It’s been an exciting year of service academy football. And even though 2⁄3 of the teams competing for the CIC Trophy probably wish they could get a do over on the year, there were still some impressive individual performances from each squad that warrant mentioning. We have been handing out CIC MVP awards weekly throughout the football season, and so it’s time to hand out team and overall awards to the best service academy football players in the 2018 season. (Yes, I know Army still has the Armed Forces Bowl against Houston on Saturday).
You can head here to check out Scott Lopez’s review of the 2018 Air Force Falcons season. Needless to say, back to back sub .500 years are not what Falcons fans were hoping for heading into the year, but there were standouts on both sides of the ball that carried the way for the team.
Offense: Cole Fagan, RB
On the offensive side of the ball, the three-headed QB rotation kept any of the quarterbacks from bringing home the MVP award for the year. Though Isaiah Sanders and Donald Hammond III both gave us glimpses of what the future of the position could look like, and they both had some impressive performances, Cole Fagan was the steady hand at the fullback spot all year long.
Fagan ended his season with 997 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns, culminating in his best performance in the last game of the year against Colorado State. He gained 260 yards on the ground, third most all time by an Air Force player in a single game and the most ever by a fullback in what was one of the most impressive performances all year by a service academy player.
The junior from Admiral Farragut Academy will look to anchor what could be a potent offense next season. With Hammond returning and Sanders in the mix as well and Kade Remsberg just a sophomore, the Falcons backfield is poised for a terrific 2019 campaign.
Defense: Jeremy Fejedelem, DB
Fejedelem was the rock of the Falcons defense this year. The junior led the team in tackles with 104, which was over 30 more than the next closest player. He had 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack as well as a team-leading three interceptions.
His most impressive performance may have been against Utah State, in which he racked up 14 tackles in a back and forth affair against the Aggies.
Fejedelem was all over the field all season long and seemed to be in on every single big play in the defensive backfield.
This made him a pretty easy choice for MVP of the defense this season.
Special Teams: Jake Koehnke, K, P
Koehnke ended the year as both the placekicker and punter for the Falcons, and he held his own in both spots. Anytime you are the team’s best punter and kicker, it’s going to be hard to argue against you being the special teams MVP.
Koehnke finished with an average of nearly 42 yards a punt, including dropping three over 50 yards and getting 8 fair catches on just 17 punts.
He ended the season 9/12 on field goals, perfect from inside of 40 yards.
He also handled kickoff duties. So if you need someone to use his leg in a football game, Jake’s your guy!
The CIC Champs and only bowl-bound service academy squad have had an incredible season. They earned 10 wins in back-to-back years for the first time in school history and with a defeat of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday would win 11 games for the first time ever.
They defeated both Air Force and Navy to win the CIC outright for a second straight year and gave Oklahoma all they could handle in an overtime loss in Norman. That’s the CFP bound Sooners by the way.
Offense: Darnell Woolfolk, RB
This was the hardest choice of any side of the ball for any team in my opinion. Maybe I will take a lot of grief for this pick, because obviously the quarterback position is what makes the triple option machine churn, and Kelvin Hopkins, Jr. had an incredible season. It could easily be argued that he had the best offensive season of any service academy player.
He heads into the bowl game on Saturday with a chance at a 1000/1000 season still on the table. He has 956 yards passing with 6 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. He also has 847 yards on the ground and 12 rushing touchdowns. As I’m typing this, I am wanting to change my own mind.
But I really believe that Woolfolk was the rock of the Army offense and provided big run after big run all year. The senior was the steady hand each and every single week. He heads into the bowl game just ahead of Hopkins with 885 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns. The senior has 37 rushing touchdowns in his career, and I for one would love to see him get 115 on the ground with three scores this weekend to end his season.
Defense: James Nachtigal, LB
The defensive side of the ball wasn’t any easier to decide. Nachtigal, Cole Christiansen, Elijah Riley, and Jaylon McClinton all had huge years and some big moments, but I decided to go with Nachtigal.
He led the team in tackles with 81 and sacks with 5. He wasn’t the team leader in tackles for loss as Christiansen had 12, but Nachtigal did lead the team in yardage lost with 30 yards. He also tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles and had a fumble recovery that he took 52 yards to the house for a touchdown.
Army’s defense was incredibly efficient all year long, and a big part of that was the play of Nachtigal.
Special Teams: John Abercrombie, K
Abercrombie has only missed one kick all season, a 33 yard FG attempt in his last outing against Navy. On the year, he is a perfect 36/36 on extra points and is 8/9 on field goal attempts.
I’ve lauded Abercrombie several times this year, as the former Sprint Football player got his shot for the Black Knights early in the season and never looked back. He was extremely reliable and consistent, and for that, he earns special teams MVP for Army.
The Midshipmen’s season was obviously disappointing, as they struggled to a 3-10 record, lost to both Air Force and Army, and never found any level of consistent success. Though the year is one they would like to forget, several players still had terrific seasons.
Offense: Malcolm Perry, QB, RB
The Perry quarterback experience may not have gone like Navy fans had hoped for, but he still was the most electrifying player on offense throughout the year. He finished tied for the team lead in TD passes with two, had the most rushing yards by over 600 with 1,087, and was second on the team with seven rushing touchdowns. He also was third on the team in receptions and receiving yards, finishing with 9 for 167 and a touchdown.
The move to slotback helped get Perry in his element in space and allowed him to rack up yards in a variety of looks and ways. Navy fans can still be optimistic that a full season from the slotback position could mean even bigger things for Perry next year if the quarterback situation is resolved.
Defense: Sean Williams, DB
Taylor Helfin definitely deserves some praise here, as he led the team with 107 tackles, had 11.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. He was all over the field from the linebacker position.
But, the senior captain on the defensive side of the ball was the leader for the defense and had as equally an impressive year, so I’ve given the nod to Sean Williams.
Williams seemed to be in on every play in the defensive backfield, was third on the team with 85 tackles, had 1.5 tackles for loss, had two interceptions, was second on the team with 5 pass breakups, and his craziest stat was that he recorded 5 forced fumbles on the year.
Williams will be missed not just for his play but for the way he led the team through a difficult season as well.
Special Teams: Bennett Moehring, K
Owen White had a terrific year punting the football for the most part, averaging nearly 42 yards a punt with 13 kicks over 50 yards plus.
But Moehring bounced back from his game-winning miss against Army last year to become the all-time leading points scorer by a Navy kicker this year and had an impressive season while doing it.
The Arkansas native was 11/13 on field goal attempts this year, but one of those was an attempt from beyond 50 yards. The only other FG he missed was a chip shot in the Tulane game. He was a perfect 4/4 between 40-49 yards.
CIC MVP Season Awards:
Offense: Darnell Woolfolk, RB, Army
Defense: Jeremy Fejedelem, DB, Air Force
Special Teams: Bennett Moehring, K, Navy
I know I might get some grief here as well, but no, I didn’t just pick one from each team. Like I said before, it was really hard to pick Woolfolk over Hopkins, but even if I picked Hopkins, he would have been the choice here on offense. Fejedelem was an absolute force to be reckoned with in the defensive backfield, and even though Army’s defensive unit overall was the best between the three team, I think Fejedelem had the best individual season. Yes, Moehring missed more kicks than Abercrombie this year, but he also was attempting and successful on much longer field goal tries. He bounced back in a big way and is deserving of the honor in my opinion.
If you disagree, feel free to let me know @AAE_SBN or in the comments section below. I would love to hear what our service academy fans think!