Fullback Jared Mohamed and defensive lineman Augustino Elisaia, both seniors, were the top award winners at the team banquet honoring the 2017 Cal Poly football team Sunday inside Cal Poly’s Multi-Activity Center.
Mohamed, Cal Poly’s 21st 1,000-yard rusher with 1,172 yards, was named the team’s most valuable player and offensive most valuable player while Elisaia, who notched 35 tackles, seven for lost yardage and four sacks, earned most valuable defensive player honors.
Nickel back Aaryn Bouzos, who produced 13 tackles and one pass breakup, was honored as the team’s most valuable special teams player.
Mohamed (6-0, 227, Brawley, Calif./Brawley HS) recorded seven 100-yard games this season, tied for No. 4 on the single-season chart, and eight for his career, tied for No. 7. He scored four touchdowns -- two each against UC Davis and Portland State -- finished No. 1 in the Big Sky in rushing, established a career high with 194 yards in the win over Portland State and was named to the All-Big Sky Conference first team.
“He took advantage of his opportunities and rarely missed his assignments,” said Mustang assistant coach Eric Coleman. “He always did his job and did it well.”
Added head coach Tim Walsh, “He’s a warrior. Joe Protheroe went down with an injury and guess who was ready. J-Mo is a winner in every way possible. He transformed himself from linebacker to fullback. He’s not very vocal but he went out there and showed everybody who he is.”
Elisaia (6-0, 315, Union City, Calif./James Logan HS) played in every game during his four playing seasons at Cal Poly, including 30 starts, and finished with 73 total tackles, including 12 for lost yardage and 5.5 sacks.
“Other coaches said Fino crowds the line of scrimmage before the snap and he splits our offense in half with his size,” Walsh said of the two-time second-team All-Big Sky Conference honoree.
Bouzos (5-9, 190, La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada HS/Air Force Prep/Mt. San Antonio College), the oldest player on the team at age 25, likely will best be remembered for his interception in the final two minutes of Cal Poly’s victory at South Dakota State a year ago. He also intercepted a pass against Montana the following week.
Named most valuable offensive lineman was senior center Joey Kuperman (6-1, 300, San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic HS) while senior defensive end Jack Ferguson (6-2, 270, San Luis Obispo, Calif./San Luis Obispo HS) earned most valuable defensive lineman honors. Mohamed was named most valuable offensive back while senior safety B.J. Nard (6-0, 205, Bakersfield, Calif./Frontier HS) collected the most valuable defensive back award.
A trio of senior linebackers were honored as well.
Darren Adjei (6-3, 220, Bakersfield, Calif./Liberty HS/Bakersfield College) was named most improved player of the year while Charlie Davis (6-2, 230, San Leandro, Calif./San Lorenzo HS/Laney College) earned most inspirational player of the year honors.
Completing the trio, Mason Montgomery (Ashland, Oregon/Ashland HS/Butte College) received the Mel Kaufman Award, presented annually to the Cal Poly player who most exemplifies the virtues Kaufman became known for on and off the field.
Kaufman, a linebacker on the Mustangs’ 1980 NCAA Division II national championship team who died in February 2009 after one year as Cal Poly’s linebackers coach, earned four Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins, three as a player and one as a scout.
Montgomery was Cal Poly’s top tackler this fall with 92, including 2.5 for lost yardage. He also notched two quarterback hurries and forced one fumble. Adjei garnered 51 tackles, including 9.0 for lost yardage, and three quarterback hurries while Davis had 14 tackles and two quarterback hurries.
Ferguson, who earned 32 tackles, 8.0 for lost yardage and 5.0 sacks, along with seven quarterback hurries, was presented the Legion (Snelling) Award, which goes to a team leader who plays hard during practice as well as in games and exemplifies being good on a daily basis.
Second recipient of the Dale Barthel Award is senior defensive lineman Caleb Melton (6-3, 265, Placerville, Calif./El Dorado HS/American River College). The honor goes to a player who walks on, earns a scholarship and is honored not only as a player, but what he does in the classroom and as a young man.
Barthel, a defensive back and outside linebacker at Cal Poly from 1979-83, who played on the Mustangs' 1980 NCAA Division II national championship football team as a redshirt freshman, passed away in January 2015 after a long battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease."
Team captain awards were presented to Kuperman, Protheroe, Elisaia, Davis, senior linebacker R.J. Mazolewski (6-0, 225, Mission Viejo, Calif./Santa Margarita Catholic HS) and junior quarterback Khaleel Jenkins (6-2, 214, San Diego, Calif./Francis Parker HS).
Sophomore quarterback Daniel Prieto (6-0, 180, Newbury Park, Calif./Newbury Park HS/El Camino-Compton Center/San Diego State) was named Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year while freshman defensive back Mason Hurst (6-1, 190, Loomis, Calif./Del Oro HS) was presented with the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year Award.
Though the 2017 squad finished 1-10 overall and tied for 12th place in the Big Sky at 1-7, preparations are already under way for a return to the Mustangs’ winning ways in 2018, which will be the 100th season of Cal Poly football.
“I am really proud of our 19 seniors,” said Walsh, “and our returnees need to understand the lessons from the seniors what it takes to fix things in 2018. There’s no quit from anyone in this program. Learn from the mistakes and remember the good while dealing with the bad.
“The season was difficult,” Walsh added. “During the first nine weeks, including four games against teams in the playoffs this year, I couldn’t be more proud of the way we fought hard and competed. It’s time to get ready for our opener in 2018 at North Dakota State and restart the way we usually are.
“The body of work is what is important for our players to remember. There’s a lot to learn and the underclassmen will learn from the seniors. They’ve got to find out what being a Mustang is all about and Ride High. We’ve got to find out how to get there again and we will.”
Most team awards were chosen by the players.