Caden McDonald, a senior linebacker from Logan, Iowa, was named the 2017 Hauff Mid-America Sports/Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Defensive Player of the Year to highlight the Mustangs selections on the All-GPAC Football Team.
In addition to McDonald’s Defensive Player of the Year honor, Morningside head coach Steve Ryan was named the Hauff Mid-America Sports/GPAC Coach of the Year for the sixth time in his career.
McDonald is the defensive standout for a Morningside team that is third in the nation in scoring defense with an average of 16.6 points per game. He received the Hauff Mid-America Sports/GPAC Defensive Player of the Week award four times during the regular season and leads the Mustangs in almost every statistical category. McDonald leads the Mustangs with 56 solos and 39 assists for 95 tackles and tops the team with 12.5 tackles for losses of 52 yards, 4.5 quarterback sacks, seven quarterback hurries, four interceptions, two blocked kicks and a fumble recovery.
McDonald is the Mustangs’ third straight GPAC Defensive Player of the Year award winner, joining Zac Schleuger in 2015 and Luke Gibbs in 2016.
Ryan received the GPAC Coach of the Year award after he guided the Mustangs to a perfect 11-0 regular season record, a seventh consecutive GPAC championship and a No. 3 NAIA national ranking. The Mustangs will make their 14th consecutive appearance in the NAIA Football Championship Series for the nation’s longest active streak this Saturday when they host Sterling College in an opening round matchup slated for noon at Elwood Olsen Stadium.
Ryan received the GPAC Coach of the Year award for the sixth time in his career after he previously won the award in 2004, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2015.
McDonald was one of 12 players the Mustangs placed on the All-GPAC First Team. Morningside’s first-team offensive selections include Bubba Jenkins, Connor Niles, Tanner Ver Steeg, Trae Bradburn and Garrett Temme.
Jenkins, a senior running back from Springfield, Mo., has rushed for 1751 yards and 24 touchdowns in 272 attempts for an average of 6.4 yards per carry. He leads the nation in rushing with an average of 159.2 yards per game.
Niles, a junior wide receiver from Sioux City, has 74 pass receptions for 1142 yards and 14 touchdowns for an average of 15.4 yards per catch. Niles is Morningside’s all-time leader with 3393 career pass reception yards. Niles also made the All-GPAC First Team as a punt return specialist. He has six returns for 175 yards for an average of 29.2 yards per return. He returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the Mustangs’ 35-30 victory against NCAA Division II Truman State University.
Ver Steeg, a senior wide receiver from Little Rock, Iowa, has 35 pass receptions for 617 yards and nine touchdowns for an average of 17.6 yards per catch.
Bradburn, a senior from Fort Calhoun, Neb., and Temme, a sophomore from Petersburg, Neb., are offensive line standouts for a Morningside offense that leads the nation in total offense with an average of 589.1 yards per game and is second in scoring offense with a norm of 54.1 points per game.
Jason Lupkes, Chad Reis, Alex Paulson, Joel Katzer and Xavier Spann joined McDonald on the All-GPAC First Team Defense.
Lupkes, a senior defensive lineman from Dakota Dunes, S.D., has 16 solos and 26 assists to lead the Mustangs’ defensive linemen with 42 tackles. Lupkes is second on the team with nine tackles for losses of 36 yards, 3.5 quarterback sacks and six quarterback hurries.
Reis, a junior defensive lineman from Grand Island, Neb., has 23 tackles, including five tackles for losses of 19 yards, 3.5 quarterback sacks, two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.
Paulson, a sophomore defensive lineman from Buffalo Center, Iowa, has 28 tackles, three tackles for losses of eight yards, one quarterback sack and two quarterback hurries.
Katzer, a sophomore linebacker from Wellsville, Kan., is the Mustangs’ second leading tackler with 38 solos and 17 assists for 55 tackles, seven tackles for losses of 32 yards, two quarterback sacks, two interceptions, a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
Spann, a junior defensive back from Lakeville, Fla., leads the Mustangs with four interceptions to go along with 32 tackle and six pass breakups. Spann tied a Morningside single-game record with three interceptions in this past Saturday’s 35-0 victory against Concordia University.
Spencer Wyant, a junior from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, is the All-GPAC First Team punter. Wyant has an average of 42.2 yards per punt with a long of 60 yards.
In addition to their 12 first-team selections, the Mustangs placed Jared Amundson, Andrew Metzger and Trent Solsma on the All-GPAC Second Team.
Amundson, a junior kicker from Sioux City, has converted 66 of 71 PAT attempts and is one-for-two on field goal attempts with a long of 25 yards to rank third on the Mustangs in scoring with 69 points.
Metzger, a senior offensive lineman from Rock Rapids, Iowa, is part of a Morningside offensive line that has allowed only nine quarterback sacks all season for the fourth lowest total in the nation.
Solsma, a junior quarterback from Dakota Dunes, S.D., has completed 246 of 343 pass attempts for 3410 yards with 42 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He is the NAIA national leader with a pass efficiency rating of 193.3.
Morningside’s Chad Berg, a senior wide receiver from Baldwin City, Kan.; Sam Akins, a senior tight end from Lincoln, Neb.; Brad Wolf, a senior defensive lineman from Bolivar, Mo.; Garrit Shanle, a junior offensive lineman from Columbus, Neb.; and Logan Rozeboom, a senior linebacker from Hartley, Iowa, were named to the All-GPAC honorable mention list.