Demons’ duo of Ward, Watson win Louisiana player of the week awards from LSWA

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Northwestern State’s season-ending 35-23 victory last Thursday over Stephen F. Austin brought Louisiana Player of the Week honors Monday to two pivotal figures in the Demons’ comeback win, senior receiver Jaylen Watson and freshman kick returner Myles Ward.

Watson won the Offensive Player of the Week honor after his two touchdown catches of 20 and 75 yards were keys in the second-half rally. Ward’s 94-yard score with the runback of the second-half kickoff, starting a surge back from a 16-7 halftime deficit, earned him Special Team accolades from a Louisiana Sports Writers Association voting panel.

Watson caught four passes for 123 yards in his Demon finale. The Los Angeles native’s two TDs increased his season total to 10, a tie for second in school history with the previous single-season record holder, Al Phillips, in 1968. NSU junior Jazz Ferguson, an All-America candidate, topped Phillips’ mark this season with 13 scoring catches.

A 20-yarder to Watson from Shelton Eppler midway through the third period at SFA lifted the Demons ahead 21-16. They connected on the 75-yarder on NSU’s first play of the final quarter for a 28-16 advantage.

Ward wasn’t expected to play after sustaining a bruised thigh the previous week in the Demons’ 37-34 double overtime victory over No. 18-ranked McNeese. His replacement at SFA, senior cornerback Rashaun Croney, was injured late in the first half, forcing Ward into action.

His first play was NSU’s first kickoff return touchdown since Ed Eagan took the opening kickoff back 97 yards at McNeese in 2015. Ward had two more short returns later in the game as the Lumberjacks sky kicked to hamper chances of another long return, leaving the redshirt freshman from De La Salle High School in New Orleans with three runbacks for 108 yards.

The LSWA’s choice as state Defensive Player of the Week was Nicholls defensive back Ahmani Martin, who forced two fumbles, had four solo tackles and two pass breakups in the Colonels’ 44-0 romp over Southeastern Louisiana to clinch the Southland Conference’s automatic berth in the FCS playoffs and a share of the conference Championship.

The All-Southland team for 2018 will be announced Tuesday afternoon by the league office, after voting Monday by head coaches and sports information directors.