As easy as 1, 2, 3, the Northwestern State football team found four members on the All-Southland Conference teams Tuesday morning.
The Demons placed one player on each of the first two teams and a pair on the third team, which were chosen by a combined vote of the league’s coaches and sports information directors.
Record-setting wide receiver Quan Shorts earned first-team honors after setting a school record with 100 catches, the third-highest total produced by a Southland receiver in conference history. A 6-foot-2, 195-pound transfer from Texas Tech, Shorts finished the regular season fourth in the nation in catches per game (8.3) despite playing the final three-plus games with a case of turf toe. Despite the injury, he finished his career with a nine-catch, 132-yard performance against Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 21, his fifth 100-yard receiving game of the season, one shy of tying the school record.
In two seasons, Shorts filled up the NSU single-season and career record book. His 11 receiving touchdowns were 15th nationally and rank second in NSU single-season history behind Jazz Ferguson’s 13 a season ago. Shorts’ 994 receiving yards also stand second to Ferguson’s 1,117 in 2018.
In addition to owning the single-season receptions mark, he stands second in career catches (156), tied for fifth in receiving touchdowns (13) and 11th in receiving yards (1,536).
While Shorts earned his first all-conference award, senior offensive lineman Chris Zirkle nabbed his second career postseason conference honor. A preseason second-team selection, Zirkle found himself on the second-team following a season in which he consistently was Northwestern State’s highest-graded lineman.
A CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which honors student-athletes for their achievements on the field, in the classroom and in the community, Zirkle matched his 2017 second-team All-Southland selection. A 6-2, 287-pound League City, Texas, product, Zirkle started all 12 games and 16 in a row to end his career after returning for the final four games of 2018 after offseason shoulder surgery.
A pair of underclassman defenders represented the Demons on the third team.
Junior linebacker Ja’Quay Pough and sophomore cornerback Shemar Bartholomew joined Shorts and Zirkle on the all-conference teams, giving NSU its most selections since Ed Eagan (WR/AP/RS), Chris Moore and Pace Murphy combined for five spots on the 2015 team.
In his first season with the Demons, Pough collected 101 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles. He was named Southland Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 28 after recording 21 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack in the Demons’ 44-41 overtime win at Incarnate Word. Pough is the first Demon to reach the 100-tackle plateau since Marion Chapman in 2014 and became the first Demon to record at least 20 tackles in a game since Chapman that season.
A 6-1, 230-pound product of Sherman, Texas, who transferred from Texas Tech, Pough ranked 22nd nationally in forced fumbles (.25 per game) and 59th in tackles per game (8.4).
Bartholomew, a New Orleans native, ranked 12th nationally in interceptions per game (0.4) closed his sophomore season with a flourish, producing five turnovers in the final five games of the season. Included in that run were a pair of two-turnover games – an interception and fumble recovery at UIW on Oct. 26 and a two-interception game against Stephen F. Austin. He added a momentum-shifting, 96-yard interception return touchdown in the Demons’ 31-28 win at Sam Houston State on Nov. 16.
A 6-0, 185-pound cornerback, Bartholomew broke up four passes and added 23 tackles and a blocked extra point against McNeese in nine games.
Photo Credit: Chris Reich and Gary Hardamon