Five Eagles on All-Big Sky First Team
All-league honors go to 22 Eastern players
Eastern Washington’s T.J. Lee III snags an interception in front of Washington State’s Dominique Williams, Sept. 8. Plays like this earned Lee selection to the All-Big Sky First Team with four other Eagle teammates.
Last year at this time Brandon Kaufman was hobbling around on crutches, one of a host of Eastern Eagles out of the line-up due to injuries.
In 2012 Kaufman has shown he’s fully recovered and the junior wide receiver heads a list of five Eagles who were recently named to the All-Big Sky Conference’s first team.
Kaufman, Eastern’s nominee as the league’s Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, was an All-American and again a first-team all conference player in 2010, helping lead the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I national championship. He earned an injury redshirt in 2011 after suffering both a knee and hand injury.
The Denver junior enters the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs with 65 catches for 1,270 yards (19.5 per catch) and 10 touchdowns. He had career highs of 10 catches for 192 yards versus Southern Utah Oct. 27.
Joining Kaufman on the first team is junior cornerback T.J. Lee, a repeat first team selection from 2011. The others on the first team this season were senior kicker Jimmy Pavel, junior inside linebacker Ronnie Hamlin and senior offensive tackle Will Post.
“A lot of our players were recognized, which is exciting and deserving because I know how much hard work they put in,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. “I know how many great players there are in this conference, so to be recognized at any level says a lot about the success they had on the field.”
Lee has piled up some impressive statistics this season, ranking second on the team with 72 tackles.
Hamlin has 107 tackles this season, an average of 9.73 per game. In Eastern’s 27-24 win at Big Sky co-champion Montana State Oct. 13 Hamlin also had a key interception to earn Root Sports Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Post has started every game at right offensive tackle in 2012, with a total of 33 career starts in 42 games played. He has allowed just one sack this season.
Pavel made a 45-yard field goal against UC Davis on Nov. 10 to equal EWU’s single season record of 16 set last year by Mike Jarrett. He’s recently taken over punting duties too, has a 42.4 average on 12 punts with three downed inside the opponent 20-yard line.
Second team selections include sixth-year senior outside linebacker Zach Johnson, a second team choice in 2010 and honorable mention as a freshman in 2008. Junior offensive guard Steven Forgette, an honorable mention selection a year ago, also earned second team honors this season, as well as senior defensive end Jerry Ceja and safety Allen Brown.
Johnson had a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter to help preserve Eastern’s come-from-behind 41-34 victory over Portland State Nov. 17.
Earning honorable mention on offense were junior running back Demitrius Bronson, junior center Ashton Miller and senior wide receivers Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd. Edwards was a first team choice last season, and Herd earned second-team All-BSC honors in 2011.
Seven players on defense earned honorable mention, including senior defensive end Paul Ena, who was a repeat selection from a year ago. Also on the squad were senior inside linebacker Tyler Washburn, senior outside linebacker Grant Williams, junior defensive tackle Andru Pulu, junior cornerback Ronald Baines, sophomore defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra and freshman redshirt safety Jordan Tonani.
Also selected to the honorable mention list was senior special teams standout Chase King and freshman redshirt return specialist Shaquille Hill.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.