Tigers break school record in all-conference picks

By Brian Ramsey
OBU Sports Information

RUSSELLVILLE — The Ouachita Baptist University football team led the league with a school-record 19 selections to the All-Great American Conference teams for the 2021 season.

TJ Cole, All-GAC First Team Running Back
Peyton Stafford, All-GAC First Team Offensive Lineman
Anthony Freeman, All-GAC First Team Defensive End
Gregory Junior, All-GAC First Team Cornerback
Xaylon Falls, All-GAC First Team Return Specialist
Jack Pillow, All-GAC Second Team Fullback
Anthony Chairez, All-GAC Second Team Offensive Lineman
Dameyun McDonald, All-GAC Second Team Defensive End
Austin Guymon, All-GAC Second Team Linebacker
Hayden Lassiter, All-GAC Second Team Safety
Kendel Givens, All-GAC Honorable Mention Running Back
Hunter Swoboda, All-GAC Honorable Mention Tight End
Hunter Jackson, All-GAC Honorable Mention Offensive Lineman
Clark Yarbrough, All-GAC Honorable Mention Defensive Tackle
Terrell Gibson, All-GAC Honorable Mention Linebacker
Andrew Hayes, All-GAC Honorable Mention Cornerback
Joe Couch, All-GAC Honorable Mention Punter
Gabe Goodman, All-GAC Honorable Mention Kicker
Connor Flannigan, All-GAC Honorable Mention Return Specialist

“I’m happy for our team and individual players for getting this recognition,” said Ouachita Head Coach Todd Knight. “Football is the ultimate team sport, and our guys understand you don’t get this honor without others. We are proud of our all-conference players and the team as well. Getting to nine wins this year with the adversity that hit our players is outstanding. This was a fun group to coach.”

Highlighting Ouachita’s first team honorees is TJ Cole, who broke the GAC record for rushing yards in a single-season with a final total of 1,530 yards on 236 carries for an average of 6.5 yards per carry. Cole found the endzone 14 times on the ground, and also had one passing touchdown.

Stafford, Chairez, Jackson, Pillow, and Swoboda all helped pave the way for Cole’s yardage, and the team’s average of 284 rushing yards per game, which is the fourth highest average in the nation.

Lassiter, Hayes, and Junior all contributed to the GAC’s top pass defense this season and third best rush defense. The trio ranked second, third, and fourth, respectively, in tackles this season. Lassiter had a team-high three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.

McDonald, Freeman, Gibson, Yarbrough, and Guymon all aided in Ouachita’s average of 1.82 sacks and 5.4 tackles for loss per game. Gibson was Ouachita’s top tackler this season with a total of 63, including 9.5 for a combined loss of 44 yards. Freeman led the Tigers and ranked second in the conference in sacks with 7.5 for a combined loss of 49 yards.

Givens just missed out on freshman of the year honors after posting 23 rushing touchdowns this season, which led the nation, and was the second-highest touchdown total in Ouachita history.

Ouachita’s special teams were well represented. Falls was one of five players in the nation this season to have two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Flannigan finished the year with an average of 17.2 yards per punt return. Although he only played half of the season due to injury, Couch ended up with the best punting average in school history at 47.53 yards per punt. He had three punts of at least 60 yards this season. Goodman finished the year 6-for-9 on field goals and 43-for-44 on extra points. His season was highlighted by a game-winning 53-yard field goal against Henderson State, his career-long by 10 yards.

McDonald, a senior from Helena, is the most decorated of this year’s honorees. He becomes a three-time all-conference honoree. Two-time honorees include Chairez, Swoboda, Guymon, and Goodman.

This group of honorees helped Ouachita secure its 13th consecutive winning season and its seventh overall season of at least nine wins.