Bluejay gridmen garner honors

The Bluejay football team may have racked up a 3-3 league record this year, but the Great Northern Football Conference coaches saw plenty that they liked in the squad with 10 All-Conference selections.
That creditability extended beyond the GNC, however, as GNC First Teamers OL Grant Collins, DB Ray Paul and RB Austin Voigt also earned All-District recognition.
“Overall, I was very happy with the results for a 4-6 team,” MHS coach Tom Tourtillott said.
“I was really impressed that Ray was the only one in the GNC to be First Team on both offense (split end) and defense. He was (Alex) Cordova’s go-to receiver and the heart and soul of our defensive unit with a lot of new faces on it.
“Grant is an outstanding football player who improved all season long. With him and Alex Ruge on the right side, it’s where we ran the football. Grant is a very good run blocker and very good pass blocker. If he wants, he can play college football.
“Pound for pound, Austin is one of the best running backs in the area. I’m extremely impressed with his mental and physical toughness. Without a doubt he’s our offensive MVP.”
Voigt gained 780 yards on 138 carries (5.7 ypc) with 4 TD’s to lead the GNC by 348 yards, and 1131 on 195 (5.8 ypc) and 8 scores overall. Paul caught 39 passes for 464 yards for 11.9 ypr and 5 TD’s (26-for-361 for a 13.9 ypr with 5 TD’s, 2nd in receptions in the GNC). He also provided defensive stats of 56 solos, 15 assists, 3 int. for 59 yards, an 1 fumble caused (2 ints. with 55 yards of returns in the GNC). Cordova was the First Team kicker, and Tyler Schmidt (23 s, 9 a, 7 TFL, 3 sa, 1 PBU, 4 FC, 3 FR, 1 BK) was Merrill’s only Second Team pick.
“Alex Cordova definitely gave us the advantage,” Tourtillott said. “That Homecoming game (three field goals, including the game-winner, touchback kickoffs in a 35-33 win) is one that we and the community won’t soon forget.
“It’s tough for a sophomore to start on the defensive line and Tyler was the only sophomore to receive First or Second Team in the Great Northern. He has a very bright future. He has a great motor and is a punishing tackler.”
Five players received Honorable Mention, including seniors Ruge (OG), Coty Rajek (LB), Alec Oestreich (DB) and Jared Wardall (LT), and junior Austin Bonnell (DT).
Rajek gave 34 s, 13 a, 5 TFL and 1 sa, while Oestreich offered 28 s, 4 a, 2 sa, 2 int., 4 FC, 2 FR. Rajek also ran for 143 yards on 37 carries (3.9 ypc) with 6 TD’s (28 carries, 118 yards, 5 TD’s in the GNC). Bonnell had 8 s, 5 a, 2 TFL.
“I thought the biggest snub was Alex Ruge,” Tourtillott said. “I thought for sure he was one of the top 10 offensive linemen in conference. He was a silent leader who let his pads do the talking.
“Jared was our most improved player. He was a very good pass blocker and a very important player for our team. Alec Oestreich was hands-down our most valuable special teams cover guy. He did a little bit of everything for our team between defensive back and split end. He’s a high-character guy that will be very successful in life.
“I was very pleased and surprised that Coty was recognized as a linebacker. He was a two-way player for our team and improved a great deal. He is also an outstanding young man. I was pleased the Austin got recognition, because he improved a great deal as the season went on. He was a big run stopper in the middle. I look to him to be one of our leaders next year.”

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