Thousand-yard fullback heads 8 Bears on all-SEC

Anthony Lewis-Royal rushed for 1,008 yards and scored 122 points for the Bears.

Anthony Lewis-Royal was as hard to photograph as he was to tackle. There were no glamorous photo ops of this guy sprinting in an open field like most star ball-carriers. The Bears fullback was only seen barging through defenders, head down, ball clamped tightly, pushing the pile forward.

That’s how the 5-foot-6, 210-pound senior piled up 1,008 yards in 2021, seldom an easy yard among them. Most thousand-yard rushers have several 30-, 40-, 50-runs. Lewis-Royal’s longest of the season was 22 yards. But on 220 carries, he was always moving forward. He never lost a yard, and he never fumbled the ball, either.

Told that he’s like a human bowling ball out there, he chuckled, “Yes, that’s what a lot of people tell me.”

Named overall Most Valuable Player on the team, and offensive MVP, he heads a list of eight Bears making the all-conference team. 

Lewis-Royal scored 122 points, the fourth-best total in Bear history, on 20 touchdowns (19 rushing, one receiving) and one two-point run. He is the  program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Jessiah Majest in 2015.

Coach Ryan Bartlett said his fullback had “an unbelievable season” that will be long-remembered. “With all those carries, he never sat out a practice or game with any injuries. He is one of the toughest kids I've coached. He is one the best teammates I have been around as well.”

Lewis-Royal, who mainly pumps iron the rest of the year, intends to play college football; he doesn’t yet know where.

Also named all-Suburban East Conference were seniors Matt Sloan (linebacker, halfback), Jeremiah Peterson (tackle), Zachary Peterson (defensive end), and Tyler Anderson (center); and juniors Rayshaun Brakes (receiver, running back, kick returns), Tolu Oyekunle (linebacker), and Chris Heim (linebacker).

Getting honorable mentions were seniors Nick Svir (tight end) and Theron Cartier (tackle); and juniors Connor Gerrell (quarterback), Nick Asper (defensive end), and Zach Bohrod (guard).

Sloan was named MVP on defense, where his contributions included 10 tackles behind the line for 50 yards in losses. He was the third-leading rusher as well, with 39 carries for 245 yards and one score. 

Special teams MVP is senior Wally Venter, chosen for his strong leg and amazing accuracy in placing kickoffs and punts, Bartlett said. Venter arrived in August from Cape Town, South Africa, where he was in rugby, water polo, field hockey and track. He knew nothing about football but decided to give it a try. For the first half of the season, he used the drop-kick on kickoffs, a holdover from his rugby days. 

Other awards went to Heim (Will to Win), Ernad Ikanovic (most improved), Isaac Debilzan (Brian Engen Award), and David Love and Luke Calbrieth (scout team offense and defense).

Gerrell completed 60 percent of his passes, 81 of 134, gaining 1,056 yards, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He will give the Bears an excellent incumbent quarterback in 2022. Top receivers were senior Alex Lockwood with 29 catches for 401 yards and three touchdowns, Brakes with 13 for 237 yards and two touchdowns, and junior Vatel Henderson with 24 for 223 yards.

Brakes also carried 54 times for 343 yards and five touchdowns, and had a kick return touchdown, averaging 25.6 yards on 11 attempts. His 48 points ranked second on the team. 

Michael McCormack, senior placekicker, tallied 21 points on extra points. Lockwood had 18 points. Michael Delaney, junior safety, had two defensive touchdowns for 12 points.

Oyekunle made seven tackles-for-loss for 36 yards, Heim six for 26 yards, Domarion Pollard four for 21 yards, Zachary Pratt four for 12 yards and Lewis-Royal three for 18 yards. (The team does not keep overall tackle statistics). 

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