They’re preseason awards, but awards nonetheless.
St. Cloud State junior quarterback Phillip Klaphake was named the NSIC North Division’s preseason offensive player of the year Tuesday and St. Cloud State senior cornerback Marvin Matthews was named the division’s preseason defensive player of the year.
St. Cloud State opens up practice at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium. The Huskies’ season opener is at home at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 against the University of Sioux Falls.
Both players were surprised by the honor. Klaphake was a first team All-NSIC pick last year. In two years, he’s thrown for more than 4,000 yards and rushed for more than 1,000. He ranks fourth on SCSU’s all-time passing list with 4,953 yards.
St. Cloud State is 19-5 since the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Klaphake became the starting quarterback two years ago and has two Division II playoff appearances and a co-NSIC title.
“It feels good,” Klaphake said of the award. “It’s nice to know that people have some respect and knowledge that I’ve played well enough to receive an ward like this. It’s just weird having it in the preseason. I guess they expect me to play well, just like I expect myself to. We haven’t won anything, though. There aren’t any numbers to look at.
“Until I prove that again this season, it doesn’t mean much. It would be bigger having some kind of postseason award.”
Matthews is a three-year starter at cornerback for the Huskies. He was a Division II first team All-American selection last year by the American Football Coaches Association and a first team All-NSIC pick.
The 6-foot, 197-pound Matthews led the Huskies with 46 solo tackles last year and second on the team in total tackles (70). He also notched a team-high three interceptions.
“I thought I was going to get defensive player of the year last year,” Matthews said. “But this means a lot to me. I was waiting for it to come out. I’m excited. I feel like there’s a big load on my shoulders as a leader this year. I want to make things happen for this team.”
St. Cloud State was picked to finish second overall in the NSIC and second in the North Division behind Minnesota-Duluth in the conference’s preseason coaches poll that was released along with the awards Tuesday.
The Huskies received six first-place votes for the overall vote to Minnesota-Duluth’s nine. Minnesota State-Mankato received the other first-place vote. Mankato was picked to win the South Division ahead of second-place Winona State.
Both players weren’t shocked that the team finished behind UMD in the polls.
“I was surprised they showed us some love with these awards because UMD always gets these,” Matthews said. “I’m excited for Phil because I think he’s going to have a good year. But even after we blew UMD out last year, they’re still above us. They had a good run in the playoffs, but we still blew them out. We get them at home again this year. That’s going to be great.”
Klaphake was also happy for Matthews, but not taken aback about being behind Duluth.
“Marvin really deserves this. He’s a great player. He’s one of the best corners in the conference, if not the best. He makes practices suck for us,” Klaphake said. “As for Duluth? They went farther in the playoffs last year. They deserve to be higher. Until we play each other, you never know. It’s like that every year.”
Winona State running back Rayon Simmons was named the South Division preseason offensive player of the yeare. Augustana linebacker Austin Luecke was named the South Division preseason defensive player of the year.