To win the 2017 Black College Sports Page offensive player of the year award and be dubbed the leader of the “Baad Team” of black college all-stars, a player needs to put up big numbers and lead his team to big victories. That’s exactly what Virginia State senior running back Trenton Cannon did in 2017.
Cannon led all black college rushers this season with 1,638 rushing yards. But perhaps more importantly, he was the linchpin of the Trojans’ getting through the regular season with an unblemished 10-0 record including a CIAA Championship Game victory over Fayetteville State and finishing 10-1 on the season.
Cannon averaged 143.8 rushing yards per game, scored 17 rushing touchdowns, another three on receptions and two on kick returns. He ran for over 100 yards in nine of VSU’s 11 games and topped the 200-yard mark twice.
He perhaps saved his best games for the Trojans’ biggest games. He ran for 234 yards on 19 carries including a scintillating 93-yard TD gallop off a pitchout in a critical CIAA North Division showdown win over rival Bowie State. That performance came against his chief competitor for this year’s offensive award, Bowie State junior quarterback Amir Hall, the “Baad Team” first team signal caller.
Cannon later closed out his CIAA campaign with 186 yards and three TDs of 10, 73 and 79 yards in the title game. He finished in the top five in NCAA Div. II football in just about every rushing category. He was second in rushing yards per carry (7.73), fourth in rushing yards per game (143.8), third in rushing yards (1,638) and tied for 14th with his 17 rushing TDs.
He also led Div. II in kickoff returns (33.7 ypr.) to also earn the first “Baad Team” recognition as a kick returner. Hall was the only black college quarterback to top 3,000 passing yards this season (3,591) and average over 300 passing yards per game (319.9 ypg.). He also led all passers with 41 TD passes (and only four interceptions). He also had the best efficiency rating (176.4) and the best total offense numbers (356.5 ypg.).
His Div. II stats were similar to Cannon’s as he finished fourth in passing efficiency, second in TDs, fifth in passing yards, fourth in passing yards per game and 19th in passing yards per completion (14.13).Cannon and Hall are joined in the backfield by Alcorn State senior DeLance Turner who led the SWAC in rushing with 1,355 yards and 10 TDs.
West Virginia State senior Quinton Gray who led black college receivers in catches (89, 8.0 rpg.) and receiving yards (982 yds., 89.3 ypg.) and North Carolina A&T record-breaking sophomore Elijah Bell (64 rec., 953 yards, 11 TDs) hold down the receiver spots with Southern senior Dillon Beard (35 rec., 442 yds., 5 TDs) as the first team tight end.
All-American senior left tackle Brandon Parker of N. C. A&T anchors an offensive line that includes senior teammate Darriel Mack at center, Grambling State senior Trent Scott, Bowie State senior Victor Tamba and Alcorn State senior Timothy Gardner.
Grambling junior placekicker Mark Orozco makes the first team after connecting on 18 of 22 field goals and 47 of 48 PATs for 101 points.
The defense is led by a trio of senior heat-seeking linebackers – South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard (MEAC, 113 tackles), Tuskegee’s Osband Thompson (SIAC, 117) and Grambling’s De’Arius Christmas (SWAC, 87) – who took home player of the year awards in their respective conferences. Thompson and Leonard, whose numbers mirror each other, share the defensive player of the year award.
No less outstanding were first team defensive backs Daquan Richardson of Bethune-Cookman who tallied 84 tackles with five picks, North Carolina Central senior Davanta Reynolds and N. C. A&T freshman Franklin McCain, who led all players with six picks, and Southern senior Danny Johnson (3 ints., 55 tackles), who was among the leaders in passes defended. McCain returned three picks for touchdowns.
The first teamers on the defensive line include seniors Aaron Tiller of Southern and Rodriguez Jones of Kentucky State and juniors Stefen Banks of Savannah State and LaAllan Clark of Grambling. Sophomore Fidel Romo-Martinez of Delaware State is the first team punter.