Two sides of the ball, one family dynamic at Sul Ross

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Cousins James Davis (above) and Jermaine Stevens Jr. have seen Sul Ross arc in a positive way during their four years with the team.
Sul Ross athletics photo

By Brian Lester


Neither one had a clue where Sul Ross State was in their home state of Texas.

Neither one had any plans to actually signup with the Lobos after their first visit to the campus in Alpine, a mountainous desert city in the western region of the Lone Star State that has a population of under 6,000.

Yet, here James Davis and Jermaine Stevens Jr. are. The cousins are four years into their football careers with the Lobos, and both play integral roles on the team, with Davis a quarterback and Stevens a defensive back.

And they have every intention of making this season their best one yet. After winning five games the first two years of their careers, they won six games last season and hope to contend for an ASC title and playoff berth this season.

“We take it one day at a time, and we feel we are always getting better as a team,” Stevens said. “Our coaches prepare us well. It’s not about being arrogant, but knowing you can win those games and should win those games.”

It’s been quite the journey for both of them to get to this point, and it’s amazing either one ended up at Sul Ross State, which is nearly 600 miles away from their hometown of Houston.

“When I got here, I didn’t think I’d be coming here to play, but it was my only choice,” Davis said. “I took advantage of the opportunity.”

Stevens didn’t even plan on playing football in college. His focus was on track.

“I wasn’t even going to play football, but I decided to try it and I enjoyed it and stuck with it,” Stevens said. “It was a great decision. I love being around this team.”

It’s not as if the dream of competing in track faded away.

Stevens set the conference record in the long jump and teamed up with Davis, Byron Jones and Richard Snyder to finish fifth at nationals in the 400 relay.

“It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life,” Stevens said. “It makes me want to do better in everything. Being an All-American in track inspires me to be an All-American in football.”

Davis said competing in track has helped him become a better football player, though he admits juggling the two sports isn’t the easiest thing to do.

“It’s been great running track,” Davis said. “It’s made me faster, and a lot of the players on the team compete in track, and that experience carries over to football. But it is tough in the spring when you have football and track.”

Davis and Stevens have enjoyed their experiences together on the football field and on the track and they wouldn’t trade them for the world. They share a unique bond in athletics, particularly in football.

“We have played football together all our lives,” Davis said. “We have a special connection and if he sees something he lets me know and if I see something in a game that he can do differently, I let him know about it. We work well together.”

Davis has been through three offensive coordinators in his time at Sul Ross State and said he has learned from each one.

He believes he has gotten better each year and is at the point now where he has complete command of the offense, throwing for 460 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games.

It’s not a bad place to be for a guy who wasn’t sure if he would even have an athletic career in college after an ankle injury put him in a spot where he could've had surgery that might end his football dream.

“I’ve gotten better each year,” Davis said. “It’s a blessing to even be playing because I was told I wouldn’t play again. I didn’t have the surgery, and I’m an even better quarterback now.”

Coming off a bye week, Sul Ross State returns to action this week against McMurry. The Lobos’ last game was against reigning national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Despite losing 23-7, the Lobos feel good about the effort they put forth, particularly on defense when they forced the Crusaders to settle for field goals on three of their drives in the first half.

Stevens, who has three tackles and has broken up three passes this year, believes the performance against the Crusaders provides confidence for the Lobos going forward.

“We can do big things this year,” Stevens said. “Playing with Mary Hardin-Baylor and holding them to three field goals in the red zone, that’s hard to do. The fact that we did it gives us a lot of confidence.”

Davis hopes he and his teammates can ride that confidence to a successful season.

“We just have to play our game and not play down to anyone’s level,” Davis said. “If we do that, we should win out and get into the playoffs.”

Breakout game for Trinity freshman

Charles Davis scored the first two touchdowns of his college career in Trinity’s 28-26 win over Millsaps Saturday. The game was the SAA opener for both teams.

Davis rushed for 81 yards, with 52 coming on his second touchdown of the game. Both scores came in the opening quarter.

He rushed for only 24 yards in his first game for the Tigers but took a big step forward against the Majors as he helped Trinity win its first game of the season. Davis is a freshman out of Louisiana and leads the team in rushing with 105 yards in two games. Trinity is averaging 119.5 yards per game on the ground.

Davis helped the Tigers put up 402 yards of total offense, and quarterback Austin Grauer played a key role as well, throwing for 247 yards and two scores.

Grauer has completed 50 percent of his passes this year and has thrown for 306 yards. The touchdown passes were the first two of the season for the senior signal caller and he seems to be back on track after playing in only five games last year.

Regional notes

Though Texas Lutheran posted its first shutout win since 2008 when it rocked Belhaven 37-0, the highlight of the day came from kicker Tyler Hopkins. He lined up for a 20-yard field goal and the kick was blocked but he quickly kicked the ball off the bounce and it split the uprights.

Berry set a program record for total offense, racking up 530 yards in a 34-13 win over Rhodes. Mason Kinsey tied the program record with three touchdown receptions as Berry improved to 3-0. Kinsey has a team-best six touchdown catches this season.

Centre’s running attack was tough to stop in its 52-42 win over Hendrix. The Colonels racked up 277 rushing yards to push its record to 3-0. Trevor Carnell churned out 161 yards and scored a touchdown.

Josh White racked up 12 tackles in Hardin-Simmons’ 55-10 ASC win over Louisiana College. The Cowboys forced three turnovers and had a shutout going until the fourth. On a defense that has allowed just 10 points -- the Cowboys beat Texas College 74-0 in their opener -- White has risen to the occasion, leading the team in tackles with 21.

Kevin Hurley did it all for McMurry in its 33-21 win over Howard Payne, throwing for 165 yards and two scores and rushing for 102 yards. His rushing total was the most by a McMurry quarterback since Rashon Lewis picked up 138 yards in 2007 against Hardin-Simmons.

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com and wrote Around the Great Lakes for D3football.com from 2012-14. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.

2014 columnist: Justin Goldberg
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