Southern Virginia, the LDS liberal arts college based in Buena Vista, Va., has enjoyed its share of athletic success, as evidenced by the 32 team national championships the school has won since 1998.
This week, the accolades poured in again. The football team's 2013 accomplishments were awarded when the Knights edged Ave Maria University and finished the season ranked No. 1 in the final United States Collegiate Athletic Association coaches' poll.
There were 21 players from Utah on this year's roster, as well as eight from Idaho. That includes starting sophomore quarterback Andy Jones, who attended Brighton High.
"The 83 young men who reported to camp in August have earned the right to be ranked No. 1 in the USCAA," Southern Virginia head coach DeLane Fitzgerald said in a news release. "They reported to meetings and practice each day wanting to become better football players and wanting to become a better team, and through extraordinary effort this special group of young men accomplished this. As a coaching staff, we are very proud of them."
Southern Virginia, like Ave Maria, finished the year with an 8-2 record, the best season in Knights history. That included Southern Virginia winning its final six games of the season, finishing the year with back-to-back shutouts — 30-0 over No. 4 Alfred State and 40-0 against Southwestern (Texas). Those were the first two shutouts in school history.
The Knights earned 53 points in the final coaches' poll, while Ave Maria had 52. In addition to its win over Alfred State, Southern Virginia also beat No. 6 Virginia University-Lynchburg and No. 7 The Apprentice School twice during the season.
Many players from Utah played key roles for Southern Virginia this season.
Jones threw for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013 in leading a Southern Virginia team that averaged 30 points per game, and he added 196 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.
He improved considerably during the team's six-game win streak to end the year. During that stretch, Jones threw for an average of 173.2 yards per game and also tossed 12 touchdowns and five interceptions while only being sacked three times.
Jacob Palmer of Highland, who attended Lone Peak High, was one of four Knights who wrapped up their career on Senior Day against Southwestern. Palmer, a free safety, had 29 tackles on a defense that gave up 14.2 points per game and registered a league-high 33 sacks.
"The leadership of these four seniors has been extraordinary," Fitzgerald said in a news release following the Knights' game against Southwestern. "We were extremely blessed to have Dee (Sanford) on our team this year, and Jake has been a tremendous leader both on and off the field the past two years. Tyler (Condiff) and Dakoda (Winsor) have combined to earn the most wins in school history throughout their careers. Football aside, these are great people and great leaders, and they'll be missed."
Utahns also contributed on special teams. Freshman kicker Davis Cragun (Davis High) led the team in points, scoring 66 while hitting 12-of-13 field goals and 30-of-35 extra points. Freshman Tyler Snyder (Skyline High), listed as a quarterback on the roster, was the team's leading punter, averaging 35.3 yards per boot and pinning 11 punts inside the 20.
Other Utahns who put up significant statistics this season include: running back Steven Scott (Bonneville High, 170 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns), linebacker Zach Englert (Skyline High, 28 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one interception), defensive back Daryl Adams (Riverton High, 19 tackles, four pass breakups, one interception), running back Jared Watts (North Sanpete High, 249 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and defensive end Uitalafi Faumuina II (Taylorsville High, 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, half sack).
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