Osceola alum Jariq Scales named 2021 GAC Freshman of the Year
On Tuesday, following a vote of the Great American Conference’s head football coaches, the league announced its All-Conference teams and year-end individual awards. The coaches voted Oklahoma Baptist quarterback Preston Haire as the GAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, Southeastern Oklahoma State linebacker Maalik Hall as Defensive Player of the Year and Southern Arkansas running back Jariq Scales as Freshman of the Year. The Savage Storm’s Tyler Fenwick claimed the Coach of the Year honor.
Haire threw for 3,176 yards, the eighth-best mark in the country, and 39 touchdowns, the fourth-highest total in Division II to win his second GAC Offensive Player of the Year award. He finished his career with the 17th-most passing touchdowns in DII history, 112, and the 23rd-most passing yards in history, 11,613 yards.
Hall and Fenwick helped the Savage Storm undergo the greatest improvement from 2019 across all of Division II. They finished the regular season at 8-3 after a 1-10 2019 season, Fenwick’s first in Durant. Hall recorded 12.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. He forced two fumbles and recovered one.
Scales became the second Mulerider named the Freshman of the Year, joining Barrett Renner, who won in 2015. Scales ran for 1,477 yards, the sixth-highest total in Division II. He scored nine touchdowns.
In addition to Haire, the First-Team All-GAC offense included Ouachita’s TJ Cole and Oklahoma Baptist’s Tyler Stuever as the running backs; Harding’s Cole Chancey at full back; Henderson State’s L’liott Curry plus Oklahoma Baptist’s Josh Cornell and Keilahn Harris as the wide receivers; Arkansas-Monticello’s De’Andre Washington at tight end; Northwestern Oklahoma State’s Romello Bentley as the utility player with an offensive line of Southeastern Oklahoma State’s Caleb Weatherford and James Walker, Harding’s Sam Wilson, Oklahoma Baptist’s Jake Foshee and Ouachita’s Peyton Stafford.
Cole set the GAC’s single-season rushing record with 1,528 yards; Chancey set the league’s career record for rushing yards, 4,831, as he finished the regular season with 1,148 yards, plus a nation’s best 23 touchdowns. Stuever added 1,097 yards and nine scores.
Curry, the lone unanimous selection to the First Team, led the conference and ranked in the top three nationally in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns. Harris and Cornell each surpassed the 1,000-yard milestone. Harris matched Curry with 16 touchdowns while Cornell scored 15 times. Washington earned First-Team honors for the second time in his career after catching 40 passes for 484 yards and five touchdowns. Bentley led the conference in kick return yards.
Six members of the Harding defense – defensive end Nate Wallace, defensive tackle Isaako Faagai, inside linebacker Dylan Hendricks, outside linebacker Shedrick Robinson, corner back Cory Batie and safety Cade Pugh - made the First Team. The Bison ranked third in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 11.4 points per game and ninth in total defense, giving up 253.8 yards per game.
Hall’s fellow linebacker, Scooter Baker, landed on the First Team as did Ouachita’s defensive end Anthony Freeman and corner back Gregory Junior, Northwestern Oklahoma State’s tackle Brian Holiday and Southern Arkansas safety Brock Floyd. Baker led the Savage Storm with 73 tackles; Freeman notched 11.5 tackles for loss and Junior totaled seven pass break ups. Holiday registered 12.5 tackles for loss and Floyd collected two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
The First-Team All-GAC special teams positions went to Southern Arkansas’ Austin Wilkerson at kicker, Southern Nazarene’s Ryan Reid at punter, Ouachita’s Xaylon Falls as the return specialist and Harding’s Enoch Williams at the special teams position. Wilkerson made 14-of-16 field goals and scored 73 points. Reid averaged a league-leading 41.66 yards per punt. Falls finished as one of five players in the country to return multiple kicks back for touchdowns.
In total, Ouachita led the way with 19 All-GAC selections. Harding produced 14 All-GAC picks followed by 13 from Henderson State and 12 from Southeastern Oklahoma State.
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