With a new era of Stephen F. Austin football just 50 days away with the opening of the 2019 Lumberjack season under the direction of first-year head coach Colby Carthel on Aug. 31 at Big 12 member Baylor University, the Southland Conference released its 2019 Preseason All-SLC football teams on Thursday.
Among the squads chosen by the league’s coaches were three Lumberjack seniors. Placekicker Storm Ruiz, a first-team pick, Tamrick Pace, a second-team performer, were chosen to the All-SLC offense, along with safety Alize Ward, an automatic second-team member.
Ward was an automatic choice because he was an all-conference player who returned for the next season, thus earning a preseason All-SLC honor this year.
The preseason squads were named just prior to next week’s Southland Conference Football Media Day, which will take place Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. at the Hilton Houston Post Oak by the Galleria in Houston. Carthel and a pair of ’Jacks will be on hand for the event, which will be broadcast by ESPN+. SFA’s representatives will be on air beginning at 1:45 p.m. and then be available to local media outlets at the media suite at 2:15 p.m.
Stephen F. Austin is coming off a 2-8 record a year ago, including a 2-7 Southland record and a 10th place finish in the 11-team race.
Nicholls State (9-4) posted a 7-2 conference record to share the Southland crown with Incarnate Word (6-5), which posted a 6-2 and played one less league game. Lamar (7-5) placed third at 6-3, with Abilene Christian (6-5), Central Arkansas (6-5), McNeese (6-5) and Sam Houston State (6-5) each finishing 5-4 in conference play.
Nicholls State led the Southland with 11 players named to the all-league squads, including eight first-team members. Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana tied for second with six players recognized. Central Arkansas, Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word each had five players named to the preseason squads, while Northwestern State had four. SFA, McNeese State, Lamar and Houston Baptist had three players named, and two Central Arkansas players were recognized.
STORM RUIZ: The starting placekicker for the Lumberjacks for the past three seasons, Ruiz connected on 9-of-12 (.750) field goals a year ago and was a perfect 22-of-22 on extra points. The League City native was 7-of-8 beyond 30 yards and made 4-of-5 from over 40. He ranked 33rd nationally by hitting all four of his kicks between 40-49 and was fifth in the SLC in field goal percentage. He scored 49 points a year ago and ranked 56th in the nation and sixth in the SLC in field goals per game (.90).
Off the field, Ruiz was a September and October Fred Mitchell Award watch list member in 2018. He was also a 2017 Fred Mitchell Award Finalist.
ALIZE WARD: Ward is coming off back-to-back All-Southland Conference Second Team honors. He finished the 2018 season with 58 total tackles, which was second on the SFA defense. The San Diego, California native was tops for the ’Jacks in solo stops a year ago with 2018, and had 2.5 tackles for losses, a forced fumble, an interception and two pass breakups. He ranked 20th among all SLC defenders with 6.4 tackles per game.
Ward posted three games with 10 more tackles. He also had six or more tackles five times during the 2018 season and tallied at least four stops in eight games.
Ward was second for SFA on kickoff returners with 11 for 254 yards, averaging 23.1 yards on his kickoff returns last season, ranking third in the Southland.
TAMRICK PACE: After earning Freshman All-American honors in 2016, Pace was an Second-Team All-Southland Conference player in 2017, then following that up with an honorable mention All-SLC player last season.
The Brownsboro native was one of the top offensive threats for SFA for the third straight year, scoring seven touchdowns in 2018 to lead the team, while piling up 623 yards of receiving. He was second on the team in receiving yards, third in all-purpose yards and second in receiving yards per game, with 69.2. He pulled down 42 passes for the year for 14.8 yards per reception.
Pace scored 42 of SFA’s 181 points last season. His seven scores ranked fifth in the Southland and 46th in the country. He finished seventh in the SLC receiving yards per game and 11th in catches per contest.
In the season finale against Northwestern State a year ago he had his biggest receiving night of 2018 with 128 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions. That put him over 2,000 receiving yards for his career.
Pace begins his final season at SFA ranked 10th on the SFA all-time career-receiving yardage list with 2,104, with 20 touchdowns to go along with it.