Jablonski, Sterup tabbed first team, nine Bulldogs garner all-conference awards

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 15, 2023 in Football

2023 GPAC Football All-Conference Team

First Team: WR Austin Jablonski; DL Kyle Sterup.
Second Team: LB Michael Grindey; QB DJ McGarvie; OL Tyler Walford; RB Devin Zeigler.
Honorable Mention: DL Carson Fehlhafer; DL Devon Polley; OL Blake Schlegel.

SEWARD, Neb. – Nine Bulldogs from the Concordia University Football team found their way onto the 2023 all-conference honor roll announced on Wednesday (Nov. 15) by the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The highest honors among Bulldogs went to receiver Austin Jablonski and defensive lineman Kyle Sterup, both named to the GPAC’s first team. Second team accolades were pulled in by linebacker Michael Grindey, quarterback DJ McGarvie, offensive lineman Tyler Walford and running back Devin Zeigler. In addition, honorable mention status was placed upon defensive linemen Carson Fehlhafer and Devon Polley and offensive lineman Blake Schlegel.

In sum, five of the nine all-conference awards for Concordia were claimed by linemen. Meanwhile, McGarvie became the first Bulldog quarterback to achieve either first or second team All-GPAC status in the GPAC era (2000-present).

A year after Korrell Koehlmoos paced the NAIA in receptions, Jablonski did the same during the 2023 regular season. The Lincoln Pius X High School alum concluded his second season at Concordia with 91 catches for a school record 1,134 receiving yards to go along with eight touchdown grabs. He also ran for two touchdowns and threw for another score. Counting kickoff returns and rushing yards, Jablonski racked up 1,648 all-purpose yards in 2023. He eclipsed 100 receiving yards in six of the team’s 10 games. In 20 career games with the Bulldogs, Jablonski has snared 127 receptions for 1,617 yards and 11 touchdowns.

A junior from Osceola, Neb., Sterup spent the fall wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. Sterup led all GPAC players and ranked top five nationally for tackles for loss with 19 in 2023. Sterup ranked third on the team with 69 tackles while also posting seven quarterback hurries, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a blocked punt. Sterup collected a career high five tackles for loss in the win over Doane. He also caught a 16-yard pass on a fake field goal in that contest. The strong junior season for Sterup followed a sophomore campaign that saw him make 63 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.

The Chandler, Ariz., native Grindey paced the team in tackles for the second year in a row. He accumulated 89 stops (tied for the fourth most among GPAC players) in 2023 while recording eight tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. Grindey’s season high of 15 tackles came in the home win over Briar Cliff. He was named First Team All-GPAC in 2022 when he posted a GPAC regular season leading 92 tackles. Grindey has piled up a combined 181 tackles over his two full seasons as a starting linebacker.

At the quarterback position, McGarvie continues to set new standards. While starting all 10 games in 2023, the Valparaiso, Neb., native completed 210-of-368 passes for 2,676 yards (school record) and 17 touchdowns – to go against 10 interceptions. McGarvie led all GPAC quarterbacks with an average of 267.6 passing yards per game. With one full season yet to play, McGarvie already owns program all-time records for touchdown passes (54) and passing yards (6,679). McGarvie totaled 300 or more passing yards four times in 2023 with a high of 413 versus top-ranked Northwestern.

A Houston, Texas, native, Zeigler played five seasons at Concordia. The 5-foot-7 running back set new career highs in 2023 for carries (201), rushing yards (795) and rushing touchdowns (11). His rushing total ranked as the fifth highest among GPAC running backs. Zeigler rushed for more than 100 yards in three separate games this season. Over the course of his career, Zeigler rushed for 1,800 yards and 16 touchdowns on 470 carries. Zeigler cracked the program’s all-time top 10 list for rushing yards at No. 9.

Both Walford and Schlegel are first-time All-GPAC honorees after paving the way for a new school record for average total offensive yardage per game (415.3). The 2023 team’s scoring average of 30.3 points per game marks the program’s highest scoring average since 1972. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Walford (Lincoln, Kan.) started all 10 games at left guard while the 6-foot-6, 325-pound Schlegel (Bruning, Neb.) started all 10 contests at right tackle. Perhaps most impressive, the Concordia offensive line did not surrender a single sack over the season’s final five games. During that stretch, the Bulldogs attempted 190 passes.

After the injury bug hit in 2022, Fehlhafer slid over to the offensive line. He returned to the defensive line this fall and helped make that unit the strength of the defense. The Utica, Neb., native finished 2023 with 45 tackles, 9.5 stops for loss, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He registered nine tackles and two stops for loss in the win over Briar Cliff.

While playing alongside the likes of Fehlhafer and Sterup, Polley (Edmond, Okla.) put together another all-conference season (second team honors in 2022) while racking up 14 tackles for loss (second most on the team). He also tallied 46 tackles, 3.5 sacks, eight quarterback hurries, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. The previous year, Polley recorded 43 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s 2023 squad completed the 2023 season at 5-5 overall while placing in a tie for fourth in the final GPAC standings. Concordia will say goodbye to roughly 20 seniors as it looks ahead to the 2024 season.