.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks, 28 QB hurries, with 16 interceptions and 15 passes broken up.

2017 Outlook - Special Teams
Martinez was 55-58 on PATs and 18-24 on FGs, with a long of 46 yards.  Punt returner Shawn Hooks averagee 16.8 per return with 3 TDs, while kick returner Buck Wilson averaged 24.2 per kick and both are back.  They will have to replace Hector Dominguez who average 40.2 per punt, with 22 punts inside the 20.

2017 Outlook - Non-Conference Schedule
This is could be the top non-conference game of the year in Division II this year.  North Alabama is consistently one of the top programs in the nation and was the national runner-up in 2017.  This was supposed to be a rematch between the Lions and Lions, but UNA cancelled the contract forcing TAMC to play University of Faith in an exhibition.  UNA held a 36.1-14.5 scoring edge and 419.5-312.1 edge in yardage.  UNA will have to replace Jacob Tucker, who threw for 2,840 yards and led the team with 928 yards and 16 TDs rushing.  They do return Damon Cox (519 yds, 8 TDs) at running back and Dre Hall (80-1,179, 9 TD) and Hagan Scott (22-208 1 TD) at WR.  Only one starter returns on the line.  DL Freddie Reed and CB Maurice Carnell are the only returning starters on defense.

Best Case Scenario
10-0, while UNA is #6 in the AFCA preseason poll, they have to replace the vast majority of their starters from last years national runner-up team.  There are a few other potential roadblocks in conference play, but the Lions have the talent to run the table.

Worst Case Scenario
7-3, while the Lions have talent, so do several other teams on the schedule, and there's always the chance that TAMC will have an off game at the wrong time.  Still, not too many teams have a legitimate chance to knock off the Lions.

9-1, LSC Champion, NCAA Playoffs
The Lions know how to win, which in tough games can make a difference.  Still, with a schedule stacked with top teams, it is unlikely that any LSC teams goes undefeated.  But that tough schedule will help make this a better team with a chance to make a deeper playoff run in the newly aligned Super Region 4.

Monday, August 21, 2017

LSC Football Roundup 8-22

Scott Wright,
Running back Jeff Carr is leaving Oklahoma State and will transfer to Texas A&M-Kingsville, according to a report. initially reported news of Carr’s departure on Monday, which was the first day of classes at OSU.

Carr, a 5-foot-7, 190-pound junior, had seen several freshmen working toward playing time in the Cowboys’ running back rotation behind sophomore starter Justice Hill.

 The Temple, Texas, native is expected to be immediately eligible at the NCAA Division II program, which is a member of the Lone Star Conference. Carr played in seven games last season, carrying the ball 12 times for 85 yards, while also contributing on special teams.

OSU running back Jeff Carr (20) will transfer to Texas A&M-Kingsville, according to a report. [PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Kale Steed,

Following two full weeks of fall practices mixed in with Saturday’s scrimmage, first-year West Texas A&M head coach Hunter Hughes announced redshirt freshman Justin Houghtaling will be the team’s starting quarterback for the season opener against Azusa Pacific on Sept. 2.

“We talked the quarterbacks Sunday night about it,” Hughes said. “Justin (Houghtaling) will be the starter and Ben (Arbuckle) will be the back up. I challenged both of them. This thing is not over but we have to get a guy going with the starters and get him the reps.”

Redshirt freshman Skyler Bonneau was taking the most reps with the starting unit until going down with an undisclosed injury in practice last week. Hughes said during an interview after Saturday’s scrimmage that Bonneau is expected to miss three to four weeks.

Donnie Palmer II, Times Record News

Building a defense usually starts up front and in the middle of the defense.

Midwestern State, picked second in the Lone Star Conference, will have to find production replacements from last season’s defensive front.

The 2016 Mustangs were heavy on seniors, and this year they are looking for a few guys to pick it up and lead the new guys. Gone are the likes of Harold Willis, Edgar Luna and Darian Childers.

Junior defensive end Alec Divalerio will be depended on heavily to lead the group of young defensive linemen. Divalerio, who started all 11 games and had 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, will be the only returner up front for defensive line coach Randy Wilkins..

Brad Keith, The Flash Today

Speaking at a national signing day celebration in February, Tarleton State football head coach Todd Whitten spoke fondly of one player in particular, not because he was an overly impressive athlete who figures to have a great career ahead at Tarleton, but because of what he had already done in her,vice of our country.

Written said when he’s wrapping up a recruiting trip to a junior college he always makes it a point o ask if there was anyone that other schools may not be on who has a unique story, something the makes him a special person to have in their program.

A special teams coach overheard Whitten and before long was introducing him to special teams captain Jacob Kaspar. At 6-0, 175, the coach couldn’t have been overly impressed. He had just met with Xavier Turner, who two falls earlier, rushed for more than 2,900 yards as a senior at Birdsville High School, and Deon Sppard a 6-4, 295 pounds.

But sometimes it’s the size of the man inside, not the size of pads he wears, that makes him special. Kaspar, you see, was late getting into the college game because he spent five years serving our country as an infantryman in the US Marines.

Tradition-rich Mustangs picked to win Heartland - Andy Newberry, Times Record News
Novacek reflects on career, offers wisdom - Zach Duncan, Times Record News
Lone Star Conference Football Capsules - Andy Newberry, Times Record News

Sunday, August 20, 2017

LSC Roundup

Kale Steed,

First-year head coach Hunter Hughes and the West Texas A&M football team is scheduled to host the first of two scrimmages during fall camp at 8:30 a.m. today on Happy Bank State Field at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium.

The scrimmage is free and open to the public. The Buffs, who reported 106 players to fall camp, have had 11 practices through August.

Here are three things fans will want to look for from the today’s scrimmage: (complete story)

and the recap from Kale and Lucas Kinsey...

Kale Steed,

West Texas A&M fans saw their first glimpse at new head coach Hunter Hughes and the Buffs’ football team after their first of two scrimmages of fall workouts Saturday morning on Happy State Bank Field at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium.

For the first time being on the turf at Kimbrough in a live situation, Hughes was relatively happy with what he saw from his team.

“I’ll have to go back and look at the film to see how I fell overall,” Hughes said. “I was pleased with the effort. I was pleased with how the guys came out. Guys had to separate themselves and I saw some young guys do some things. I just need to go watch the film. That’s where we’re at.”

Lee Scheide, Odessa American

For the better part of two weeks, the UTPB football team’s defense had gotten the upper hand when the Falcons practiced early each morning. Saturday, the offense got a bit of redemption.

The unit was perfect on the goal line to open up the Falcons’ first live scrimmage in preparation for the 2017 season and then moved the ball up and down the field between the 20-yard lines before Bailey Giffen’s 47-yard field goal closed the proceedings on UTPB's practice field.

The spirited workout brought a smile to the face of head coach Justin Carrigan, with a grain of salt.

“I thought our offense played really well; through camp the defense has been ahead,” Carrigan said. “I think the offense came out and started the scrimmage on the goal line, during our goal line segment and just off the top of my head, I think we 6 for 6 in scoring touchdowns.

“So it’s exciting for the offense to come out and answer, but it’s disappointing for the defense. I think our defense is better than what they showed today and that’s what I told them at the end, that I expect more from those guys; but I think the offense answered the bell today.”

Lone Star Conference

Angelo State University

Cameron University

Eastern New Mexico University

Texas A&M-Commerce

Tarleton State University

Texas A&M-Kingsville

Texas Woman's College

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

West Texas A&M University

Western New Mexico