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TAMUC -Sports

National Champion Lions are unanimous No. 1 in final AFCA Division II Coaches’ Poll.

WACO – Following the program’s first-ever NCAA Division II National Championship, the Texas A&M University-Commerce football team is unanimously ranked No. 1 in the final American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll, as released Monday.

Led by 2017 Harlon Hill Award winner Luis Perez’ 323 yards passing and two touchdowns, the National Champion Lions beat West Florida, 37-27, in Kansas City, Kan. The Lions outgained UWF by 201 yards in the game and had a 100-yard rusher (E.J. Thompson, 110 yards) and a 100-yard receiver (Shawn Hooks, 104 yards) each set career highs in the contest.

The Lions, who finished No. 1 in the AFCA Division II Coaches’ Top 25 Poll for the first time in school history, won their second-ever national championship and first NCAA title. West Florida finishes the season at No. 2, their first-ever AFCA Top 25 ranking. The Argonauts only received votes two times during the regular season and finish the season with an 11-4 record. Indiana (Pa.), Minnesota State and Ferris State (Mich.) round out the Top 5.

In their record-breaking five playoff wins, the Lions defeated No. 15 Winona State, No. 7 Central Washington, No. 4 Minnesota State, No. 6 Harding, and No. 2 West Florida on the way to the National Championship.

A&M-Commerce has been ranked in 39 consecutive AFCA polls, dating back to the 2015 preseason poll. It is A&M-Commerce’s 45th all-time appearance in the AFCA poll since its inception in 2000.

In the polls recognized by Division II as the top rating system, the Lions have been identified as a nationally ranked team 94 times since joining Division II in 1981. The Lions had previously reached No. 2 in the polls four times, and achieve the nation’s top ranking for the first time.

2017 American Football Coaches Association Division II Coaches’ Poll – December 18, 2017

Rank School (1st votes) Rec. Pts. Prev.
1. A&M-COMMERCE (33) 14-1 825 8
2. West Florida 11-4 774 NR
3. Indiana (Pa.) 13-1 730 3
4. Minnesota St. 13-1 707 1
5. Ferris St. (Mich.) 11-2 612 10
6. Harding (Ark.) 11-4 574 NR
7. Central Washington 11-1 566 7
8. Fort Hays St. (Kan.) 11-1 533 4
9. Assumption (Mass.) 11-2 511 15
10. Ashland (Ohio) 11-2 493 9
11. Midwestern St. (Texas) 10-1 472 5
12. West Alabama 10-3 456 17
13. Indianapolis (Ind.) 11-1 409 6
14. Shepherd (W.Va.) 10-1 396 2
15. Winona St. (Minn.) 10-2 287 12
16. Northwest Missouri St. 9-3 272 13
17. Colorado St.-Pueblo 9-3 238 20
18. Virginia St. 10-1 233 11
19. West Georgia 9-4 230 NR
20. Sioux Falls (S.D.) 9-3 229 18
21. Delta St. (Miss.) 9-4 212 NR
22. Findlay (Ohio) 10-3 186 NR
23. Bowie St. (Md.) 9-2 176 14
24. Wingate (N.C.) 9-2 159 16
25. Shippensburg (Pa.) 10-2 101 19

Dropped Out: Humboldt St. (Calif.) (21), Colorado Mesa (22), Minnesota-Duluth (23), Eastern New Mexico (24), Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) (25)

Others Receiving Votes: Ouachita Baptist (Ark.), 79; Humboldt St. (Calif.), 59; West Chester (Pa.), 52; Colorado Mesa, 37; California (Pa.), 31; Central Missouri, 27; Eastern New Mexico, 25; Minnesota-Duluth, 19; Azusa Pacific (Calif.), 9; Catawba (N.C.), 4; Grand Valley St. (Mich.), 2.


Saathoff, Sterling-Lowe advance to final ballot for Cliff Harris Award.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Texas A&M University-Commerce linebacker Brucks Saathoff and cornerback Yusef Sterling-Lowe have both advanced as finalists on the ballot for the Cliff Harris Award, as announced by the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Wednesday.

The Lion’s duo is two of 30 Division II finalists for the award, with the overall winner announced Saturday.

Saathoff – a junior linebacker from San Antonio – finished as the leading tackler for the 2017 National Champions with 101 stops including six tackles for loss and four sacks. He had six tackles and a sack in the National Championship Game. He was previously named a first-team all-Lone Star Conference selection at linebacker. He had double-digit tackles in four games this season, including 11 at Central Washington and 14 in the National Semifinal victory over Harding. He was named Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Week against West Texas A&M when he made 12 tackles and forced a fumble.

The American Football Coaches Association previously named Sterling-Lowe, a senior cornerback from Oakland, California, to Second Team All-American. The First Team All-Lone Star Conference selection has been one of the top cornerbacks in the nation in both pass and running defense. He had 41 tackles on the season, with two stops, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble in the National Championship Game. He defended ten passes with three interceptions and seven pass breakups for the year.

The Cliff Harris Award goes to the top defensive player in the country representing Division II, III and NAIA colleges and universities. The winner will be announced Saturday and will also receive honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club’s annual awards banquet in January.

For more information on the Cliff Harris Award and the full nominee listing, please visit


Luis Perez accepts the invitation to play in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fresh off of winning the 2017 NCAA Division II Football National Championship, Texas A&M University-Commerce quarterback Luis Perez has accepted his invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, as announced by NFLPA Collegiate Bowl staff on Monday.

The seventh annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be Saturday, January 20, 2018, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., which has been the site of five Super Bowls and numerous major college football games. The contest, scheduled for a 1 p.m. PST (3 p.m. CST) kickoff, will be televised on FS1.

Founded in 2012, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl gives prospective players the best opportunity to showcase their talents to potential employers and fans. Nearly 200 scouts, player personnel staff, general managers and head coaches from all 32 NFL teams expected in attendance to watch live practices, conduct player interviews and review the tape.

Perez is the winner of the 2017 Harlon Hill Trophy, awarded the top Division II college football player in the nation. He completed 421-of-596 passes for 4,999 yards, 46 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The 4,999 yards are the fourth-most by a quarterback in a single Division II season. He also set a Division II Championship records for pass completions (144), pass attempts (211) and passing yards (1,570). He became the first quarterback to pass for over 300 yards in the National Championship game since 2005 and tied a Lone Star Conference record for the most 200-yard passing games in a season with 14.

He became the first Harlon Hill Trophy winner to also win a Division II National Championship since 2002 and only the sixth overall in the 32-year history of Division II’s premier football award.

For his career, the Chula Vista, Calif., native completed 665-of-985 passes for 8,325 yards, 78 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. He was the starting quarterback for 28 games, leading the Lions to a 25-3 record, two NCAA Division II playoff appearances, and a Lone Star Conference championship. He completed his collegiate career leading the Lions on a 10-game winning streak, which is the longest active winning streak in Division II.

He was named a First Team All-American by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association and the Associated Press, and a Second Team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. He was also named the Ron Lenz Offensive Player of the Year by the D2CCA. He won the J.W. Rollins Award as the Lone Star Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year and is a two-time First Team All-Lone Star Conference selection at quarterback.


Matt Storm named Division II Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.

COMMERCE – Texas A&M University-Commerce football offensive coordinator Matt Storm has been named the 2017 FootballScoop Division II Coordinator of the Year presented by AstroTurf, as announced Tuesday.

A&M-Commerce started the season with an 8-7 win over North Alabama. The Lions’ offense took off from there — all the way to the school’s first Division II National Championship. The Lions topped the 30-point barrier in 13 of its remaining 14 games and busted the 50-point barrier four times.

A prolific passing attack led the Lions to the national title. Luis Perez completed 421-of-596 passes (70.7 percent) for 4,999 yards (9.04 yards per attempt) with 46 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. The Harlon Hill Trophy winner as the Division II National Player of the Year, Perez led Division II in passing at 333.3 yards per game. He posted seven games with at least four touchdown passes, including two with five, and seven games of at least 350 passing yards.

In Saturday’s 37-27 Division II National Championship win over West Florida, Perez connected on 23-of-30 passes for 323 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Perez spread the ball around to a broad group of wide receivers, as five Lions caught between 59 and 65 passes on the year.

The Lions were also among the best in Division II at consistently moving the ball. Their 338 first downs ranked second nationally, good for 22.5 per game.Texas A&M-Commerce also posted scores on 87 percent of its 69 red zone trips, including 41 touchdowns.

As a team, A&M-Commerce averaged 447.3 yards per game and 6.46 per play — both good for the top 30 nationally.

In addition to Perez’s Harlon Hill Trophy, he and offensive lineman Jared Machorro were named All-Americans by the Associated Press, the Division II Conference Commissioners’ Association, and the Associated Press. Perez also won the J.W. Rollins Award as the Lone Star Conference Offensive Player of the Year, while Machorro and Vincent Hobbs were named First Team All-LSC honorees.

An East Central University graduate, Storm spent six seasons on the staff of his alma mater as defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Coach Storm also spent one season on the team at West Texas A&M, where he helped the Buffaloes lead the Lone Star Conference in total offense and reach the Division II semifinals. Coach Storm has been A&M-Commerce’s offensive coordinator since 2013.

The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by ProGrass are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Adam Austin [Midwestern State], Joe Beschorner [Minnesota State], Mike Burket [Shippensburg], Mark Criner and Donnell Leomiti [Colorado State-Pueblo], Jim Smith [Indiana], Moses Ware [Bowie State] and Storm) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners chose this year’s winner.

Coach Storm will receive his award and be recognized at an event at the AFCA Convention in January.

Previous winners of the Division II Coordinator of the Year award are Tim Beck (Pittsburg State [Kan.], 2008), Scott Preston (Arkansas Tech, 2009), Ken Collums (Abilene Christian, 2010), Hunter Hughes (Colorado State-Pueblo, 2011), Paul Tortorella (Indiana [Pa.], 2012), Josh Kline (Shepherd [W. Va.], 2013), Rich Wright (Northwest Missouri State, 2014 and 2015) and Charlie Flohr (Northwest Missouri State, 2016).



Artaejah Gay

Hot start not enough as Lions fall 59-57 to St. Mary’s in overtime.

SAN ANTONIO– The Texas A&M University-Commerce women’s basketball team lost an overtime contest to St. Mary’s on Tuesday. The Lions scored the first 15 points of the game but struggled in the second quarter. The Lions forced overtime but could not come out with the win.

The loss brings the Lions to 6-5 on the season. The Rattlers improve to 6-8 on the year.

The Lions will have the next ten days off before returning to the court on Dec. 29. They will face UT-San Antonio in an exhibition game. The game will start at 7 p.m. at the UTSA Convocation Center in San Antonio. The Lions’ next regular season game will be a Lone Star Conference contest against Texas A&M-Kingsville on Jan. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Field House in Commerce.

– Artaejah Gay moved into seventh place all-time in field goals made. She led the Lions with 16 points to go along with six rebounds in a career-high 39 minutes.
– Brianna Wise had a double-double with 15 points and ten rebounds, the second double-double of her A&M-Commerce career.
– Melanie Ransom had eight points and a team-high three assists.
– Jenna Price, Lauren Parker, and Agang Tac had four points apiece. Princess Davis and Alex Nance both had three points.
– Both teams made the same number of shots and the same amount of free throws. St. Mary’s made two more threes.
– St. Mary’s did not have a single point from its bench. The Lions had 26 bench points.
– The Lions had 21 turnovers in the game while St. Mary’s had 19.
– The Lions scored the first 15 points of the game. St. Mary’s missed its first 18 shots of the game.

The Lions jumped out to a quick lead. Holland had a block on the first Rattler possession that led to a fast-break layup. Davis then had a steal, and a layup as the Lions jumped out to an early 4-0 lead. Gay then hit a three as the Lions led 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

The Lions continued to play hot in the first quarter, while the Lion defense was stifling. Price hit a layup, and Gay had a three-point play to bring the Lion lead to 12. Nance hit a three-pointer with 1:40 left to give the Lions the first 15 points of the game. St. Mary’s finally got on the board with just over a minute left. Gay hit another layup to give her eight points in the quarter. The Lions led 17-5 after the first quarter.

Gay scored another jumper early in the second quarter as she moved into 8th place all-time in field goals made in program history. Wise also made a jumper as the Lions led 21-12 with 6:36 remaining. The Rattlers then started to climb back, scoring back-to-back layups to cut the Lion lead to just five points midway through the second quarter.

The Rattler defense continued to hold the Lions scoreless, keeping A&M-Commerce off the board for more than four minutes as they cut the lead to three points. Wise broke the scoreless streak by getting to the free throw line. StMU continued to rally, however, ending the half on a 10-2 run. The Lions led 23-22 at halftime.

Gay had 10 points at halftime to lead all scorers. After missing their first 18 shots of the first half, the Rattlers went 10-of-19 to end the half. The Lions had 15 turnovers in the first half, which aided the Rattler comeback.

The Rattlers took their first lead of the contest early in the third quarter before Gay gave the Lions back the lead. Gay had another layup to give the Lions a 29-26 lead. StMU then went on a 6-0 run to retake the lead, leading 32-29 midway through the third quarter.

The Rattlers pushed their lead up to four points before the Lions rallied to tie the game at 34. Tac had a layup and Wise hit a jumper to tie the game. Tac had another jumper late as the teams tied at 36 entering the final quarter of play.

Wise made a jumper to give the Lions back the lead early in the fourth quarter. After the Rattlers took the lead back, Ransom hit a three to give the Lions the lead again. StMU then rallied, going on an 8-2 run to take their largest lead of the game, 45-40.

The teams split the next 10 points, with St. Mary’s holding a 50-45 lead with three minutes to play. The Lions continued to fight, driving into the lane to get to the foul line. Wise hit two free throws and Davis had another to cut the lead to just two points with a minute to play.

After a Lion rebound, a missed shot forced A&M-Commerce to foul. After trying to get into the penalty, the Lions caught a break. Good defense from Ransom gave the Lions a chance as she got a steal with four seconds to play. The Lions called a timeout to draw up a play. The play worked as Wise found space and scored a layup as the buzzer sounded to force overtime.

The Rattlers scored a three to take an early overtime lead. Ransom had a free throw, and Wise scored a jumper to tie the game again with three minutes left in the overtime. The Rattlers scored a three with 1:43 left. After missing a shot, the Lions started to foul again, hoping to extend the game.

The Lions cut the lead to two points before fouling. St. Mary’s made both free throws, bringing their lead back to four with 14 seconds left. The Lions missed a three but had a late layup on an offensive rebound. However, there was too little time on the clock, and the Lions could not get another possession, falling by two.


Willie Rooks

No. 22 Lions close out fall semester with a commanding 71-48 win over Texas A&M International.

LAREDO – The No. 22 Texas A&M University-Commerce men’s basketball team shot lights out early and cruised to a 71-48 victory over Texas A&M International University at the Kinesiology & Recreation Building on Tuesday night.

The Lions close out the fall semester with an 11-1 record, while Texas A&M International falls to 6-7.

A&M-Commerce is now off for the Division II mandatory holiday break. The Lions are next in action with a three-game homestand to start the 2018 calendar year. The first of that trio of games comes on Thursday, January 4, against Texas A&M-Kingsville.

– Every Lion who put on his uniform scored at least one point for the Lions, with three tallying double figures.
– Willie Rooks scored 15 points with five assists and four rebounds to lead the Lions.
– Reggie Reid and Srdan Budimir each netted 12 points in the game.
– Dorian Armstrong scored just three points but had a team-best five rebounds and passed out four assists to go with two blocked shots.
– The Lions shot 54.9 percent (28-of-51) from the field for the night while limiting TAMIU to a 25.0 percent (13-of-52) clip. The Dustdevils made only four two-point baskets all night.

The Dustdevils opened the scoring with a three-pointer on the game’s first possession, and the game was tied 9-9 at the 14:25 mark.

The Lions proceeded to go on a 17-1 run. Rooks and Budimir nailed triples, and consecutive baskets by Aaron Horne, Daquane Willford, and Rooks gave the Lions their first double-digit lead at 21-10. A Reid layup and a Rooks three-pointer pushed the lead to 26-10 before the Dustdevils made their only two-point field goal of the half at the 7:19 mark.

TAMIU was unable to connect on a field goal in the final 7:19, missing its last seven shots and turning the ball over four times. In that span, the Lions scored 10 of the half’s final 11 points taking a 36-13 lead into the break.

Rooks had 13 points in the half to lead the Lions, who shot 60.0 percent (15-of-25) from the floor. The Lions limited the Dustdevils to a 16.7 percent clip in half, connecting on 4-of-24 shots.

Joseph Wiliams-Powell hit a layup on the second half’s opening possession to push the lead to 25 points for the largest lead of the night for the Lions.

A 6-0 TAMIU surge brought the advantage under 20 points at 39-20, but the Lions were able to stave off any Dustdevil attacks despite a resurgent effort from the hosts. Trey Conrod’s jumper at the 12:16 mark put the Lions up by a 51-28 count before the home team was able to cut the lead to 15 with an 8-0 run.

The lead shrank to as few as 13 points with just over eight minutes to play before A&M-Commerce re-established its dominance. A 6-0 run capped by a Conrod layup put the lead back at 20 points, as the Lions led 61-41 with 5:10 to play. Budimir’s three-pointer at the 2:15 mark pushed the lead to 23 points at 68-45, and both teams traded free throws in the dying stages of the game.

Both teams scored 35 points in the second half, though the Lions shot 50.0 percent (13-of-26) to the Dustdevils’ 32.1 percent (9-of-28). TAMIU used the three-pointer to better effect, making six in the second half, though the hosts only made three two-point field goals in the final 20 minutes of play.

A&M-Commerce held a commanding 42-8 advantage in points in the paint and had 28 points off of 19 A&M International turnovers.