The success enjoyed on the field by the McKendree University football team in 2015 was reflected off the field in the post-season honors announced Thursday by the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
Six Bearcats received first-team All-GLVC honors from the voting conducted by the league’s nine head coaches. In addition, four McKendree players earned second-team all-league accolades, while six more grabbed honorable mention from the conference. The total of 15 McKendree honorees was second the University of Indianapolis, which had 16 players recognized for post-season accolades.
Senior quarterback Isaac Fisher took home one of the league’s highest honors as he was named the 2015 GLVC Offensive Player of the Year. Fisher becomes the first Bearcat to grab the conference’s top offensive award since the program joined the league in 2012. He is the fourth player in school history to receive a conference Player of the Year honor. Fisher joins Ricardo Harris (Mid-States Football Association-Midwest League Defensive Player of the Year in 2002), Byron Gettis (MSFA-Midwest League Offensive Player of the Year in 2009) and teammate Lucky Baar (GLVC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014) in the exclusive club.
“This is truly a well-deserved honor for Isaac,” said McKendree head football coach Mike Babcock. “He is a guy who has worked his tail off on and off the field for four years. He’s a young man of great character, a great leader and one heck of a football player. I couldn’t be happier for Isaac and we’re proud of the type of year – and career – he has had for our program.”
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Fisher was joined by Baar on the first-team All-GLVC list along with senior wide receiver Cameron James (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville), senior offensive lineman Derrik Starrett (Brighton, Ill./Alton Marquette), senior defensive lineman Brett Pearman (Granite City, Ill./Granite City) and junior linebacker A.J. Wentland (Machesney Park, Ill./Harlem). Second-team All-Conference honorees for McKendree include junior offensive lineman Clint Ratermann (Breese, Ill./Mater Dei), junior defensive back Jabaree Winston (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) and James, who made the second unit as a return specialist.
The honorable mention All-GLVC players from McKendree are junior wide receiver Sean Dowling (Chatham, Ill./Glenwood), junior kicker Steven O’Block (Libertyville, Ill./Carmel Catholic), junior defensive lineman Tyler House (Los Angeles, Calif./Glenelg), sophomore linebacker Austin Weltha (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington), sophomore defensive lineman Marquis Cherry (Belleville, Ill./Belleville West) and sophomore defensive back Nate Powell (Chicago, Ill./King College Prep).
Fisher wrapped up the most prolific career by an offensive player in McKendree football history with another record-setting season in 2015. He broke his own school records for total offense (3,595 yards), passing yards (2,792), passing touchdowns (21), completion percentage (.668). Fisher also topped his year-old record for most rushing yards by a Bearcat quarterback in a season, gaining 803 yards in his senior year. In McKendree’s 50-27 season-opening win at West Liberty University, Fisher shattered his own school mark by throwing six touchdowns in the contest. He was a three-time GLVC Offensive Player of the Week recipient in 2015, and a second-team
For his career, Fisher set every McKendree passing record while also becoming the first player in school history to surpass 10,000 yards of total offense. He threw for 8,508 yards in his four seasons with the Bearcats, completing better than 62 percent of his pass attempts while throwing for 64 touchdowns. Fisher is finished his career seventh on the all-time rushing list at McKendree with 1,749 yards, while his 23 rushing TDs rank fifth in program history.
“It is a great honor to receive this award from the GLVC,” said Fisher. “I want to thank the coaches who voted on this award. It was an honor to compete against their programs each week. I have been truly blessed with a great group of teammates and a great coaching staff at McKendree. This award would not be possible without them, and I am grateful to be a part of such a wonderful program.”
James also closed out a stellar career in 2015 by leading McKendree with 51 catches while tying a program record with seven TD receptions. James was second on the squad with 634 receiving yards and also paced the Bearcats with 14 punt returns and a 12.1 yard average on those returns. James finished his playing days as the all-time leader at McKendree in receptions (150), receiving yards (1,614) and touchdown catches (16). He is also fourth on the Bearcats’ all-time scoring list with 144 points. James was a three-time second-team All-GLVC selection before collecting first-team accolades as a senior.
Starrett grabbed his second straight first-team all-league honor by anchoring an offensive line that helped McKendree set a school record with 4,783 yards of total offense – including 2,872 passing yards -- in just 10 games this season. The Bearcats also set a new program mark with 388 points while tying the season record with 51 touchdowns scored. Starrett blocked his fifth career kick earlier this year to make him the school’s career leader in the category. For good measure, Starrett took a lateral in the Nov. 7 game against Quincy and raced 15 yards for his first career touchdown.
Wentland, who is a repeat first-team All-GLVC selection from 2014, broke his own school record by collected a team-high 135 tackles this season. He topped his previous mark of 132 stops, which was set in 11 games a year ago. Wentland was fourth on the squad with 5 ½ tackles for loss and tied for fourth with three quarterback sacks. In the Bearcats’ 31-3 season-ending victory at Truman State University, Wentland intercepted a fourth-quarter pass and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. It was the second career touchdown off an interception for Wentland, who was a three-time GLVC Defensive Player of the Week honoree this year.
Pearman grabbed first-team All-GLVC honors for the second time in three years with a memorable senior season. He was seventh overall in tackles with 45 on the year. Pearman led the Bearcats with 15 ½ tackles for loss while finishing second on the squad with 7 ½ sacks. He also paced the team with six quarterback hurries and a pair of fumble recoveries. Pearman was a first-team all-league recipient in 2013 before collected second-team mention a year ago.
Baar, who was the GLVC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, picked up where he left off in his junior season. Baar registered 39 tackles, good for ninth on the team. He led the Bearcats with eight quarterback sacks while placing second with 11 ½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Baar registered a season-high 4 ½ sacks in the Bearcats’ 38-13 home win over Southwest Baptist University, which earned him GLVC Defensive Player of the Week honors. This is the second consecutive year that Baar was named as a first-team All-GLVC honoree.
Ratermann and Winston earned their first career All-GLVC honors with their second-team selections this year. Ratermann recently wrapped up his third season as a starter along the Bearcats’ offensive line. He was a starter at guard as a freshman before holding down the center position in each of the last two years. Winston was sixth on the team in tackles with 46, including 21 solos. He was tied for second on the team with four pass break-ups from his cornerback slot while adding an interception at West Liberty. Winston also posted a forced fumble and fumble recovery during the 2015 season.
Dowling set new career highs with 46 receptions and a team-high 688 receiving yards this year. He had a breakout game against Quincy on Nov. 7 when he had a career-high 151 yards while matching a career-best in receptions with seven. Dowling had three receiving TDs on the year, including two at West Liberty. He also threw a touchdown pass in the Quincy contest. O’Block established several new career-highs this season. He led the Bearcats in scoring with 80 points, which was just one point off the school record for points scored by a kicker. He set new personal bests with 44 extra points and 12 field goals. He also booted a career-long 46-yard field goal to score McKendree’s final points of the season at Truman State. O’Block was the GLVC Special Teams Player of the Week selection after an 11-point performance at William Jewell College on Sept. 26 and grabbed second-team All-GLVC honors in 2014.
In his first season at McKendree, House was fifth on the squad with 50 tackles, which was tops among the team’s defensive linemen. He was third on the team in both tackles for loss (6) and quarterback sacks (4 ½). Cherry posted 28 stops for the Bearcats in his first season as a starter at defensive tackle. Cherry added 3 ½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage along with one sack.
Weltha notched 57 tackles during the 2015, which was good for third on the squad. He had five tackles for loss, along with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a Bearcats’ victory at Saint Joseph’s College. Weltha had seven tackles in that contest and earned GLVC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. Powell registered 26 tackles during his sophomore season, including 16 solos. He led the Bearcats with six pass break-ups and also posted an interception against West Liberty.
The McKendree University football team posted an overall record of 8-2 in 2015. It marks the Bearcats’ highest win total since going 9-3 during the 2010 season. McKendree went 6-2 in GLVC play this year, finishing in sole possession of second place in the final league standings.