Senior Guard Keyunta Watkins
Senior Guard Keyunta Watkins

SAGU Men’s Basketball player Keyunta Watkins knows how to save the best for last.  On his last regular-season game, Watkins surpassed the 1,000 career point mark.

1,000 points is impressive enough. But Watkins hit the milestone in only two years, and according to Head Coach Donnie Bostwick, he wasn’t exactly brought in to be the leading scorer his junior season. “Last season, Key came in with a bunch of talented seniors," Bostwick said. "He fit in perfectly, which can be a challenge for a scorer who is used to having the ball in his hands most of the time.”

It didn’t seem to bother Watkins, who can always be found with a larger than life smile. “1,009 points never came to my mind," Watkins said. "I just wanted to come to SAGU and try to win a championship and to get a better chance of going overseas.”

Watkins came to SAGU from Temple Junior College in Temple, Texas. During his two years as a JUCO player, he scored 818 points.

Watkins ranks no. two in the NAIA in three-point field goals made per game (3.5), no. two in the NAIA in total three-point field goals made (105), and no. seven in the NAIA in total scoring with 578 points this season. Keyunta Watkins drives it to the paint

“Not only is Keyunta one of the best shooters I have ever coached, he is one of the biggest winners," said Bostwick. "He hates to lose and wills us to victory. Many predicted that this would be a rebuilding year with so many young players, especially after losing Remington (Mitchell) to injury. Keyunta, along with fellow senior Junior, took over this team's leadership role, and through God's help, have shocked everyone coming only one possession from winning a SAC Championship.”

“It all means that hard work has somewhat paid off but I know more is to come,” explains Watkins.

And just how much more?  Watkins says it best, “However many it takes to win it all. I don’t have a set number, I just want to win.”

Cesar España with his fiancé Natalie Pena
Cesar España with his fiancé Natalie Pena

After more than 15 years of hard work on the field, Cesar España accomplished his life goal of being signed as a professional soccer player.

España, SAGU Assistant Men’s Soccer Coach, signed on as a goalkeeper with the Dallas Sidekicks in December of 2016.

“It has always been a dream to sign a professional contract,” España says. “My dad worked hard to become a professional soccer player and that is something I have always looked up to. His work ethic and the sacrifices he made for me is what pushes me every day when I am running on a few hours of sleep.”

España still believes he has a long way to go to prove himself as a professional indoor soccer player and earn playing time.

“It (indoor soccer) is a new sport for me,” España said. “I think I have made a lot of improvement. Right now, one of my overall goals is to just be there and help out the team. I know that with time and training, I will start to get playing time.”

España grew up playing traditional outdoor soccer in El Salvador before moving to the United States. He also played for the El Salvador national team. España would once again have the opportunity to play for El Salvador’s national team in 2015 during the World Minifootball Federation (WMF) Arena Soccer World Cup, the first time that he had ever played indoor arena soccer.

One of the differences between indoor and outdoor soccer is that there is no out-of-bounds in indoor soccer, which results in faster play with significantly less stoppage time. The offsides rule is also non-existent in indoor soccer.

Adjusting to the play of indoor soccer as opposed to traditional outdoor soccer was a challenge for España. “It is a completely different sport,” España says. "It has been hard for me to adjust. Outdoor soccer is a little bit slower. I have had to get adjusted to thinking faster with the ball. I have gotten better at it but there is always room for improvement.”

España practices with the team daily from about 9:30 p.m. to midnight. After practice and an hour and a half drive back home, España gets up first thing the following morning to work for the Academic Services department at SAGU.

Along with working full-time and his responsibilities as a professional player, España is working toward his MBA and is engaged to Natalie Pena, an online admissions counselor at SAGU.

“Cesar is the hardest worker I know,” Pena said. “He is so disciplined and passionate about playing soccer. Not only would he practice in the afternoon but he would also wake up at 6 a.m. and work out. I personally thought he was crazy, but he was just determined to be better not only for himself but for the team.”

For España, the process leading up to his signing started in September of 2015. Through his close friend, Ramon Cardenas, España was able to meet the coaching staff for the Sidekicks. Paul Hason, the Head Coach for SAGU Women’s soccer team and an alumnus of the Sidekicks family, was able to help develop a connection for España with the Sidekicks.

In addition, España believes that Clementin Oancea, SAGU’s Head Coach for Men’s Soccer, has played a role in his success as an athlete. “His passion and dedication to the sport of soccer is something I have always looked up to,” España says. “Throughout the years, under his leadership as a head coach, he has helped me to develop into a better soccer player and understand the game at a higher level.”

After the completion of SAGU’s soccer season and his coaching responsibilities were reduced, España was able to commit more time practicing with the Sidekicks. Pena said that at the time, it was difficult for España to drive an hour and half one way to practice with the Sidekicks every day.

“It wasn’t easy for him to make that drive every day not knowing if he was going to get anything out of it,” Pena says. “It all ended up being worth it though."

In response to what he is most excited about for the future, España said, “I know this is a step forward to new beginnings in my career.”

Senior Linebacker Ethan Eastwood

The Central States Football League (CSFL) announced the 2016 All-CSFL selections and the SAGU football team was represented well. SAGU had five picks for 1st team All-CSFL, five picks for 2nd team All-CSFL and eight honorable mentions.

Linebacker Ethan Eastwood, defensive lineman Matt Lighter, defensive back Carl Morgan, junior offensive lineman Devon Petty and sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Carr were all picked for the first-team honor. Out of SAGU’s five 1st team recipients, three were repeats from last year and four have received the honor before.

Second Team recipients include junior running back JP Lowery, sophomore offensive lineman Dayne Maclin, freshman linebacker Cody Page, sophomore defensive back Matt Williams and kicker Chadd Dearen.

“Overall I was very pleased with the results," said Head Coach Frank Tristan. "I think a lot of our players got the respect of the opposing coaches and that is always good to see. It’s great to see players you care about get accolades for their performance.”

Ethan Eastwood is from Maypearl, Texas. He was named 2nd team All-CSFL last year and 1st team All-CSFL his sophomore year. For much of the season, Eastwood led the league in tackling. He averaged over 12 tackles a game and had 126 tackles for the season, setting SAGU’s tackle record for a season. He also ended the season ranked no. five in the NAIA for tackles per game.

Junior Defensive Lineman Matt Lighter

Matt Lighter is a junior from Katy, Texas. He is a 1st team repeat from 2015. Lighter had 13.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He also had 47 tackles with a season high of 11 tackles against Arizona Christian. Lighter has three national rankings in the NAIA. He ranks no. 34 in tackles for loss per game, no. 35 in fumbles forced per game and no. 46 in total tackles for loss.

“To earn back-to-back first team all-conference in a league where there are a lot of great defensive linemen is a great honor. He worked extremely hard this year and it has paid off,” says Tristan.

Junior Defensive Back Carl Morgan
Junior Defensive Back Carl Morgan

Carl Morgan is a junior from Shreveport, Louisiana. In his seven games played, Morgan had four interceptions. He also had 40 tackles for the year, averaging over five tackles per game. This season, Morgan set the school record for all-time career interceptions with 14.

“For only playing seven games, and getting more tackles than he did last year, it obviously shows he is playing at a high level," said Coach Tristan. "We are really excited for his senior year."

Junior Offensive Lineman Devon Petty
Junior Offensive Lineman Devon Petty

“Devon Petty is another back-to-back first team selection. He played with great intensity and great consistency this year,” remarks Tristan.

Petty is a junior from Waco, Texas. In 2016, Petty had 55 knock-down blocks and graded at 85% for the season. Petty is a two-year starter for the Lions.

Sophomore Wide Receiver Jeremy Carr
Sophomore Wide Receiver Jeremy Carr

Jeremy Carr is a sophomore from Austin, Texas. This year he had five receptions for touchdowns. Carr had 37 catches for 655 yards total, averaging 3.7 catches for 65.5 yards per game.

"The year was full of adversity for SAGU, and Carr dealt with it exceptionally well," said Tristan. “He was third in the conference for receiving yards for the year. Despite having three different quarterbacks through the season, he had consistent timing with all of them.”

SAGU had eight football players make honorable mention: junior running back Ricky Bickham, wide receivers Bryant Dotson, Toras Hill and Chaz Moncriffe, offensive lineman Javier Lopez and defensive linemen Paul Ellis, Darnell Martin, and Jamal Fears.

In December of 2016, the SAGU women’s basketball team visited Palmer Elementary to gift 17 students with Christmas blessing boxes. Christmas presents weren’t the only things the Lady Lions gave. They also helped with the "Fall in Love with a Good Book" campaign and distributed nearly 500 books.

"Palmer Elementary was very excited about the possibility of us working together and wanted us to help with their reading initiative,” explains SAGU head coach Tiffany Phillips.

The reading initiative took of,f and the Lady Lions, with the help of the campaign, were able to pass out more books than they could have imagined. The athletes were able to give out exactly 483 books, one for each child in the elementary. The books were purchased by Palmer Independent School District (ISD).

Once all the books were handed out, the Lady Lions spent time reading one-on-one with students. For Palmer Principal Allyson Spurgeon, this experience meant a great deal to the kids. “It was a wonderful experience for PES to have the SAGU Lady Lions come and not only read stories but talk about what it means to be a collegiate athlete," Spurgeon said. "I heard many conversations about character, generosity and integrity. The girls had our students engaged in meaningful talk and activities that left our students wanting them to stay.”

In addition, Athletic Director Jesse Godding said, "Being a coach you get to see some pretty amazing things but watching the young ladies interact with these children was pretty high up there.”

On top of the book campaign and the blessing boxes, SAGU was able to help a family that lost their home in a fire. The home was of a pre-k student who received one of the blessing boxes. The Lady Lions helped provide gift cards and clothes for the family and the Palmer community raised over $7,000 for the family.

SAGU's three national qualifiers from left to right: Robert Herrera, Destiny Garza & Jerry Nava
SAGU's three national qualifiers
from left to right: Robert Herrera,
Destiny Garza & Jerry Nava

The SAGU Cross Country and Track teams hosted the first-ever SAGU Half Marathon on Saturday, February 4, 2017. The event had over 80 registered runners with 24 college competitors in search of a NAIA qualifying time. In addition to SAGU, John Brown University, Wayland Baptist, Texas Wesleyan and Central Christian were also present.

The SAGU track and field team qualified three runners for the upcoming NAIA Marathon National Championship in May 2017. Reigning NAIA Marathon Champion Destiny Garza along with Jerry Nava and freshman Robert Herrera were all NAIA A-standard qualifiers, meaning the men beat the mark of 1:13:30 and that Garza beat the qualifying mark of 1:30:00.

Nava, a 2016 national marathon qualifier, was the Overall Male Champion with a time of 1:12:06. Robert Herrera finished second overall with a time of 1:12:57. Garza was the Overall Female Champion with the time of 1:22:57.

Head Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach, Jason Covarrubias said, “The route was exceptionally fast this morning and I am so proud of my runners. I've always told them that we must continue to build and by going from two to three national qualifiers, we did just that.”

In addition to the three qualified SAGU runners, six other college athletes qualified for the NAIA Marathon National Championship. There were three male A-list, one male B-list, three female A-list and two girl B-list qualifiers.

Sponsors for the half marathon included Baylor Scott & White of Waxahachie, Waxahachie Convention & Visitors Bureau, John Houston Custom Homes, Waxahachie YMCA, Franco Graphics, Compton Time and Measure and Paul Box with Edward Jones.

The SAGU Half Marathon will be a yearly tradition with the next half-marathon set for February 3, 2018. The 13.1 miles will be throughout the historic city of Waxahachie. It is open to everyone.