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Hickel picks up MIAA honor

Published on -10/3/2012, 10:21 AM

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Fort Hays State University senior bandit backer Layton Hickel has a bevy of honors and statistics throughout his career. Hickel, a Claflin native, has played in all 38 games, ranks in the top-10 all-time in Tiger history in career tackles and is a team captain this fall.

However, Hickel hadn't earned an MIAA honor until last Saturday when he was named the conference's Defensive Player of the Week.

"It's definitely an honor. It definitely was, but I can't take all the credit for it," Hickel said of the award. "It's definitely a team effort, and I just happened to come out on the glory end of it."

He helped the Tigers pick up their first win of the season in a 37-23 road victory against Truman State (Mo.) University. Hickel said the game "was up there" as far as the best performances in his career.

"I made my fair share of mistakes," Hickel said. "I think it was just credit to my D-line. They just did a great job keeping us backers running around free. (Linebacker) A.J. (Woodall) did a great job taking on blocks. ... and I was able to claim the glory out of a lot of those tackles. I think I played well, but I can definitely do better."

On Saturday, Fort Hays (1-4, 1-4 MIAA) plays host to Lindenwood (Mo.) University (4-1, 3-1 MIAA) in the annual homecoming game. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Lewis Field Stadium. It marks the first meeting between the two schools. Lindenwood, in its first year of MIAA play after a long run as an NAIA powerhouse, has quarterback Ben Gomez, the reigning MIAA Offensive Player of the Week. Lindenwood uses four and five wideouts nearly every play.

"We've got to get some pressure on their quarterback," Hickel said. "We've got to stay in coverage, and they've got a lot of speed, so it's going to take a lot of different things for us to be successful, but if we can definitely start with the D-line getting pressure, it's going to be a great day for us."

Hickel delivered a career-high 15 tackles, collected half a sack and forced a fumble. The turnover came at a key juncture. Fort Hays junior quarterback Tarean Austin fumbled at his own 10-yard line after a sack.

On the next play, Hickel and Fort Hays junior linebacker Shane Smith converged on the sack and forced the fumble. It was one of two turnovers caused by the Tiger defense.

"Our kids were very eager for a win, and it felt good to finally get that first win," second-year coach Chris Brown said. "I know it was just a matter of time before we got it. Not taking anything away from Truman, they are a very, very good football team. They did some good things. We capitalized on a few turnovers that we created on defense, and made some things happen on offense."

As well, FHSU has continued pressure up front on Bulldog quarterback Conrad Schottel.

"It takes time, but I really think that they are starting to gel together, communicate well, and I think they are starting to look like a true defense, how we want it," Brown said. "But we are still not the physical, aggressive defense that I want yet."

While Fort Hays did allow 434 total yards, they held Truman State to 3 of 13 on third-down conversions, a number the Tigers consider more important than total yards allowed.

"Our D-line did a great job getting pressure in his face and making him dump the ball and for us backers to go get the ball," said Hickel said, who has has 42 tackles this season, tied with senior defensive back Austin Hubert for the team lead. "If they keep doing that, then we are going to be a successful defense."

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