Bearcat Football Announces Team Award Winners

By Ryan Borde, Athletics Communciations Assistant, (503) 370-6110, rborde@willamette.edu

(FOOTBALL) SALEM, ORE. -- Nine players were honored on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Willamette University football team's end-of-the-year banquet. The Bearcats finished the 2006 campaign with a 2-7 record, for their first losing season since 2001 and just the third losing season at Willamette during the past 14 years.

Taking home the team’s Most Valuable Player Award was senior flanker Ryan Hernandez (Portland, OR/Portland Christian HS). Hernandez, who was one of the Bearcats’ three First Team All-Northwest Conference selections this year, led Willamette in rushing with 589 yards on 85 carries (6.9 avg.), which was good for third best in the conference. He scored five rushing touchdowns and also earned 183 yards and three touchdowns on 12 receptions. Hernandez concluded his Willamette career with 1,474 rushing yards on 208 carries (7.1 avg.).

Offensive Player of the Year honors went to junior offensive lineman Brandon Bennett (San Marcos, CA/La Costa Canyon HS), while junior defensive lineman Mitchell MacCready (Manteca, CA/Manteca HS) was named Defensive Player of the Year. Bennett earned his second straight First Team All-NWC selection this year, and is up for First Team All-America consideration by both D3football.com and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). MacCready, a Second Team All-NWC pick for the second consecutive season, led the Bearcats with seven tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks.

Earning the Special Teams Player of the Year Award was junior place-kicker Matt Bicocca (San Andreas, CA/Calaveras HS). Bicocca, who was a First Team All-NWC pick this year, converted 7 of 9 field goals, with a long of 47 yards against Lewis & Clark College on Nov. 4. He was 19 of 22 on extra point attempts.

The Bill Trenbeath award went to senior running back Kevin Dean (Weed, CA/Weed HS). The award is named in honor of former Willamette athletic director Bill Trenbeath, who also was an assistant football coach. It is given to the player who best reflects the qualities and values of the Willamette University football program. Dean was an Honorable Mention All-NWC pick this year, after rushing for 310 yards and five touchdowns on 50 carries (6.2 avg.). He also was a key blocker in Willamette's "fly" offense. For the second year in a row, Dean was named First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII, as selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

Senior wide receiver Mike Plank (Stockton, CA/Franklin HS) and senior strong safety Ben Weyerhaeuser (Eatonville, CA/Charles Wright Academy) were co-recipients of the James Scariot Most Inspirational Award. Plank earned Honorable Mention All-NWC honors this year after being a Second Team pick last year, while Weyerhaeuser finished third on the team in tackles with 48. Weyerhaeuser was named First Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII.

The final two award winners were for the Offensive Newcomer of the Year and the Defensive Newcomer of the Year. On the offensive side of the ball, freshman offensive lineman Scott Hirschberger (Beaverton, OR/Southridge HS) was honored after starting every game at center and not missing a play all season. Defensively, junior linebacker Taylor Hermes (Keizer, OR/McNary HS/Southern Oregon Univ.) received the award. Hermes, who transferred from Southern Oregon University where he was a starter, finished second on the team in tackles with 57, including four tackles for losses and three sacks. His numbers are even more impressive since he didn’t become a starter until the team’s fourth game of the year.