College Sports

McKendree football player named GLVC Defensive Player of the Year

The McKendree University football team placed a total of 15 players on the 2016 All-Great Lakes Valley Conference football team that was released Thursday afternoon by the conference office.

The Bearcats had six first-team All-GLVC honorees along with a pair of second-team All-GLVC members while seven more garnered honorable mention status. This is the second consecutive year that McKendree has had 15 players earn All-GLVC honors in football.

Senior linebacker A.J. Wentland headlined the list of six first-teamers for McKendree as he also collected GLVC Defensive Player of the Year honors for 2016. Wentland becames the third Bearcat in as many years to garner one of the league’s top individual awards and the second GLVC Defensive Player of the Year honoree in three seasons. Senior defensive end Lucky Baar earned the GLVC Defensive Player of the Year accolade in 2014, while Isaac Fisher claimed the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award last season.

“This is an outstanding accomplishment for A.J., said McKendree head football coach Mike Babcock. “At the end of the day, there’s nothing that A.J. cannot do out there. He is the prototypical coaches’ player in the fact that he will do whatever you ask him to do on the football field. A.J. has a nose for the football unlike anyone we have seen here. He loves the grind, works hard in practice and even more so in games. That’s why he’s so successful. A.J.’s numbers and accomplishments speak for themselves, and he is truly deserving of this honor.”

Wentland was joined on the first-team All-GLVC squad this season by Baar, junior running back Shayeen Edwards, senior offensive lineman Clint Ratermann, junior defensive end Tobias Cook and junior defensive back Nate Powell.

Second-team All-GLVC selections include junior linebacker Kyle Kirkpatrick and sophomore offensive lineman Justus Smith.

Members of the GLVC honorable mention All-Conference list for McKendree are senior kicker Steven O’Block, senior defensive lineman Tyler House, senior defensive back Jabaree Winston, junior defensive lineman Darion Simmons, junior linebacker Austin Weltha, junior defensive lineman Marquis Cherry and sophomore offensive lineman Jake King.

For the third consecutive year, Wentland established a new single-season record in total tackles for McKendree. Wentland wrapped up his senior season with 145 stops, topping his year-old record of 135. He reached double figures in tackles nine different times in 2016, which included a season-high 22 stops at Southwest Baptist University. The 22 tackles matched the McKendree single-game record that he had set back in September 2015 at West Liberty University. Wentland is currently second in NCAA Division II in total tackles, averaging just over 13 per game. He is also fourth in solo tackles at 6.9 per outing.

Over his four years at McKendree, Wentland collected 421 career tackles, which is a new program record. He became the Bearcats’ all-time leading tackler during the West Liberty game at Leemon Field this season, which was a 10-9 double-overtime win for McKendree. This is the third straight year that Wentland has garnered first-team All-GLVC honors. Wentland was also a six-time GLVC Defensive Player of the Week honoree in his career for the Bearcats.

Like Wentland, Baar is also a first-team All-GLVC selection for the third consecutive year. He led the Bearcats with 17.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in 2016. Baar fell a half-sack shy of his McKendree single-season record set back in 2014. He closed the 2016 season with 55 total tackles, which was good for sixth on the squad despite missing two games to injury in the middle portion of the campaign.

With his final sack of the 2016 season—and his career—against Truman State University, Baar became the NCAA Division II career leader in quarterback sacks. Baar ended his four-year career at McKendree with 46.5 sacks, which broke the previous mark of 46 sacks set by Marc Schiekl established at the Colorado School of Mines from 2007-10. Baar currently leads all NCAA Division II players in sacks per game at 1.94 and is also third in tackles for loss at 2.4 per contest.

In addition to holding the Bearcats’ career record for quarterback sacks, Baar is also the team’s all-time leader with 65.5 tackles for loss and is tied for the most forced fumbles in school history with eight. He was named GLVC Defensive Player of the Week five different times in his career.

Edwards led McKendree with 771 rushing yards this season and was second in the league in rushing at 77.1 yards per game. He topped the 100-yard mark in a game four times this season, which included a career-best 129 yards at Quincy University back on Nov. 5. Edwards added four rushing touchdowns in 2016 and became the first player in program history to have more than 200 rushing attempts in a season. Edwards carried the ball 212 times for McKendree, besting the previous mark of 185 set by Louis Harden back in 1997.

Ratermann was a four-year starter at center for McKendree and helped anchor a young offensive line for McKendree in 2016. The Bearcats’ offense hit its stride during the second half of the year as the team won its final five games. With Ratermann leading the way, the Bearcats finished second in the GLVC in rushing offense, averaging better than 175 yards per game on the ground. In addition, Ratermann and the front five for McKendree allowed just 17 quarterback sacks in the 11-game campaign.

In his first season as a starter at defensive end for McKendree, Cook was third on the team with 61 total tackles, which was the highest of any defensive lineman for the Bearcats this season. He was third in both tackles for loss (13.5) and quarterback sacks (8) on a unit that set new single-season records in both categories. Cook also tied a McKendree record by forcing four fumbles this season. Cook led the GLVC in forced fumbles and ranked 12th among all NCAA Division II players in the category.

Powell had a team-leading three interceptions in 2016, including two in the Bearcats’ season-opening win at home against Angelo State University. He returned one of those interceptions against the Rams 50 yards for a touchdown to spark a 33-19 come-from-behind win. Powell was eighth on the team with 53 tackles, 32 of which were solos. He also added a team-best six pass break-ups and was 10th in the GLVC in passes defended.

Kirkpatrick was second behind Wentland in tackles this season for McKendree with 65. He started all 11 games at outside linebacker and added two pass break-ups along with a quarterback sack. Kirkpatrick established a new career-high with 11 tackles in the Bearcats’ 35-17 win at Quincy.

After sharing a starting role at left guard as a freshman in 2015, Smith jumped into the Bearcats’ starting lineup on a full-time basis. He was a key component along a Bearcats’ offensive line that allowed just 17 sacks while helping the team to a No. 2 ranking in the GLVC in rushing offense.

O’Block wrapped up his four-year career as the Bearcats’ placekicker by setting several season and career records in 2016. He finished his McKendree playing days with 277 career points, 43 field goals and 148 extra points, all of which are new program marks. In addition, O’Block set a single-season record with 15 field goals and tied another with his 81 points scored by a kicker.

In the Bearcats’ 40-7 triumph at home against Missouri S&T, O’Block established a new single-game kick scoring mark by converting 16 points on the day and tied another mark that day with four field goals. He was a two-time GLVC Special Teams Player of the Week honoree in 2016 and earned the honor three times overall in his career.

From his defensive tackle position, House registered 39 tackles this season. Of those stops, he had 9.5 for loss along with 5.5 quarterback sacks. House notched six tackles in the game against Missouri S&T, while he had a season-high two sacks in the Bearcats’ GLVC opener versus William Jewell College.

Winston was seventh on the 2016 squad with 54 total tackles. He was tied for second on the team with two interceptions and added five pass break-ups. Winston netted a career-best nine tackles during the Bearcats’ double-overtime win at home over West Liberty and matched that number two weeks later in the William Jewell contest.

Simmons enjoyed a breakout season while seeing time at both defensive end and defensive tackle. He posted a career-best 40 tackles, 24 of which were solo stops. Simmons posted a new career-high with six tackles at Southwest Baptist University. He helped spark the Bearcats’ five-game win streak at the end of the season, collecting eight of his career-best 11.5 quarterback sacks during that span. Simmons was second on the squad in sacks, as well as tackles for loss with 15.5.

Weltha excelled both at outside linebacker and on special teams for McKendree in 2016. He was fourth overall in tackles this season with 60, which included 26 solos. Weltha also tied for second with two interceptions while adding a pair of pass break-ups. He equaled a career-high with 10 tackles against West Liberty.

On special teams, Weltha blocked two punts for McKendree, including one that he returned 29 yards for a touchdown back in October at the University of Indianapolis. Weltha’s other punt block came in the regular-season finale at Leemon Field versus Truman State, when the Bearcats set a new program standard with three blocked punts.

Playing opposite House at defensive end, Cherry recorded 48 total tackles for McKendree in 2016. Seven of those tackles went for loss, including one sack against Missouri S&T. Cherry also added a fumble recovery in the Bearcats’ dramatic come-from-behind Homecoming victory over Saint Joseph’s College.

King split time with Smith as a starter at left guard in 2015. This season, King moved to right tackle, where he excelled for the Bearcats. He was part of the line that helped McKendree average just over 175 rushing yards per contest.

The McKendree University football team closed its 2016 season with an overall record of 8-3. The Bearcats were third in the final league standings at 6-2.