BOULDER, Colo. – D1A’s All-Playoff Team continues with its selections for the nine through 15 positions. As it goes with any list recognizing individual achievement, several backline players were plenty worthy of making the cut, but there was simply not enough room for them, due in part to a group of Saint Mary’s backs being too explosive to leave off.
Joey Reavey, Saint Mary’s: An underappreciated piece to Saint Mary’s star-studded backline, Reavey is very intelligent at the ruck. The senior processes a deceptively quick first step, but still prefers to use his accurate and crisp pass from the breakdown to fuel the Gaels’ fiery attack.
Michael Baska, Arkansas State: The Red Wolves were dealt a devastating blow when they lost Zin Zan Elan-Puttick for the remainder of the season at the early stages of the team’s 2014 campaign. Following the loss, halfbacks were needed to step up for Arkansas State, and along with fullback turned flyhalf Tom Haussrer, Baska was up for the challenge. Still an underclassman, Baska managed the team’s offense very well and scored a try against Cal Poly in the Quarterfinals.
Garrett Brewer, Saint Mary’s: The AIG All-American was a huge factor in the Gaels’ Championship win over Life. The senior may have been held off the scoreboard, but on multiple occasions Brewer used a strong boot to perfectly place balls away from Life’s fullback Joe Cowley. The kicks relieved stress applied from Life’s physical defense, and directed to space where Cowley was not able to gather quickly enough to return the favor. Brewer also had a cunning chip kick that lead to Saint Mary’s try in the final minute to secure the Gaels’ first National Championship.
Ben O’Donnell, Lindenwood: O’Donnell’s steady improvement over the course of the season continued into the postseason. The New Zealand-born flyhalf led an offensive explosion against Davenport in the Quarterfinals. O’Donnell scored a hat trick in the match, which ended in a 64-32 win over the Lions’ Mid-South rival.
Harley Davidson, Life: Only a freshman, Davidson showed at the College 7s National Championship that he is a capable attacker on the edge. A few injuries led to multiple shakeups in Life’s backline, and the speedster from Boise, Idaho, found himself in the center of Life’s attack. Not the biggest of centers, Davidson plays well beyond his frame and proved during Life’s Playoff run he can churn the hard meters through the teeth of a defense.
Sione Fangaiuiha, Lindenwood: The Lions needed Fangaiuiha to raise his game while impact center James Poli was not with the team during the Playoffs. Fangaiuiha did just that and scored a try against Saint Mary’s – something the Gaels defense proved to be a difficult task.
Kalei Konrad, San Diego State: A natural flyhalf, Konrad found himself at inside center for the Aztec’s first round match against Colorado. The AIG All-American is an unselfish player with a knack for putting away teammates, and that is exactly what Konrad did against the Buffs. Facing off against a large unit in Colorado’s inside center Brian Wanless, time and time again Konrad drew defenders to him and put teammates into gaps, even if it meant receiving a heavy blow from his opposing number.
Kingsley McGowan, Saint Mary’s: McGowan, as he was all season, was electrifying during the playoffs. After scoring three tries in the Gaels’ first two Playoff games, McGowan played a pivotal role in Saint Mary’s win over Life in the D1A Final. Life’s suffocating defense kept the Gaels attack at bay for the first 40 minutes of the match. Along with Cooper Maloney, it was McGowan that used both speed and strength to put Life on its backfoot and place Saint Mary’s in a position on the field to score second-half points.
Bubba Jones, Saint Mary’s: After missing time due to injury over the last two years, Jones was in prime form for the Gaels’ National Championship run. After a four-try performance against Lindenwood in the Semifinals, Jones played extremely well on both sides of the ball for Saint Mary’s in its win over Life.
Matt Long, Cal Poly: The slight but speedy Long showed off his game-breaking abilities while dotting down four times against Wyoming in the opening round of the Playoffs. Only a freshman, Long can be counted on for plenty more multi-try performances in the future for the Mustangs.
Nick Schlobohm, Saint Mary’s: Schlobohm cemented his presence as a backline force for the Gaels midway through the season. Against Santa Clara in the Quarterfinals, the sophomore recorded his fourth multi-try match of the season with a hat trick against the Broncos. Schlobohm then followed that performance with another try against Lindenwood in the Semifinals.
Lungile Tshuma, Lindenwood: Moving from fullback to wing for the Lions’ playoff run following Morgan Findlay’s return from injury, Tshuma continued his strong season with a brilliant performance against Davenport in the Quarterfinals. Tshuma scored a try, and was 5-for-7 in conversion opportunities against the Panthers. He wrapped up his season by winning Lindenwood’s Back of the Year award.
Joe Cowley, Life: Although Cowley would have loved to finish his career at Life University with a second National Championship, the AIG All-American still played incredibly well during the Running Eagles’ Playoff run. Cowley scored a combined 42 points in Life’s three playoff matches. A selection for Cowley to any of the Men’s Eagles’ three summer tests would come with little surprise.
Cooper Maloney, Saint Mary’s: Not often will you find a junior captaining a National Championship team, but that is exactly what Maloney did this year. In the National Championship match, Maloney was able to exploit the smallest of cracks within Life’s defense, and ran with will and determination to earn the award of Most Valuable Player in the D1A Final.