By Mike Pilosof
Photo by Adam Shrimplin
Garden City, KS-Following an eight-win campaign, Garden City received plenty of postseason recognition on Thursday.
16 Broncbusters landed on the All-Jayhawk team with tight end Bryce Parker, offensive lineman Nymonta Doucoure, defensive end Ali Gaye, linebacker Krishon Merriweather and kicker Andre Dos Santos Aires earning first-team selections.
"We had a lot of guys who were deserving, but this league is very competitive," Head Coach Tom Minnick said.
Parker's numbers may not reflect the impact that he had in 2019. He caught 15 balls for 173 yards and two touchdowns (one of those scores was the game-tying touchdown vs. Snow in week one). But his presence as one of the best blocking tight ends in the conference paid major dividends.
Doucoure, who redshirted for Jeff Sims in 2018, moved to the United States from Africa as a child. He then transformed into one of the best offensive lineman in Ohio, despite playing only one year of varsity football. After sitting out a year, he helped pave the way for the Broncbusters sixth-ranked rushing attack.
Gaye was deemed a star well before he took the field in week one vs. Snow. Already rated as the No. 1 JUCO defensive end, the Washington-native did something that is nearly impossible to do: live up to the billing. The LSU-commit finished with 44 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble a pass breakup and two blocked kicks, spearheading a defense that was one of the best in the country over the final month of the season.
"I've seen Ali grow from a freshman at Arizona Western to what he is now," Head Coach Tom Minnick said. "He's turned into a really good football player."
This won't be the last time we hear about Merriweather this offseason. The nation's leading tackler is certainly a shoe in for All-American and fell just a couple of points shy of being named the Jayhawk Defensive Player of the Year, giving way to Hutchinson's Latrell Bankston. The sophomore averaged a nation-best 13.9 stops per game, which included six games of 15 or more tackles, with his season-high coming vs. Iowa Central: a 21-stop masterpiece that helped the Broncbusters storm back from a two-touchdown deficit.
"He was the best defensive player in the country all year," Minnick said.
What can you say about Dos Santos Aires? During fall camp, Minnick said he left a lot to be desired. But the sophomore, who spent his junior year at Ulysses High School before moving back to Brazil and then spending a year playing soccer in Iowa, was one of the most clutch kickers in the nation. His 39-yard boot helped Garden City take down No. 4 Hutchinson in the second-to-last regular-season game. He made 53 PATs, the third most in the country and converted 11-of-14 field goals-with his long: a 43-yarder coming in a 61-0 rout of Ellsworth in week three.
"I didn't really know what we had in camp," Minnick explained. "But he made some big kicks all season."
Garden City had five players land on the second team: offensive lineman Julian Clark, center Matthan Hatchie, running back Ramon Jefferson, who tallied three 100-yard rushing games and finished third in the nation in yards, defensive tackle Jordon Riley, who transferred from North Carolina, and safety Kenny White, who despite a painful shoulder injury, became known as one of the hardest-hitters in the country. He totaled 59 tackles and a three picks, the second most in the conference.
Quarterback Nate Cox, who threw for a conference-best 1,891 yards and 12 touchdowns, wide receiver Troy'Von Johnson, who was second on the team with 26 receptions for 385 yards and three touchdowns, wide receiver MJ Link, who led the team in receptions (32), yards (559) and touchdowns (4), along with defensive end Ryan McClain, running back Jadon Hayes, whose 14 touchdowns were good for fourth in the country, and linebacker Willie Hampton, who tallied 99 tackles-second most in the Jayhawk Conference, were all named Honorable Mentions.