FRISCO, TEXAS Sophomore safety Alize Ward has been named Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week, the league office announced Monday morning. Ward claims the weekly applaud after making the game-winning play in Stephen F. Austin's Southland opener against Incarnate Word this past Saturday in Homer Bryce Stadium.
With just 16 seconds left on the clock and playing defense on a UIW third-and-six from its own 25-yard line, Ward picked off the Cardinal's Sean Brophy as he heaved a flea flicker pass down the field. The sophomore returned the interception down the home sideline as time expired, hurdling a would-be tackler and leaping into the end zone with 00:00 on the clock. The game-winning pick-six will go down in SFA football lore as one of the most dramatic finishes ever in Homer Bryce.
The play received national recognition and appeared as the No. 3 play on ESPN SportCenter's Top 10 plays of the night.
A native of San Diego, California (DeSoto H.S.), Ward had a total of 10 tackles in the win over UIW, including seven solo stops and a five-yard tackle for loss. He also had a pair of pass breakups and was the Lumberjacks' second leading tackler on the night. Appearing on special teams as SFA's main kickoff return man, Ward had three returns for 68 yards, including a 49-yard run off of the game's opening kickoff. He finished the game with a total of 138 all-purpose yards to lead the 'Jacks.
The safety is off to a tremendous start in 2017, leading SFA in total tackles (31), solo stops (15) and pass breakups (5). Ward's 10.3 tackles per game ranks second in the Southland, while he tops the league in passes defended at two per contest with five total pass breakups and one interception this season.
Ward becomes the first SFA football player to earn a player of the week plaudit in 2017 and the first since Hunter Taylorclaimed Southland Offensive Player of the Week honors on Sept. 26 last year. He is the Lumberjacks' first defensive player of the week honoree since Nov. 11, 2014, when Lance Skyler claimed the weekly award.
The 'Jacks will hit the road this weekend for their first Southland road game of 2017, taking on Abilene Christian in a 6 p.m. kickoff from the Wildcats' brand new Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium Saturday, Sept. 23.
Stay tuned to SFAJacks.com, as well as SFA's social media platforms, for complete coverage of Lumberjack football this fall.