Erin Austin

End game: Lobos hope Sellers, Austin provide pass rush

Who’s going to be that pass rusher off the edge?

Trent Sellers and Erin Austin are auditioning three times a week.

Austin, from Brentwood, Calif., in the Bay Area, and Sellers, from Tyrone, Ga., southwest of Atlanta, came to the University of New Mexico with impressive résumés as defensive ends adept at getting into the other team’s backfield.

Last fall at Laney College in Oakland, Calif., Austin was in on 47 tackles with five sacks and 16½ tackles for loss. At Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, Sellers led the team’s defensive linemen with 40 tackles and 8½ tackles for loss.

Stats are merely stats, and a great many things can affect those numbers. But, last season, the Lobos did not have a productive pass rusher at defensive end.

Garrett Hughes, who in 2016 had 7½ tackles for loss and 6½ sacks, had corresponding numbers of four and two last fall as a senior. Cody Baker and Emmanuel Joseph, who return this year, combined for 4½ and four.

As a team, the Lobos finished with 21 sacks, ranked 95th in the nation (among 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams). They had 59 tackles for loss, ranked 99th.

Expectations for Sellers and Austin are high, but not sky-high just yet — not even their own.

“I’m taking it one step at a time,” Austin said after Wednesday’s spring practice session. “I’ve got to get better now. I’ve got to get bigger, stronger, faster.

“… I’m taking it gradually, but by Sept. 1 I’ll be ready.”

The Lobos open the 2018 season on that date against Incarnate Word, an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school in San Antonio, Texas.

Sellers is a “bounce-back,” having spent two seasons at Georgia Tech — the first as a redshirt — in 2015-16.

“At the time, I felt like it was a good fit for me, somewhere I could go and thrive,” he said. “… Some things changed, and I decided it was best for me to open up my options and go somewhere else.”

One of his fellow Georgia Tech D-lineman was Desmond Branch, the former Cleveland Storm all-stater who signed with UNM out of high school. Branch redshirted in 2014, found the UNM program not to his liking and transferred to Trinity Valley College in Athens, Texas. He signed with Tech in 2016.

Branch is a good friend, Sellers said, and the two discussed Branch’s UNM experience before Sellers signed in December.

Junior college transfer Trent Sellers works out during practice. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

“Everything’s a different fit for everybody,” Sellers said. “Everybody goes through things differently, has different situations. (Branch) told me to go wherever I feel like I could go and be successful, and that was my mindset, too.”

Sellers chose UNM over offers from Memphis, New Mexico State and Southern Mississippi.

Austin had offers from San Diego State and UNLV, New Mexico’s Mountain West Conference rivals. Two factors, he said, combined to bring him to Albuquerque.

First, running back Ahmari Davis, a Laney teammate, decided to sign with UNM.

“We wanted to go to school together,” Austin said, “because it’s always good to have somebody that you’re familiar with to go through this process with.”

Second, but equally important, UNM defensive line coach Stan Eggen challenged him.

“It was just his determination, the things he was saying about being great, not being average,” Austin said. “It wasn’t just winning games. …It was winning conference (championships), winning bowl games.”

The year before Austin’s arrival at Laney, the Eagles had gone 4-6. They went 9-2 in both of his two seasons there.

Last year, the Lobos went 3-9.

“I wanted to come here and help (rebuild), put the pieces together,” he said.

Eggen said that, through 10 of 15 spring workouts, he has been pleased with his group. Baker, who started 11 games last fall as a junior, leads the way.

“I think we’ve got more depth right now (than in the past),” Eggen said. “We’ve still got a long way to go before we’re ready to play, but I really believe that when I come into that meeting room I see guys, all of them, that can help us.”

Of Austin and Sellers, he said, “They’ve been a very pleasant surprise. I knew they were gonna be good, but they’ve exceeded (expectations). They don’t flinch, and I’m excited about their progress and what they’ll bring to us next fall.”

INJURY REPORT: Senior quarterback Coltin Gerhart has missed practice time with an ankle injury, defensive coordinator and acting head coach Kevin Cosgrove said.

“We’re working him (back in) slowly but surely,” Cosgrove said. “He’ll be fine going into the fall.”

Saturday: UNM football “Spring Showcase,” 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Dreamstyle Stadium

Laney Football Early Signings 2017

Six Laney College football players have signed letters-of-intent to attend four-year schools during the early signing period that ended in December.

All-American running back Ahmari Davis (James Logan HS) and All-American defensive lineman Erin Austin (Heritage HS) have signed letters to attend the University of New Mexico.

Two offensive linemen, Brian Robinson (Moreau Catholic HS) and Bruce Burns (Arroyo HS) both signed LOIs with the University of Idaho.

Defensive back Zach Zimmerman (Monroe HS-Monroe, WA) signed with the University of North Dakota and linebacker Joseph Butler (Sam Houston HS-San Antonio) signed with Texas A&M-Commerce.

Burns (as were Davis and Austin) was named to both the All-America Football Team and the All-California Region I Football Team. Butler was also named to the Region I team.

By Scott A. Strain

Laney College Sports Information

Laney Football All-America

The Laney College football team placed seven players on two community college All-America teams, including University of New Mexico commit running back Ahmari Davis (James Logan HS), University of Idaho commit offensive lineman Bruce Burns (Arroyo HS) and University of New Mexico commit defensive lineman Erin Austin (Heritage HS), who were named to both teams.

The three Eagles players were named to the 2017 All-America Community College Team and the 2017 All-California Community College Region I Team.

Also named to the Region I team were running back Marcel Dancy (West HS-Oakland); Texas A&M – Commerce commit linebackers Joseph Butler (Sam Houston HS-San Antonio), Cameron Nathan (Antioch HS) and defensive back Je’Vari Anderson (De La Salle HS)

Davis rushed for 1,359 yards and scored 17 touchdowns as Laney went 9-2, won the National Valley Conference championship and went to the Northern California playoffs.

Dancy rushed for 1,033 yards and scored 15 touchdowns, three of them on receptions. The one-two punch of Davis and Dancy gave the Eagles two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time in the school’s 52-year football history.

Butler led the NVC in sacks with eight and Nathan was fifth in the conference in tackles-per-game with 5.8.

All players, except for Nathan, are sophomores.

By Scott A. Strain

Laney College Sports Information

Laney College @ American River College

The Laney College football team scored four touchdowns in the second half but came up short in a 41-35 loss to No.2 American River College in Sacramento on Nov. 18 in the first round of the Northern California playoffs.

The Eagles the No.4 seed in NorCal and champions of the National Valley Conference finished the season 9-2.

Statistically Laney dominated the game, outgaining the Beavers (10-1) 365 yards to 180 and the defense held ARC to just five yards rushing. The Eagles also had twice as many first downs (24) as the Beavers (12). ARC had no first downs in the second half.

Laney tied the game at 6-6 when Ahmari Davis (James Logan HS) scored on a 17-yard run with 3:31 left to play in the first quarter. Davis’ score capped a 12-play, 87-yard drive that took almost six minutes off the clock.

Down 27-6 at half, Laney started its comeback in the third quarter when Davis scored his second touchdown, this one coming on an 8-yard run with 7:03 left in the period.

The Eagles got the benefit of a safety when defensive lineman Erin Austin (Heritage HS) sacked the ARC quarterback, who recovered his own fumble in his own end zone with 2:37 left in the third quarter.

Laney scored three times in the fourth quarter to make it close. Davis scored his third touchdown on a 5-yard run with 10:01 left and Marcel Dancy (Merrill F. West HS) scored 4-yard run with 4:02 remaining.

The Eagles closed out the scoring when quarterback Noah Suszckiewicz (Berkeley HS) threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Dancy with 1:09 left.

Davis and Susckiewicz were the two leading rushers for Laney, Davis gaining 96 yards on 18 carries and Susckiewicz 71 yards on 13 carries.

Susckiewicz was 23 for 34 for 182 yards passing. Jared Smart (Dublin HS) caught seven passes for 57 yards and Devond Blair Jr. (Bunche HS-Oakland) had six catches for 54 yards.

On defense, linebacker Armani Turner-Jenkins (Berkeley HS) had eight tackles (four solo) and linebacker Cameron Nathan (Antioch HS) finished with seven (five solo).

Jonathan Whittley (Castlemont HS) had five tackles, which included three sacks for 25 yards in losses. Nathan had the other sack.

By Scott A. Strain

Laney College Sports Information

If it is anything, this Laney College football team is resilient

If it is anything, this Laney College football team is resilient.

The Eagles (6-1, 2-0 National Valley Conference) came from behind three times to finally defeat a stubborn College of the Sequoias team 34-17 on Oct. 20 in Oakland.

Laney was down 3-0, 10-6 and 17-13 before scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Ahmari Davis (James Logan HS) rushed for 90 yards and scored the Eagles’ first touchdown on a 25-yard run with 13:46 left in the second quarter. Laney’s other first-half score came with 44 seconds left when Noah Suszckiewicz (Berkeley HS) threw a 22-yard pass to Devond Blair Jr. (Bunche HS-Oakland) for a 13-10 lead.

After the Giants (2-5, 0-2) scored on the first play of the third quarter, the Eagles got back on top for good when Blair Jr. caught a 24-yard scoring pass from Suszckiewicz with 5:31 reaming in the third quarter.

Quarterback Andrew Ve’e (Encinal HS) scored on a 3-yard run 44 seconds into the fourth quarter and Marcel Dancy (West HS-Oakland) added a 13-yard scoring run with 8:39 left in the game.

Laney took advantage of three turnovers and had eight sacks on defense. Defensive back Zach Zimmerman (Monroe HS-Monroe, LA) returned an interception 31 yards.

Linebackers Joseph Butler (Houston HS-San Antonio) and Bishop Apodaka (Fremont HS-Oakland) each finished with seven tackles. Butler had four solo tackles; Apodaka had four.

Butler also had three sacks and three tackles for losses (TFL). Apodaka had two sacks and two TFL.

Armani Turner-Jenkins (Berkeley HS) and Erin Austin (Heritage HS-Brentwood each had six tackles. Turner-Jenkins had five solo tackles; Austin had four solo tackles and two sacks; Turner-Jenkins had one sack.

Austin was credited with 3.5 TFL and Turner-Jenkins had 1.5 TFL.

The Eagles’ next game is at Fresno City College on Saturday, Oct. 28. Game time is 6 p.m.

By Scott Strain

Laney College Sports Information

The Laney College football team continues to pound it on the ground

The Laney College football team continues to pound it on the ground.

The Eagles rushed for 323 yards in a 34-6 grinding of visiting Contra Costa College on Sept. 28 in Oakland.

Laney finished the non-conference portion of its season with a 4-1 record. The Eagles have a bye week Oct. 6-7 and then start National Valley Conference play against San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton on Saturday, Oct. 14.

The Eagles’ next home game is Friday, Oct. 20 against College of the Sequoias.

Ahmari Davis (James Logan HS) rushed for 153 yards on 16 carries and Marcel Dancy (West HS-Oakland) had 21 carries for 136 yards. Each player scored a touchdown.

Laney took the opening kickoff and drove 67 yards in eight plays with Andrew Ve’e (Encinal HS) scoring on a 1-yard run. The Eagles took a 20-6 lead at the half when quarterback Noah Suszckiewicz (Berkeley HS) threw a 36-yard scoring pass to Devond Blair (Bunche HS-Oakland) and Davis went 20 yards for a TD. Both scores came in the second quarter.

Dancy scored on an 11-yard run with 47 seconds left in the third quarter and Zach Zimmerman (Monroe HS-Monroe, Wash.) returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown with 2:23 left in the game.

 Ronnie Van set the Laney record with a 95-yard interception return in in 1968.

Defensively, the Eagles held Contra Costa (0-5) to 208 yards of total offense. The Comets ran 76 plays, but averaged just 2.7 yards on each one.

Cameron Nathan (Antioch HS) had 11 tackles, seven solo.  Joseph Butler (Sam Houston HS-San Antonio) had 9 tackles, 8 solo; and Erin Austin (Heritage HS) had six solo, including three for losses. Jonathan Whittley (Castlemont) had two of Laney’s three sacks; Butler had the other.

By Scott Strain

Laney College Sports Information

Eagles open season at CCSF on Saturday, Sept. 2

Is the third time a charm for the Laney College football team?

The Eagles open their season on Saturday, Sept. 2, at City College of San Francisco and are looking to defeat the Rams for a third consecutive time. Game time is 1 p.m.

Last season, en route to a, 9-2 finish Laney, for the first (and only) time, defeated CCSF twice in one season. The Eagles stunned the Rams 18-13 in Oakland on Sept. 2, and then knocked them off again on their home field, 49-35, on Dec. 3 in the San Francisco Community College Bowl.

“Wining lets everybody know they can be beat. (Beating them twice) took a little luster off them,” Laney head coach John Beam said. “They can be beat. The coaches are confident, the players are confident and our fans are confident.”

It was a fitting end to a fine season. Question is: Can Laney do it again in a hostile environment against a team thirsting for revenge?

The answer is yes, probably. Despite losing six players to Division I schools, the Eagles return both quarterbacks from last season and the top two running backs from an offense that led the state in rushing yards per game.

Quarterback Noah Suszckiewicz threw for 257 yards and four touchdowns in the bowl victory over CCSF and Andrew Ve’e provided a dual threat at QB with his running and passing ability.

“He has really matured and is throwing the ball very well,” Beam said of Suszckiewicz. “Andrew has really been steady.” Both quarterbacks could see action against CCSF.

In 2016, Suszckiewicz completed 65 of 166 passes for 1,076 yards and nine touchdowns. Ve’e was 53 for 99, 778 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Also returning are running backs Marcel Dancy (162 carries, 961 yards, four touchdowns) and Ahmari Davis (95-684, seven touchdowns). 

The top return receiver is Devond Blair Jr. (12 receptions, 232 yards, two touchdowns). Beam is evaluating a group of talented freshmen to fill the other spots. Jared Smart (5-11, 170) from Dublin High School and Angelo Garrett (5-9, 155) from McClymonds are two of the prospects.

Returning linebacker Joe Butler (6-foot-4, 215) leads the defense. Butler made the game-saving interception in the end zone in the first CCSF game.  Erin Austin (6-3, 280, Heritage HS) anchors the defensive line. “He is as good as anybody in Northern California,” Beam said of Austin.

Defensive back Je’Vari Anderson (6-0, 220, De La Salle) comes from a wining program and is a “tremendous player,” Beam said.

“But this is community college football and you worry about depth, injuries and how life experiences affect players.”

NOTES—Laney is ranked 12th in the preseason JC Athletic Bureau poll, CCSF is 10th…The Eagles play three of the Top 25 schools: CCSF (10th), Butte (3rd) and Modesto Junior College (11th), the latter two at home…the last time Laney defeated CCSF two years in a row was in 1984-1985.

By Scott Strain

Laney College Sports Information