Finishing the season with 15 active players, The Dalles football had nearly half of the roster pick up Columbia River Conference recognition for their efforts during the 2015 season.
Opposing coaches admired the heart and hustle displayed by the players and the voting dictated that sentiment.
Senior Devin Wilson was a first-team selection on both sides of the ball for the second consecutive year, Colton Walker was a second-team pick at tight end and sophomore offensive lineman Blake Davis had his name called for second-team honors.
Dominique Seufalemua, Matt Strizich and Antonio Argueta were honorable mention selections, Damion Morris was an honorable mention award winner on both sides of the ball at running back and linebacker, and Walker capped his senior year with an honorable mention for his play on the defensive line.
“I think it is a tribute to the talent level we have here. The kids that were selected are well-deserving of their awards,” said The Dalles coach Steve Sugg.
To get a strong showing, Sugg added that this group of athletes earned a lot of praise from the other coaches in the league.
“They had a ton of respect for the kids that we had left who finished the season,” Sugg added. “They admired their toughness, their dedication, their desire to get better and their sportsmanship. That goes a long way, not only for this coaching staff and these players, but for the community. The kids did a great job and I am proud of them.”
Wilson, a first-team utility winner, was a threat from anywhere on the field, lining up at running back, tight end and receiver in different formations.
The senior rushed the ball 82 times for 442 yards and four touchdowns in eight contests.
Through the air, he hauled in 38 catches for 483 yards and three scores, adding a long of 65 yards.
Defensively, Wilson logged a team-high 50 tackles, eight for loss, had two sacks, an interception and four passes defended.
Against Hermiston, Wilson had a career-high 10 catches for 154 yards and added 12 rushes for 73 yards.
In his final high school game, Wilson had four grabs for 90 yards and two touchdowns and also tallied a season-high 12.5 tackles.
“It took dedication to the sport and just believing that I’m one of the best players in the league, even with a 0-6 league record throughout two years,” Wilson said. “I’ve been working since I was a freshman to be in the place I am now, winning first-team all-league on both sides and having the privilege to get the chance to play at the next level.”
With a thought on selflessness, Wilson spread the love across the program, calling it a team award.
Without a collaborative effort, his accolades would not be possible.
“This shouldn’t be just my award though,” Wilson said. “Without kids like Dominique, Matt on the defensive line, Damion Morris and all the other kids, I couldn’t have earned this reward because they gave me the help I needed to make the tackle or catch the ball or run it. Coach Sugg also gave me a lot of opportunities to win this award.”
Late in the season, Walker found his niche on offense as a tight end, racking up eight catches and 92 yards in three league tilts to pick up his second team honors.
In all, Walker rushed the ball four times for 20 yards, and added 15 catches for 185 yards and a score.
The senior showed well on the defensive line with two interceptions, 24 tackles, three passes defended and one blocked kick to pick up honorable mention.
“I was pretty glad to hear I made all-league,” Walker said. “Never having played football before, it just shows that coaches can teach kids in this program. Other than them though, it took dedication. I was in the weight room every day, then I’d go home after practice and watch film, plus my homework. I had to study up on our plays and know our defense, plus what I was going against, so it feels great to know that all of that paid off in the end.”
Standing at 6-foot-2 inches and tipping the scales at 265 pounds, Davis exhibited leadership and an improved skill set from his center position on the offensive line.
“I was thrilled that I won league for my sophomore year,” Davis said. “Winning league has shown me that all the hard work I have put into football is paying off. This inspired me a lot to start working toward next season, so I can grow and get better as a player.”
With Davis, a sophomore, calling the signals and snapping the ball 95 percent of the time from a shotgun formation, he helped the Hawks raise their yardage, points and time of possession numbers, so those numbers garnered him second-team recognition.
In 2014, TD scored 74 points and racked up 1,192 yards of offense, just 314 on the ground.
This past season, the Hawks scored 152 points, reeled off 2,231 yards of offense, 1,339 through the air and an average time of possession of 24 minutes and 57 seconds.
TD had 124 first downs, allowed 26 sacks in eight games, scored 21 touchdowns and converted 15 of 23 in the red zone.
“Just like Devin, Blake is going to be one of our players who will be playing at the next level,” Sugg said. “He is a hard-working kid, who never wanted to stop learning. He is a student of the game and is a strong, physical guy who can make an impact on a football team. He is only going to get better from here.”
Given the rise in Davis’ play, Seufalemua impressed opposing coaches with his toughness and grit at the quarterback position.
In all, Seufalemua completed 102 of 203 passes for 1,339 yards with 12 touchdwons and 14 interceptions. He also added a rushing touchdown.
Against Pendleton, Hermiston and Hood River Valley, Seufalemua completed 47 of 90 passes for 679 yards with four touchdowns, including 271 yards and two scores versus Pendleton.
Once he heard news of his award, Seufalemua admitted his excitement because he remembered earning honorable mention last year, so it affirmed that working harder every year is resulting in a marked improvement in all levels of the position.
“I’m just happy I get to experience this same feeling with a few of my brothers, who also have their names up there in league,” Seufalemua said. “I’ll always be working hard in the offseason. My issue is just finding out what I can do to improve myself to where I can be the difference that wins us those close games like we had early in the season.”
With the two first-team CRC winners being seniors, Seufalemua will be in position to vault his game to a higher level and have his named called for first team in 2016.
“Going in to this next season, improvement is big for me, physically and mentally,” Seufalemua said. “I am just looking forward to another fun season with my brothers.”
In 2013, Morris sustained a brutal head injury in a cliff diving accident and was out for the year.
Last year, he tore knee ligaments during camp and could not participate.
Finally healthy as a senior, Morris flashed his athleticism for an honorable mention pick at running back and linebacker.
“Damion represents a player that can overcome adversity and make himself a better leader, player and a man for that matter,” Sugg said. “He never lost faith that he would play again. I am so happy he was able to play on this team and I am proud to be able to coach him. He showed so much heart and will every time he stepped on the field.”
On offense, Morris tallied 70 rushes for 342 yards and two touchdowns, and added four catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns.
In a league game versus Pendleton Morris amassed 90 yards rushing with a touchdown, and against Hood River Valley, he led the Hawks with 146 yards on the ground.
Morris tacked on 15 tackles, four for a loss, had 2.5 sacks and a 93-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
“I would like to thank my coaches for not giving up on us and working us to our full potential,” Morris said. “And I want to thank all of my brothers for giving it their all through the season. I am glad that I played my last year without getting hurt. And happy that I got to play after having knee surgery.”
Strizich, a senior, exhibited strength and will down in the trenches, pressuring quarterbacks and laying hard hits on running backs in eight games.
He finished second on the Hawks with 25.5 tackles, seven for a loss, added three sacks, a fumble recovery and two blocked kicks.
In his second-to-last game of his career against Pendleton, Strizich had 3.5 tackles and a sack.
“Matty is a guy who never turned it off. Even when he was hurt or not feeling his best, he gave us 100 percent effort,” Sugg said. “The team fed off of his work ethic and leadership by example. That is a great compliment to the character this kid has.”
On Sep. 25, Argueta sustained a concussion and was on the shelf for a few games before making a return for league.
The senior defensive back locked down on the opposition’s top receivers and his output did not go unnoticed by CRC coaches.
In six games, Argueta had 21 tackles, two for a loss, totaled six passes defended, six pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
He had a season-high six tackles in his final game played on Oct. 30 against Hood River Valley.
“I am so happy for Antonio. He is a great kid and so tough,” Sugg said. “He never backed down from a challenge. When he got hurt, he could’ve just walked away, but he put the team first and came back strong for us. That showed me a lot.”
Statistics courtesy of John Frederick at www. sportsstatservice.com