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Vrana Named SAC Freshman of the Year as Seven Aggies Receive All-Conference Honors

Released by Panhandle State Sports Information
  on 11/20/2018

Goodwell, Okla.—In their first season as members of the Sooner Athletic Conference, the Panhandle State football team posted seven players to the 2018 SAC All-Conference teams.

Appearing in seven of the Aggies' 11 outings in 2018, freshman quarterback Martez Vrana proved himself to be the go-to guy as the season progressed. Hailing from Wichita Falls, Texas, Vrana earned starter status throughout most of the conference stretch and helped put Panhandle in a position to compete for the SAC Championship. His much-merited recognition as Sooner Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year came by way of over 1,100 passing yards(1,118) and a 60 percent completion rating over his seven-game stint. Vrana threw for seven touchdowns and held on to score four rushing TDs and total 351 yards with his feet. He ranks No. 3 in the SAC in Total Offense/Game averaging 224 yards per game and third in Pass Efficiency (137.7). Within the SAC he stands at No. 6 in Passing/Game, No. 8 in Passing and is listed at No. 12 in Rushing.

Head Coach Russell Gaskamp extolled Vrana's efforts stating, "It was great to see Martez [Vrana] take on the leadership role for the offense. Many of the coaches in the league talked about his dual-threat ability and poise as a freshman; we think the sky is the limit with his play in the future."

First Team honors went to Dominique Coutee-Thomas, senior offensive lineman from Austin, Texas. Thomas has served as a staunch component of the Aggies' offensive unit for the last four years, starting the last 31 games and emerging as one of the teams' leaders. As the o-line coach, Gaskamp spoke on Thomas adding, "DT has been a great player for us the past several years. One coach at the meetings told me he thought he was the best overall o-lineman in the league. He is very deserving of the recognition."

Receiving First Team recognition on the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Diamante Pounds and safety De'Adryelle Fites are well-deserved recipients. A junior from Plantersville, Mo., Pounds led the team in tackles (61), tackles for loss (17.5) and sacks (10), and also came away with one interception and three fumble recoveries. Pounds holds the No. 3 post in NAIA Division I for Fumbles Forced per Game (.400) and stands at No. 8 in the nation for Sacks per Game (1.0). He also finished the season sitting at No. 9 in Tackles for Loss per Game (1.8) among all NAIA players, No. 10 in Total Sacks and No. 15 in Total Tackles for Loss. Within the Sooner Athletic Conference, Pounds posts a No. 2 standing for Tackles for Loss, Sacks and Sacks/Game; he owns the No. 1 spot in Fumbles Forced (4) and Tackles for Loss/Game.

"Pounds had a great year for us," Gaskamp offered. "We had to ask him to do a lot of different things for us with the injuries we dealt with throughout the year. I think him and Kenneth Steele from OUAZ were the top-two defensive players in the league."

The head coach continued his countenance for the defensive honorees speaking on De'Adryelle Fites. "Fites was definitely the glue that held our defense together this year, especially with all of the new guys that played in our secondary. He is fearless, a great open-field tackler, and we will rely heavily on him again next year." Fites came to Panhandle from Dallas, Texas and showed substantial growth during his sophomore season. The First Team All-Conference honoree participated in eleven games this year and led the Aggies in interceptions with three. He totaled 45 tackles including 25 solos, and was credited with seven pass breakups. Fites finished at No. 3 in the league for Interceptions and Interceptions/Game and ranks No. 2 of Passes Defended/Game.

Linebackers Jawan Purifoy and D'Darrin Primes earned Second Team All-Conference titles, and fall second and third respectively, within the Aggies' defensive listings. Purifoy put in a stellar senior season, totaling 55 tackles over ten games played; 40 of which were solo efforts. He tallied 13.5 tackles for loss and had four sacks, one interception and one recovery. Primes wrapped up his junior year averaging 5.4 tackles per game, combining for 49 tackles over nine games; he totaled 12.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Purifoy and Primes hold the No. 17 and No. 18 positions in the SAC for Tackles/Game, and Purifoy ranks No. 7 in Tackles for Loss and Tackles for Loss/Game.

Gaskamp expounded on the two defensive standouts stating, "With our preseason defensive player of the year in Nate Leithead being on the shelf for most of the season these two guys had to step up and play multiple positions and did so without skipping a beat. Jawan [Purifoy] has been an excellent player for us the last three years; we will miss him a ton." He noted, "With a great offseason we think Primes can be a dominant force in the league next year."

Honorable Mention acknowledgement went to senior wide receiver Nick West. West, a Discovery Bay, Calif. Native, arrived at Panhandle State in 2017 as a transfer from Diablo Valley College and arose as the teams' leading receiver during both of his years as an Aggie. "Nick has been our best offensive player over the last two years," revels Gaskamp. "He was as talented as any receiver in the league, and was incredibly unselfish and never complained about his opportunities while we played musical chairs at QB over the last two years. He will surely be missed." West started all 11 games this season and amassed 544 yards receiving to average 14.3 yards on 38 receptions totaling two passing touchdowns. He also accumulated one rushing TD, averaging 5.4 yards per carry on the ground. In conference play, West lists at No. 10 for Receptions, Receptions/Game and Receiving Yards.

Congratulations to the entire Aggie football team and coaching staff for a successful and memorable season in the SAC. The complete listing of 2018 Sooner Athletic Conference All-Conference athletes is available online at soonerathletic.org.