Coming off an 8-3 season, and 39-9 run over the past four years with two appearances in the Eight-Man final four at the UNI-Dome, the Murray football team this week boasts three all-staters.
Three key seniors who were part of those four straight playoff seasons — including a runner-up finish in 2011 and semifinals a year ago — were named to the Iowa Newspaper Association selections announced today by a panel of sportswriters, assisted by members of the Iowa Football Coaches Association.
The versatile Andrew Rider, who set or matched national records for touchdowns on punt returns and interceptions in addition to rushing for 1,557 yards, was named to the first team offense as the utility selection.
The first team has a second Murray player in defensive lineman George Barber, who also started in the offensive line at center for the Mustangs.
Named to the all-state second team defense is linebacker Sam Rockhold, who also played a key role offensively at tight end the past three seasons.
Southwest Valley, in its first and only season of Eight-Man football in a merger of Corning and Villisca, produced two all-state defensive players in second-team lineman Keegan Longabaugh and third-team linebacker Zach Barton.
Lenox junior Caleb Lange was selected as the third-team punter after averaging 38 yards per punt for the Tigers.
Murray’s Rider, who suffered a broken arm late last year and played in the state semifinals with a cast, had a record-breaking senior season. The 5-10, 170-pound speedster scored a school-record 262 points on 43 touchdowns and two two-point conversions, averaging 14.2 yards every time he touched the ball.
Rider, unanimous all-district and special teams player of the year in the district, returned five punts for touchdowns this season (24.3-yard average), giving him 12 for his career for a national Eight-Man record. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, tying a national record with seven career kick return TDs.
Of his seven interceptions on defense, Rider returned four for touchdowns. He also ran for 29 touchdowns while compiling 1,557 yards on 155 carries. He finished his Murray career with 3,723 yards rushing (8.7 average) and 64 touchdowns. He had 98 touchdowns as a Mustang and 12 two-point conversions.
“Andrew is the most complete football player I’ve coached in 15 years,” Murray coach Keith Shields said, “and our hardest worker in the weight room. All three of these (all-state) guys are among the best workers we’ve had in the weight room.”
Shields said being selected the first-team offensive utility player fits Rider’s versatility.
“Realistically, there really isn’t anything on the football field he doesn’t do well,” Shields said. “He does a little bit of everything offensively, running the ball, catching the ball, putting the ball in his hands on special teams.”
Barber was dominant in the interior line throughout his senior season. The 6-3, 205-pounder collected 87 tackles in the interior defensive line, with nine quarterback sacks and 27 tackles for loss. He was named District 6 Defensive Player of the Year.
When senior Cole Weir was injured at the beginning of this season, Barber switched from guard to center on offense.
“Like the other two, George has been a big contributor for us over the last three years,” Shields said. “He’s really grown physically this last year. He’s an intimidating force up there. He got in the backfield a lot of times for us because he’s so quick off the ball and physically strong.”
Like Rider, Rockhold was a jack-of-all-trades for the Mustangs over the years. He’s played tight end and fullback on offense, second to former all-stater Cody Scroggie on many of the receiving records. Defensively he has played end and linebacker, filling the middle linebacker role this year. He’s also been the kickoff man and punter.
This year the 6-1, 185-pounder had 111 tackles, including 16 for losses, with three interceptions. He also had 23 catches for 358 yards and nine TDs. He rushed nine times for 165 yards and three touchdowns.
For his career, Rockhold had 282 tackles, 41 for loss and 14 sacks.
“Sam is one of those guys who did a little of everything since starting for us at defensive end his freshman year,” Shields said. “We needed his toughness in the middle at linebacker this year.”
Like Barber, Southwest Valley’s Keegan Longabaugh collected an unusual amount of tackles for a defensive lineman. The 6-1, 195-pound senior surpassed 100 tackles for the second straight season, getting 115 total stops this year, including five sacks. He was a unanimous all-district selection for the District 8 tri-champion Timberwolves, and also earned all-district status as an offensive lineman.
“Keegan is so active,” Southwest Valley coach Kent Bass said. “With him in the line and Zach behind him, that took away a lot of the inside run against us. He was the same way at offensive guard. Keegan just has a motor.”
Barton was the emotional leader of Southwest Valley’s district title run, finishing with 95 tackles (33 solo) while being named unanimous all-district. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 1,109 yards, sharing that duty with Tyler Bissell (656), Gunnar McCuen (456) and quarterback Jordan Stuart (760).
“We had other backs and could save his legs a little for defense,” Bass said. “But when he carried it, he was impressive. Zach is the smartest defensive player I’ve ever coached. He’s got great instincts, and understands what the offenses are trying to do.”
Like Barber and Longabaugh, Lenox’s Lange was a solid defensive lineman with 87 tackles, including 10 for losses. He was also a tight end on offense.
But for the all-state team, the 6-4, 185-pound junior was selected as the third-team punter. He averaged 37.9 yards on 35 punts, consistently flipping field position for the Tigers, who got off to a 4-1 start on the way to finishing 4-5.
“Last year Mason Peterson was our punter so he didn’t punt much,” coach Allen Dukes said. “But he really stepped up this year. We knew he could do it, just from what he did punting on our JV two years ago. He probably has a chance to help a college team as a punter if he wanted to.”
Captain of the Eight-Man all-state team is quarterback Jake Hogan of state champion Gilbertville Don Bosco. The first-team includes Adair-Casey running back Clayton Plowman, Twin Cedars end Garret Pettyjohn and Exira/EH-K’s Nick Peppers and Drew Peppers on defense.
Second-teamers include A-C offensive lineman Chris Draman, Lamoni receiver Caleb Heltenberg, Twin Cedars quarterback Brent Parker, Sidney running back Chris Osborn, Wayne running back Clayton Kiefer, defensive linemen Corey Harrell of Twin Cedars and Brett Johnson of Exira/EH-K and Wayne defensive back Dillon Lain.
Selections on the third team include CAM receiver Michael Holste, A-C kicker Emmit Wheatley, running back Spencer Phillips of Fremont-Mills and Twin Cedars linebacker Hunter Embray.
A complete list of selections will be published in Friday’s News Advertiser.