GLENDALE — An impressive year warranted quite a few awards for the Glendale Community College football team as was recently announced by the American Conference Pacific Division.
The Vaqueros, who finished tied for third in the division with a 6-4 overall mark, merited four first-team and seven second-team selections in posting the program's first winning season since 2006.
"Honestly, I thought we deserved a few more picks," Vaqueros sixth-year Coach John Rome said. "But I'm happy with what we received. We had a strong year and it's nice to see that we were recognized."
Perhaps to no surprise, the Vaqueros defense picked up three of the team's four first-team honors, which were awarded to defensive lineman Michael Hernandez, linebacker Noche Nwofor and defensive back Jaelen Rising-Barnwell.
The three belonged to a unit that's 24 interceptions tied College of the Canyon for most in the state, while Glendale tied for fourth in defensive touchdowns (four), seventh in fumble recoveries (16) and was 10th in sacks (36).
"I loved being on this team in comparison to last year," said Hernandez, who finished with 38 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks. "The energy last year was all negative. Guys didn't believe in themselves. This year, we were a team. It was different. It was great."
Hernandez' play up front helped his teammates put together huge seasons as Nwofor finished with 61 tackles, 10 sacks, three interceptions and one defensive touchdown. Rising-Barnwell tallied 41 tackles, four interceptions and one fumble recovery.
"I think in the summer we knew that this year was different. We put in a lot of work in the weight room and I don't think a lot of people had done that before," Nwofor said. "You can tell in their faces that this was a bigger deal than what some of the guys expected when they came in."
According to Rising-Barnwell, something more basic than effort was corrected this year.
"I think the biggest thing was communication. That's why we were better this year because guys talked to each other," Rising-Barnwell said.
Vaqueros freshman running back Marquise McGuire, who totaled 885 rushing yards and five touchdowns and 24 catches for 337 yards and four scores, was the offense's lone first-team honoree.
"I don't think there's any pressure on the guys returning next year," McGuire said. "Coach Rome had expectations for us this season and if we slouched down even a little bit, people were going to notice."
Conference second-team honors were handed out to offensive lineman Ricardo Macias, tight end Tanner Mays (20 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns), wide receiver Isaiah Bernard (47 receptions for 687 yards and eight touchdowns) and quarterback Sean Murphy.
"I think every week we got better," said Murphy, who completed 186 of 370 passes for 2,221 yards and 21 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions. "It sucks that it ended early, but hopefully we'll get back next year."
Second-team defensive awards were given to linebacker Marcus Tappan (56 tackles, four interceptions, three sacks and two touchdowns), defensive back Dante Shipman (46 tackles, 10 sacks and six interceptions) and return specialist Nate Weston (417 kick return yards and two touchdowns).
"I thought the biggest difference for us this year was that we had 11 guys on both sides of the ball willing to do their jobs and stick together," safety D'Angelo Blake said. "There were no individuals, only one team."