Mavs set for final hurrah

Newton, Walker, Thorne among 13 seniors wrapping up football careers at Mesa State



Nebraska-Kearney (9-1, 8-0 RMAC) at Mesa State (5-5, 5-3 RMAC)

1 p.m. Saturday, Stocker Stadium

Radio: 1230-AM (KEXO), pre-game at 12:30 p.m.

Series: Kearney leads 14-3, including a 63-10 victory last year in Kearney.

Mesa State

Coach: Joe Ramunno, 12th year, 74-61

Last week: Lost to Chadron State 31-7 in Chadron, Neb.

Noteworthy: Mesa State will recognize 13 seniors prior to kickoff. Junior defensive end Dominic Applehans will play his last game because he has attended school the maximum 10 semesters allowed by the NCAA, and junior punter C.J. Smith plans to graduate in May. Senior safety Aaron Silverthorn has 12 career interceptions, five short of the school record. Senior wide receiver Justin Murray has 112 career receptions for 1,779 yards.


Coach: Darrell Morris, 10th year, 71-35

Last week: Defeated Colorado Mines 24-12 in Kearney, Neb.

Noteworthy: The Lopers are ranked fourth in the region and eighth in the nation. Their nine wins this season tie a single-season school record. Kearney is playing for its first outright RMAC title since 2005 and an NCAA first-round home playoff game. The Lopers have nine returning starters from last season, including QB Jake Spitzlberger and the entire offensive line. Kearney leads the nation in sacks with 4.3 per game. The Lopers lead the RMAC in 12 statistical categories.

— Allen Gemaehlich

In a couple of months, three close friends will go their separate ways.

The past four years, Mesa State College football players Bennett Newton, Cody Walker and Derek Thorne have shared a residence and have memories that will stay with them well beyond their football careers.

“They are good friends,” Newton said of Fruita Monument High School graduates Walker and Thorne. “They are the type of dudes you don’t run into (very) often. They would give you a place to stay. They are the type of guys that would give you the shirt off their back.”

The three starting linebackers are among 13 seniors suiting up for the last time Saturday when the Mavericks (5-5, 5-3 RMAC) host eighth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney (9-1, 8-0 RMAC) at 1 p.m. at Stocker Stadium.

“Our seniors are good student-athletes,” coach Joe Ramunno said. “They represent the community well. They are great leaders and good players.”

Although Newton, Walker and Thorne wanted to be in the Lopers’ shoes, playing for an RMAC title and NCAA Division II playoff berth, they realize the opportunity they have in their final game.

“It’s a good situation,” Thorne said. “We’re playing a ranked team on our home field that Cody and I’ve been playing on our whole lives. It would be a great win to get. We’ll play our hearts out for sure.”

The three have done that their entire careers.

Newton earned a starting role his sophomore year, but had a season-ending knee injury in the second game. As a result, Walker’s playing time increased and Thorne saw lots of action on special teams.

Although it hurt Newton to miss the 2007 season, in which the Mavericks made the NCAA Division II playoffs, he came back stronger than ever.

“I think (the injury) was the best thing that could happen,” Newton said. “It rekindled the fire in me. It pushed me to a whole new level.”

Last year, Newton and Walker were second and third on the team in tackles. Thorne returned one punt for a touchdown and blocked a kick.

This year, Newton is leading the RMAC in tackles (107) and has 4.5 sacks. Walker is third (63) and Thorne is fourth (52) on the team in tackles.

“All three of them were instrumental in our 2007 success,” Ramunno said. “They’ve had a great year. Their work ethic is outstanding.”

They’ll rely on that work ethic as they embark on a new phase in their lives.

Newton and Walker are joining separate branches of the U.S. military, and Thorne will be finishing his degree.

Newton has enlisted in the Navy and reports to boot camp in February.

“I’m very excited to serve my country,” Newton said. “It’s a hard program to get through, but I like challenges.”

Walker is joining the Marine Corps in January.

“I’ve always wanted to since I was a little kid,” Walker said. “I’m excited.”

Thorne has always known what he wanted to do with his life as well, but it isn’t the military.

“My dad is a certified health physicist,” Thorne said. “I think about working for him. I like the outdoors.”

Thorne is following in his father’s footsteps and is studying environmental science and plans to graduate in May.

Although the three will head in separate directions after football, their experience in football helped establish their passion and work ethic.

“In my opinion, this is the best town in the RMAC and Mesa is the best school in the RMAC,” Thorne said. “As far as I’m concerned, this is the best coaching staff. It’s one big family.”


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