After the Lovell Bulldogs piled up the wins in the 2011 season to capture the Class 2A state title, they piled up the post-season honors, as seven players were selected to the 2A All-State squad, two more were chosen 2A West All-Conference and five received honorable mention status.
Seniors AJ Montanez, Mark Grant, Collin McArthur and Hunter Hinckley were selected for the all-state squad, along with juniors Dino Collins, Dylan Hultgren and Cody Savage.
Seniors Garrett Angell and Eli Moody were chosen all-conference, in addition to the seven all-state players, and seniors McKayan May, Steven Pickett and Dimas Patina received honorable mention recognition, along with juniors Nathan Grant and Tanner Rohrer.
In addition, the Casper Star-Tribune last week released its Super 25 list for 2011 – the elite 25 players in the state at all levels of classification, and both Montanez and Mark Grant were chosen for that select group. Collins made the Super 25 second team, Hultgren and Savage the third team and Angell, May, Steven Pickett, Nathan Grant, Patina and sophomore Dillon Pickett honorable mention Super 25 recognition.
McArthur was selected as both the conference and Class 2A Defensive Player of the year, and Montanez was chosen both the conference and state Lineman of the Year. Coach Doug Hazen was voted the 2A West and state Coach of the Year.
A team captain, Montanez played offensive guard and defensive tackle for the Bulldogs. The senior was selected all-state for his second time.
“AJ was an outstanding leader as well as being a phenomenal football player. He was a vocal leader on our team,” Coach Hazen said. “He was a physical presence for us on defense especially and was our best offensive lineman.”
Montanez finished the season third on the team in defensive points and had 60 assisted tackles, 13 solo tackles, nine tackles for a loss and three fumble recoveries.
Also returning to the all-state team for the second time was senior Mark Grant, who played linebacker on defense and both fullback and tight end on offense.
“Mark was also a team captain and leader, but he was more of a ‘lead by example’ guy,” Hazen said. “Mark’s quickness and physical play solidified our defense. He also returned kicks and punts and did everything the coaches asked and did it all very well.”
Despite missing games late in the season due to a severely sprained ankle suffered against Thermopolis, Grant finished with 32 assisted tackles and 15 solo tackles, five tackles for a loss, one sack, four pass breakups, one fumble recovery, three interceptions and a blocked kick. On offense, he rushed for 210 yards on 44 carries and scored six touchdowns. He caught five passes for 38 yards.
McArthur had an outstanding defensive year at safety for the Bulldogs and was also a top wide receiver.
“He came up with some huge plays throughout the season, and as a coach I felt Collin didn’t get as much credit for the success of the team this year as he should have. He did things that helped us in the playoffs as much as any player.”
McArthur was second on the team in defensive points and finished with 52 assisted tackles, 24 solo stops, four pass breakups, three interceptions and four blocked kicks. On offense, he caught 12 passes for 255 yards, leading the team with 21.3 yards per catch. He caught three touchdown passes.
Collins was a second-year starter at running back as a junior and also started at linebacker for the Bulldogs.
“Obviously, Dino was our number-one offensive weapon,” Hazen said. “He is a physical runner who doesn’t go down on first contact. He got hurt in the Mountain View game (ankle), played sparingly against Greybull, then was healthy until the Newcastle game, when he re-injured the ankle. But he looked fine in the championship game.”
Collins led the Bulldogs with 1,202 yards rushing on 197 attempts, a 6.1-yard average, and he scored 17 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 126 yards and led the team with 1,521 all-purpose yards. On defense he had 22 assisted tackles, 13 solo tackles, two tackles for a loss, three sacks, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Junior Dylan Hultgren stepped in at quarterback this season and ran the Lovell offense with precision, completing 117 of 177 passes (66 percent) for 1,490 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“Dylan was maybe the hardest-working kid on the team,” Hazen said. “He was the first one in to watch film and the last one to leave. He took charge of the offense. A lot of our offensive success was because of him. He was efficient and managed the offense well.”
Cody Savage did it all for the Bulldogs, starting at tight end, defensive end, kicker and punter.
“Cody was another hard-working kid; we had great kids overall this year, and they all put in a lot of time and effort,” Hazen said. “He’s a big guy who uses his size well. It’ll be exciting to have all of our juniors back again next year. His kicking was phenomenal. He was a weapon for us.”
Savage led the Bulldogs with 43 catches for 443 yards and three touchdowns. He also averaged 43 yards per punt and was four of six on field-goal attempts and 41-53 on extra points.
Hazen had plenty of praise for Hinckley, who started at cornerback on defense and wide receiver on offense.
“Hunter was probably the most assignment-sound defensive player I’ve had an opportunity to coach,” the coach said. “He was always where he was supposed to be. He was one of the guys who did his job and did it very well. He and Collin gave us some extra juice at wide receiver, too.”
Hinckley caught 16 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and he was fourth on the team in defensive points with 44 assisted tackles, 20 solo tackles, two tackles for a loss, eight pass breakups and three interceptions.
Moody made tremendous improvement from his freshman to senior season, Hazen said, coming back from an injury in 2010 to start at offensive tackle and defensive end.
“Eli was one of the guys who improved the most from the beginning of the year to the end,” Hazen said. “He’s been a hard-worker throughout his career. He was solid on the offensive line and defensively made some huge plays in the championship game.”
Moody finished with 44 assisted tackles, six solo stops, four tackles for a loss and two fumble recoveries.
Garrett Angell was a run-stopped in the middle of the defensive line at defensive tackle for the Bulldogs.
“He was a big player (6-6, 330) who plugged up the middle and made it hard to run against our defense,” Hazen said. “He also got a good push and put on some pressure when we needed it.”
Angell finished with 35 assisted tackles, five solo tackles, two tackles for a loss and one pass breakup.
Angell has received several other awards this year: 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl nominee, ESPN All-Wyoming team and Gridiron University All-American, invited to play in the Prep Star Classic All-American game January 7 in Las Vegas.
Highlights of the all-conference honorable mention players include:
McKayan May – six interceptions and five pass breakups.
Steven Pickett – team captain, 30 assisted tackles and two solo stops; 116 yards rushing and three touchdowns – all before his injury in game five at Greybull.
Nathan Grant – 231 yards rushing and two TDs, 12 receptions for 206 yards and three TDs; 20 assisted tackles, 19 solo tackles and three pass breakups.
Dimas Patina – Second on the team in rushing with 534 yards on 91 carries, a 5.9 average, with six touchdowns.
Tanner Rohrer – Anchored the offensive line at center.
Dillon Pickett (HM Super 25) – 66 assisted tackles, 18 solo tackles, eight tackles for a loss, four pass breakups, one fumble recovery, four interceptions.
By David Peck