Oh-so steady Sheehan
Ryan Sheehan is as close to automatic as it gets.
The junior kicker for the Colorado Mesa football team was voted the RMAC Special Teams Player of the Year after scoring 117 points off his strong right leg this season.
“Ryan is probably one of the unsung heroes of this year,” Mesa coach Russ Martin said. “He just continues to go out and do his job, and he does a great job of kicking.”
Sheehan made all 51 extra points during the regular season and hit 22 of 27 field goals, including a 44-yarder last weekend that allowed the Mavericks to regain the lead in the fourth quarter and defeat Azusa Pacific to secure a spot in this week’s NCAA Division II playoffs.
That field goal, into the wind, was an end-over-end boot that barely cleared the crossbar after the Cougars called time just before Tyler Heinsma snapped the ball. Sheehan went ahead and kicked, as kickers usually do in that situation, and it cleared easily. The second kick had everyone on the sideline leaning to “help” it over.
Sheehan leads all Division II kickers in scoring, is second in the nation with two field goals per game, seventh in field goal percentage (81.5) and 13th overall in scoring.
To say he’s been a weapon for the Mavericks (9-2) is an understatement, and Martin said it’s a combination of the entire kick team, especially Heinsma, holder Austin Pitchford and Sheehan.
“You just automatically start to expect it,” Martin said. “I use the example of when I first got here, Jake Edmiston was a phenomenal snapper. We never worried when we went out to punt the ball that there was going to be a bad snap. We knew it was going to be good.
“That’s kind of the feeling we get with these guys. You expect things to be right. He has done a phenomenal job of kicking the football and scoring points for us.”
Sheehan’s ability to put points on the board allows Mesa’s offense to take chances close to the end zone.
“When we get down in scoring position, we’re going to score points and it gives us a chance to maybe open up the playbook a little more because, OK, if we don’t get a touchdown, big deal, we know we’ve got three. It’s been a great confidence factor knowing we’re going to score here, let’s take care of business and those points pile up.”
Sheehan is one of four first-team selections for the Mavericks. Junior offensive lineman Austin Fleer made the first-team offense and junior safety Dustin Rivas and junior defensive end Blake Nelson made the first-team defense.
Rivas is third in the nation with four blocked kicks and averages two interceptions a game, 22nd in Division II. He was fourth on CMU’s team with 59 tackles. Nelson led the Mavericks with 99 tackles during the regular season, which is fifth in the RMAC. He also has an RMAC-best 14 tackles for lost yardage and 7.5 sacks. He’s also intercepted one pass, recovered one fumble and blocked one field goal attempt.
Running back David Tann, who has rushed for 1,014 yards this season and leads Division II in total touchdowns (25), rushing touchdowns (20) and points (150), made the second-team offense.
Also on second team is sophomore wide receiver Josh Brown, who made the honorable mention team as a punt returner. Brown has 681 receiving yards and four touchdowns and returned two punts for touchdowns, which is second in the nation. Making the honorable mention team are quarterback Sean Rubalcaba, wide receiver Marcus Hines, offensive linemen Epeli Natoko and Aaron Simons and Pitchford, the Mavs’ punter.
As expected, Colorado Mines QB Justin Dvorak was voted the offensive player of the year, and Black Hills State safety Drew Hebel the defensive player of the year after leading the league with nine interceptions.
Dixie State running back Clifford Simms was selected the offensive freshman of the year, Dixie defensive back Jaylen Moore the defensive freshman of the year, and Black Hills State’s John Reiners the coach of the year. Reiners led the Yellow Jackets from an 0-11 season last fall to 6-5 this season, including a victory over CMU, which tied for the conference title with Mines and CSU-Pueblo.
Outside linebacker Carter Wasser of Cedaredge, a junior at Western State, made the first-team defense, and his brother, Cade, a safety for the Mountaineers, made the honorable mention team.