The Angelo State University football team began the 2021 season unranked and under the radar.
The Rams ended the year as one of the best teams in the country.
After a 4-2 start, ASU won its next seven games — including a pair of playoff wins — to reach the national quarterfinals for the first time in 32 years.
For their historic season, the Rams are our 2021 Standard-Times Sportsmen of the Year.
ASU opened the season with a 40-20 road win over No. 22-ranked Lindenwood to jump-start it all. The Rams won other tough games away from home (28-24 over Chadron State and 14-9 at Eastern Washington) to build up their résumé.
The Rams then went on an impressive run late with six straight wins by 20 points or more, including a 48-14 playoff-opening victory over Minnesota-Duluth.
ASU also defeated Nebraska-Kearney 20-7 in the second round before falling 34-26 to Colorado Mines.
The Rams' defense, which was ranked No. 8 in the country in NCAA Division II, was anchored by All-American linebacker Hunter Kyle.
ASU also had the nation's No. 21 offense, led by All-American offensive lineman Willis Patrick.
The Rams had three running backs with more than 700 yards (Nate Omayebu, 1,108; Alfred Grear, 816; and CJ Odom, 735).
Quarterback Zach Bronkhorst threw for 2,495 yards despite missing two games. His top target was Kellen Pachot (54 catches, 907 yards).
ASU head coach Jeff Girsch was named the Super Region Four Coach of the Year for his work in building the Rams into a national title contender.
This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: 2021 YEAR IN REVIEW: Angelo State football team named Sportsmen of the Year