Ben Axon, Manatee High’s well traveled running back, has apparently found a home at undefeated power Butler (Kan.) Community College, which is second in the JUCO national rankings.
He opened the season with an Axon workmanlike 31 carries for 101 yards in a 16-10 victory over then fourth-ranked Navarro when his services were needed in a tight game.
The Grizzlies coasted over their next three opponents winning by a combined, 126-21, and he shared the load with the team’s other running backs, which is common in JUCO ball. But the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Axon leads the Grizzlies in rushing with 295 yards on 63 attempts (4.7 avg.) and two touchdowns.
Butler is arguably the national junior college power of the decade with three national championships and a runner-up spot in the past seven years, including back-to-back titles in ’07 and ’08.
Butler has sent more than 30 players to the NFL, including a guy Axon wouldn’t mind following in running back Rudi Johnson, who played at Auburn and with the Cincinnati Bengals.
If Axon completes the required academic work this year he would be able to transfer to a four-year college and have three years of eligibility.
He has been offered by Iowa State while Michigan and Western Kentucky are seriously looking at him with many more to follow if he can play next season.
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There are plenty of Southeast grads making a mark on the young college football season, but no one seems to have made a bigger impact than Chris Hart.
The quarterback played in one of college football’s most historic games this season when he led FCS Towson (Md.) to a five-overtime victory and did it at Johnny Unitas Stadium, just to add a footnote.
In the fifth overtime, Hart threw a 25-yard TD pass and then ran for what proved to be the winning two-point conversion in a 47-45 victory over Coastal Carolina, first bouncing the ball off the turf and then taking it into the end zone.
With his Tigers trailing 21-7 with 12:36 remaining in the game, the junior took his team on two wild scoring drives and sent the game into overtime on a TD pass with 29 seconds left.
After three games, the junior leads the Tigers in rushing and passing. He has gained 245 yards on 45 carries and completed 33 of 68 passes for 339 yards and six TDs with five interceptions.
Unfortunately Hart struggled against defending I-AA national champion Villanova last week in a 43-7 loss and sat out the second half. He is expected to start the next game, but needs to cut down on his turnovers, according to Towson head coach Rob Ambrose.
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Faron Hornes lost his punt return job after bungling his first two attempts for USF, but seems to have worked his way back into the good graces of head coach Skip Holtz, who wants to get the senior more playing time to help the Bulls’ banged up receiving corps.
Taking advantage of an off week, Holtz said USF played the equivalent of two games, and Hornes showed some of the skills that made him such a coveted talent in high school.
“Faron Hornes is really starting to mature and show a lot of progress, and he is one of those guys with his speed and athleticism who we got to find a way to get him on the field and try to get the ball in his hands,” Holtz said.
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Holtz expressed concern about Western Kentucky freshman Willie McNeal during his Tuesday presser.
The redshirt freshman out of Braden River High leads the country in kickoff return yardage with 428 yards. That includes a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
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Western Illinois (2-1) is undefeated against FCS competition thanks to senior Todd Speight, older brother of Southeast quarterback Dyron Speight.
He leads the Leathernecks in kickoff and punt return yardage with a combined 204 yards. In a 31-21 loss to Purdue earlier this season, he had five receptions for 50 yards and had 172 yards of total offense to lead his team. The senior is sixth in the Missouri Valley Conference in all-purpose yardage, averaging 113 yards a game.
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Former Southeast running back Henry Sailes is Tennessee Tech’s leading receiver and punt returner and is second in kickoff return yardage. The senior leads his Ohio Valley Conference team in all-purpose yardage and is averaging 17.8 yards per punt return, 15.2 yards on kickoff returns and has caught four passes for 63 yards.
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Jermaine McKenzie, a former Bradenton Prep standout, is the top receiver for Conference USA Memphis, averaging 40.67 reception yards per game with nine catches for 122 yards and a touchdown. His brother, Tremaine, a defensive back, has been a force for the 1-2 Tigers, averaging 6.67 tackles per games with a fumble recovery and two pass breakups.
Alan Dell, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.