FRISCO — With the 93rd season of SFA football around the corner, a trio of Lumberjack seniors were named to the 2019 Preseason All-Southland Conference football teams Thursday morning as announced by the league office.
Both placekicker Storm Ruiz, a first-team selection, and Tamrick Pace, a second-team pick, landed a spot on the preseason all-conference offense, while safety Alize Ward was an automatic second-team honoree on the preseason all-conference defense.
A 2017 Fred Mitchell Award Finalist and 2018 September and October Fred Mitchell Award watch list member, Ruiz served as SFA’s starting placekicker for the third-straight season a year ago. He went 9-for-12 (.750) on field goal attempts in 2018 and was an unblemished 22-for-22 on PATs, finishing 7-for-8 from beyond 30 yards and 4-for-5 from over 40 yards.
The League City native was a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals between 40-49 yards en route to ranking 33rd nationally and fifth in the Southland in field goal percentage.
Accounting for 49 of the Lumberjacks’ 181 points on the season, Ruiz averaged 4.8 points per game to rank eighth in the leauge in kick scoring.
He also ranked 56th in the nation and sixth in the conference in field goals per game (0.90).
This season, Ruiz has a chance to become the only current FCS kicker to convert every PAT throughout his four-year collegiate career.
A 2016 Freshman All-American, Pace garnered All-Southland honorable mention acclaim a year ago after picking up All-Southland Second Team honors in 2017.
For the third-straight season, Pace was one of SFA’s top offensive weapons in 2018 and attracted the most attention from opposing defenses. The Brownsboro native led the ’Jacks in touchdowns (7), finished second on the team in receiving yards (623), ranked third in all-purpose yards and was second in receiving yards per game (69.2). His 42 receptions and 14.8 yards per catch was third among Lumberjack receivers as he ranked ninth in the Southland and was second on the team in scoring (4.7 PPG).
Pace accounted for 42 of SFA’s 181 points scored in 2018 thanks to seven receiving touchdowns, which ranked fifth in the league and 46th nationally. He was among FCS statistical leaders in several categories, including ranking 51st in the country and seventh in the conference in receiving yards per game, 66th nationally and 11th in the Southland in receptions per game, and 93rd in the nation and 14th in the league in receiving yards.
On November 15, Pace reeled in a season-high eight catches for 128 yards and a touchdown in the 53rd Battle for Chief Caddo against Northwestern State, becoming just the 12th Lumberjack to amass 2,000 yards receiving in a career.
Pace enters his senior year ranked 10th on SFA’s all-time career receiving yards list with 2,104 yards and tied for eighth in career touchdown receptions (20).
Ward, who has claimed back-to-back All-Southland Second Team spots the previous two years, finished second on the team in total tackles (58) last season. The San Diego native led the ’Jacks in solo stops (36) in 2018 and claimed 2.5 tackles for loss to go along with an interception, forced fumble and pair of pass breakups. He ranked 20th among all Southland defenders with 6.4 tackles per game, while second among SFA kickoff returners with 254 yards on 11 returns.
Although not meeting NCAA minimums, Ward would have tied for 42nd nationally in yards per kickoff return (23.1) and ranked third in the Southland in that category. He had three games with 10 or more tackles and racked up over 50 yards on kickoff returns on two separate occasions. Ward notched six or more tackles five times last fall and had at least four tackles in eight different games.
Returning all-conference selections from the previous season are automatically named to the preseason All-Southland football teams and may advance to higher team slots if they are vacated by non-returning players. Open positions are nominated and voted upon by the league’s head coaches.
The ’Jacks will begin their 2019 campaign Aug. 31 in Waco, taking on the Baylor Bears in SFA’s annual FBS matchup. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. on ESPN+.