A late season surge that propelled the Lovell Bulldogs into the playoffs helped the Bulldogs land nine players on the Class 2A West All-Conference team including three named all-state.
Voted by coaches to the 2A All-State team were seniors Ben Bates and Porter Nichols and junior Kurt McNabb. The three are joined on the 2A West All-Conference team by senior Dalton Nixon and juniors Kelly and Kerry Powell. Selected second team all-conference were senior Dylan Hereth, junior Mikel May and sophomore Coy Trainor.
Coach Doug Hazen noted that the selections reflected Lovell’s strong running game with running back Nichols, fullback Trainor and linemen Bates, McNabb, the Powell twins and Hereth receiving recognition. Lovell finished third in the state in rushing offense.
Bates started at inside linebacker and left guard for the Bulldogs this season. He helped pave the way for Nichols and was third on the team in defensive points with 101, recording 31 assisted tackles and 21 solo tackles to go with four tackles for a loss, three sacks, one pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
“Ben brought a toughness, one of a few returners with significant varsity experience from the year before,” Hazen said. “He was a team leader across the board and stepped up defensively. He was voted our defensive MVP and did an excellent job leading the team, despite not entering the year as a team captain. He was a good run-stopper, and we would blitz him.
“We pulled a lot with him as a guard.”
Hazen noted Bates’ amazing improvement over the last three years.
“Ben is probably the kid who, after coming to us as a sophomore, is one of, if not the most, improved players from when he started to when he finished,” the coach said. “When he started he didn’t know anything about football, and now he would like to play in college. He really is a success story for us.”
Nichols chewed up opponents all season as a speedy and powerful running back. He gained 1,314 yards on 205 carries, with 14 touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and 146 yards per game, second in Class 2A. He also caught eight passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 23.1 yards per kickoff return. As an outside linebacker he also led the team with 122 defensive points on 23 assisted tackles, 29 solo tackles, three tackles for a loss, two sacks, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, one interception and one blocked kick.
“He was voted our team MVP and led the team in rushing,” Hazen said. “He was third in 2A in all-purpose yards behind two Super 25 kids. He returned kicks and could catch the ball and run the ball. He led the team in defensive points.
“He epitomized the team MVP award. He was a team captain and a leader.”
McNabb moved to center for his junior season and did an outstanding job, Hazen said. He also played both nose guard and tackle on defense.
“This was his first year playing center at the varsity level, and he did a really good job,” Hazen said. “His snaps were fairly consistent, especially in shotgun. He was our biggest body and was able to move people in the running game and stop the run at nose guard.
“He was a force on the inside and will be a kid to watch next year.”
McNabb recorded 26 tackles on the season and led the team with six sacks.
Nixon led the Bulldogs with 10 receptions for 97 yards as a wide receiver and was also a strong blocker in the running game, Hazen said. He was also a hard-hitting safety who was second on the team in defensive points, recording 42 assisted tackles and 30 solo stops.
“Dalton was a team captain and a leader on defense,” Hazen said. “He was a hard hitter and a rangy kid. He got better and better blocking and was a physical kid.”
Junior twins Kelly and Kerry Powell mirrored each other at offensive tackle and defensive end. Kerry finished with 20 tackles, Kelly 17.
“They both are physical kids,” Hazen said. “They started putting more weight on, and I’m excited to watch them next year. They got a lot of experience, and the line was the strength of our team. They were backbone defensive ends and defensive tackles who got significantly better throughout the season. They improved every week.”
Senior Dylan Hereth started at right guard and played some nose guard and tackle on defense, as well, Hazen said.
“He’s one guy we pulled a lot,” Hazen said. “He moved from center (last year) to guard. He put in a lot of work because we pull our guards a lot. He worked on his footwork and agility. He has a low center of gravity and was able to move guys.”
Junior Mikel May was fourth on the team in defensive points as an inside linebacker, and he also played some running back on offense behind Nichols, gaining 88 yards on 19 carries.
“He was an aggressive player and started to time his blitzes really well,” Hazen said. “He became a strength and had a number of tackles for a loss. He’ll be an important part of the defense next year.”
May recorded 46 assisted tackles and 16 solo tackles, along with three tackles for a loss and four sacks.
Sophomore Coy Trainor was a powerful blocking fullback and strong runner who was voted the team’s offensive MVP. He also played some defensive tackle.
Trainor gained 440 yards rushing on 106 carries and scored five touchdowns.
“He was voted offensive MVP, which is kind of a nod to the offensive line, as well,” Hazen noted. “Obviously, our running game was important. Coy was a power back you could count on for two or three yards a crack even when the other team knew he would get it.
“We will hear a lot about Coy over the next two years.”
By David Peck