YUMA, Ariz. – Sophomore linebacker Patrick Macon headlined an outstanding defense all season for the Arizona Western College football team. He helped lead the second-ranked Matadors to a spot in the NJCAA National Championship game, and he was named the Western States Football League Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Head Coach Tom Minnick was named the WSFL and All-Region Coach of the Year.
The Matadors were also well-represented on both the All-WSFL and All-Region teams. On defense, Craig Evans, Chris Favoroso, Keisean Nixon and Jekyren Miles joined Macon on the All-WSFL and All-Region First Team, and Roy Yancey earned a spot on the All-Region Second Team. Offensively, Greg Bell III, Trey Rodriguez, Jeremy Patton and Desmond Bland were named to the All-WSFL and All-Region First Team. Jason Linden, Yasir Durant and Zach Bennett both earned All-Region First Team and All-WSFL Second Team nods. Kicker Nino Alibegic was named to the All-WSFL and All-Region First Teams.
Macon led the Matadors in tackles (117) and racked up statistics all over the field. He led the nation with nine forced fumbles and 27.5 tackles for loss. Plus, he added nine sacks, two fumble recoveries, an interception and six pass breakups.
Defensive end Chris Favoroso and defensive tackle Craig Evans wreaked havoc along the defensive line. Favoroso tied for fifth in the nation with 21 tackles for loss and second in the WSFL with 10.5 sacks. He added 55 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup. Evans was a wrecking ball in the middle on his way to 16.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks and 52 total tackles. He also had an interception and one fumble recovery.
In the secondary, Keisean Nixon led the team with six interceptions, two of which he returned for scores. He also finished with 22 tackles, four pass breakups, two sacks and five tackles for loss. Nixon also returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns. Jekyren Miles led the defense with nine pass breakups while adding three interceptions, 34 tackles, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery..
On offense, running back Greg Bell III finished with more than 140 yards in three of his last four games and five of his last seven to lead the Matadors with 1145 rushing yards. He finished seventh in the nation with 114.5 yards per game and added seven touchdowns. Running back Trey Rodriguez was also part of the multi-headed Matador rushing attack, and he ran for 16 touchdowns (tied for third in the nation) on 165 carries for 809 yards. His 80.9 rushing yards per game were third in the WSFL.
Tight end Jeremy Patton came on strong as a pass catcher to end the season, but his run blocking helped open holes for Bell and Rodriguez all season. The 6’6 sophomore finished with 16 receptions for 213, and his five touchdowns were tied for a team high. He caught four touchdowns in the team’s final two games.
Along the offensive line, left tackle Desmond Bland spent the season protecting the blind side of his quarterback and he combined with Jason Linden, Yasir Durant and Zach Bennett to pave the way for the nation’s sixth best rushing attack. The Mats averaged 250 yards per game and added 34 rushing touchdowns on their way to 44 points per game.
Nino Alibegic handled the placekicking duties throughout the season. He nailed his most important kick of the season in the team’s opener: a 24-yard field goal against Iowa Western that tied the game and sent it to overtime. He finished 9-11 on field goals with a long of 35, and he went 53-57 on extra points without a miss in his final eight games.
Linebacker Roy Yancey earned his All-Region second team nod by finishing second on the Matador defense with 73 tackles. He also added 7.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Coach Minnick has now won his third WSFL Coach of the Year award after leading the Mats to their fifth WSFL title during his career at AWC. He is the team’s winningest coach after passing Ray Butcher last season.
The Mats will play against Garden City Community College on Saturday, December 3 in the National Championship game at the El Toro Bowl. Reserved tickets are $10, and general admission tickets are $8. Tickets are on sale at the AWC Athletic office at the Yuma Campus or the Caballeros de Yuma Office in the Old City Hall building downtown to get your tickets. You can also order by phone by calling the Caballeros de Yuma at (928) 343-1715. You can head to www.eltorobowl.com for the full schedule of events during bowl week.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,400 certificates and degrees in 2015-16.