Gronowski leads SDSU football for all-MVFC honorees

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ST. LOUIS – South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski claimed three of the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s top awards, leading a 12-member Jackrabbit contingent on the all-conference team announced Thursday.
A native of Naperville, Illinois, Gronowski was selected as MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year by a panel made up of the league’s coaches, sports information directors and media members.

In helping lead the Jackrabbits to a share of the MVFC title and the league’s automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, Gronowski racked up an average of 239 yards of total offense per game in six starts. He completed 76-of-133 passes (57.1 percent) for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns, while ranking second on the squad with 383 rushing yards and a team-best six touchdowns on the ground. He topped the 100-yard mark for rushing three times.

Gronowski is the second Jackrabbit to be honored as the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, joining fellow quarterback Taryn Christion in 2016. He is the fifth SDSU player to be honored as Freshman of the Year, following Austin Sumner (2011), Jake Wieneke (2014), Christian Rozeboom (2016) and Pierre Strong, Jr. (2018), and is the first Jackrabbit tabbed as Newcomer of the Year.

Strong, a junior running back from Little Rock, Arkansas, repeated on the all-MFVC First Team after rushing for 453 yards in five games. He ran for two touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards per carry, while also adding 12 receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown.

Also earning first-team recognition from the Jackrabbit offense was sophomore tight end Zach Heins. The Sioux Falls native caught eight passes for 151 yards during the regular season.

The SDSU offensive line, which paved the way for the Jackrabbits to average 29.3 points and 233 yards per game on the ground, was well-represented on the all-MVFC squad. Sophomore right tackle Garret Greenfield earned first-team honors, while left guard Mason McCormick was named to the second team and senior center Wes Genant received honorable mention accolades.

Greenfield, a native of Rock Valley, Iowa, was a two-time MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week selection during the season.

First-team honors on defense were awarded to defensive tackle Caleb Sanders, linebacker Logan Backhaus and cornerback Don Gardner. A junior from Glenwood, Iowa, Sanders registered 14 total tackles, including three tackles for loss and a sack. SDSU held opponents under 100 yards rushing three times in six regular season games.

Backhaus moved to the first team after earning honorable mention recognition in 2019. He ranked second on the team in total tackles with 39, as well as tackles for loss with 5.5. The senior from Spirit Lake, Iowa, also intercepted a pass.

Gardner, a Chicago native, earned first-team recognition following a second-team selection in 2019. He tallied 28 tackles, including three for loss, and added three pass breakups and an interception this spring.

Back to the offensive side of the ball, sophomore wide receiver Jaxon Janke was honored on the all-MVFC Second Team after posting team highs of 20 receptions, 313 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Also receiving accolades were honorable mention selections Isaiah Davis at running back and kicker Cole Frahm. A freshman from Joplin, Missouri, Davis complemented Strong and Gronowski in the Jackrabbit backfield with 372 yards and five touchdowns. He topped the 100-yard mark twice and none of his 53 carries resulted in a tackle for loss.

Frahm booted a field goal in all six games and tallied a team-best 46 points. The Omaha native made 9-of-12 field goal tries and 19-of-20 extra-point attempts.

South Dakota State, 5-1 overall, has earned the top seed in the 16-team Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The Jackrabbits open postseason play Saturday by hosting Holy Cross. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

The full MVFC All-Newcomer Team will be announced Friday.

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