Last of the Legends: Texans to send off 17 seniors with season finale vs. Central Arkansas

TSU Sports Information

It's Senior Night for Tarleton, where the Texans will say goodbye to 17 seniors who made everlasting contributions to the program. The team will look to end their careers on a high note and finish the 2021 season with a winning record, as they take on the 5-5 Central Arkansas Bears.

Texan seniors, Tre Johnson (No. 3) and Devin Hafford (No. 0) share a moment during a game earlier this season. The Texans will be saying goodbye to 17 seniors after Saturday's season finale.

The game, set for 6 p.m. CT at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, will be broadcast on ESPN+, with John Liddle and Richard Bartel on the call. The game can be heard on Tarleton Sports Network at 90.5 FM in Stephenville and surrounding areas, with Byron Anderson, Kyle Masters, Cody Vannoy and Keltin Wiens leading the broadcast.

Game day festivities

The season finale will play host to both Senior Night and Fan Appreciation Night. All general admission tickets are $5 for the game, and it will be a 500 Max Point event in the Tarleton Sports Mobile App.

The Texans will host a ceremony to honor 17 seniors finishing their collegiate careers in the purple and white.

Texan Alley Tailgate will open at 9 a.m. in Lot A. For maps of the area and complete tailgating policies, visit TarletonSports.com/TexanAlley. Non-tailgating lots will open at 2 p.m., while the stadium gates will open at 4 p.m.

About the matchup

This is the first ever matchup between the Texans and Bears, but it's not completely new for everybody. Tarleton head coach Todd Whitten has faced Central Arkansas four times, all while at the helm of Sam Houston from 2006-09. Whitten's Bearkats beat the Bears 17-14 on Nov. 14, 2009. That was his second-to-last game at SHSU.

Central Arkansas plays in the ASUN Conference. Tarleton has played one other team this season from the ASUN — Eastern Kentucky.

UCA is outside of the AFCA FCS Coaches' Top 25 Poll, but they did receive votes. This year, the Bears have been ranked as high as #16.

Quick hits

This is Tarleton's season finale. It's Senior Night, where the team will honor 17 seniors for their contributions to the program. That's 2,920 rushing yards, 27 rushing touchdowns, 212 receptions, 3,407 receiving yards, 30 receiving touchdowns, 1,272 total tackles, 102.0 tackles for loss, 18.5 sacks, 24 interceptions, 156 passes defended, eight forced fumbles, 14 fumble recoveries, and seven defensive touchdowns between the 17 players.

Bitson

On offense, departing seniors (8) are #0 Jayy McDonald, #1 Tariq Bitson, #4 Khalil Banks, #22 Ryheem Skinner, #35 Stephen Reeves, #61 Javon Chambers, #73 Zach Perry and #88 J.F. Thomas. Junior #93 Trooper Elwonger is also being honored Saturday for what will be his final game in three seasons for the purple and white.

On defense, departing seniors (9) are #0 Devin Hafford, #1 Ronnell Wilson, #3 Tre Johnson, #7 Benjie Franklin, #9 ChadWick Thibodeaux, #20 Sean Walton, #30 Jaicorious Johnson, #33 Corban James and #44 Chris Radford.

With a win, the Texans would finish with a winning record of 6-5. That'd mark their fourth straight season with a winning record. It'd be the 11th time in 12 seasons the Texans were .500 or better under HC Todd Whitten.

The Texans have won two of their last three regular season finales, including a 58-0 shutout win over Western New Mexico at home in 2018.

 
Farewell, old friends

The Texans will celebrate 17 seniors on Saturday for Senior Night. Junior Trooper Elwonger will be honored as well as this is his last game for TSU. All 18 Texans (nine offense, nine defense) have made tremendous contributions to the program. Most of them were part of Tarleton's transition to NCAA Division I, which has perks and sacrifices.

Some perks are increased national profile, playing on bigger stages, enhanced gear and more opportunities. Sacrifices include tougher competition so the glory of an 11-1 record and conference champions becomes 5-3 with no chance of the playoffs because of a four-year reclassification period. Regardless, all 18 were Texans through and through, and deserve to be honored.

#0 Devin Hafford: Hafford has been with Tarleton for six seasons, part of the program since 2016. Across six seasons, he's logged 55 games, 237 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 12 interceptions, 57 passes defended, a FF and four fumble recoveries. His 12 picks are tied for the third most in a Texan's career, just two short of matching the record. Tarleton is 34-21 with him on the field.

#0 Jayy McDonald: McDonald joined the Texans for his last remaining year of eligibility as a grad transfer. He's recorded 504 rushing yards on 87 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and three rushing touchdowns in nine games.

#1 Tariq Bitson: Bitson has played two seasons at Tarleton, recording 84 receptions for 1,293 yards and 14 touchdowns in 17 games played. With one TD on Saturday, he'd join the top 10 leaderboard for receiving TDs in a single-season in Tarleton history.

Wilson

#1 Ronnell Wilson: Wilson has been with Tarleton for six seasons, dominating since 2016. He's played in 50 games, earning 348 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions, 18 passes defended, four FF and three fumble recoveries. His 348 tackles are the second most all-time in Tarleton history, the most in their NCAA era. Tarleton is 35-15 with Wilson on the field.

#3 Tre Johnson: This is Johnson's sixth season with Tarleton, with the team since 2016. He's played in 55 games, recording 212 total tackles, 15 TFL, an interception, 48 passes defended and a fumble recovery. Tarleton is 39-16 with him on the field. He hasn't missed a game in his career since redshirting as a freshman.

#4 Khalil Banks: Banks is in his third season at TSU. His best year came in 2019, where he posted 644 rushing yards on 112 carries (5.8 YPC) and nine touchdowns.

#7 Benjie Franklin: This is Franklin's third season at Tarleton. He has seven interceptions in 28 games, a season-best four in 2019.

#9 ChadWick Thibodeaux: This is Thibodeaux's fourth season at TSU, joining in 2018. He's played in 33 career games, racking up 145 total tackles, 9.0 TFL, a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

#20 Sean Walton: Walton has been at Tarleton for five seasons, playing in 51 games since 2017. He's recorded 107 total tackles, 17.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries. The Texans are 37-14 with Walton on the field.

#22 Ryheem Skinner:  Skinner has been with Tarleton for three seasons, playing 29 games at RB since 2019. He's racked up 1,433 rushing yards on 295 carries, a career 4.9 yards per carry average, with 12 rushing touchdowns. His best season was 2020, where he was the lead back, posting 687 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

#30 Jaicorious Johnson: This is Johnson's fourth season at Tarleton. He's played in 14 games, 10 in 2018. For his career, he's had 19 total tackles, 1.5 for a loss.

#33 Corban James: James has been at Tarleton for two seasons, playing in 13 games. He earned his first sack for the Texans at Eastern Kentucky this season.

#35 Stephen Reeves: Reeves has been at Tarleton for five seasons, serving as the team's long snapper for 42 games. He has four tackles to his name as well.

#44 Chris Radford: Radford has been with Tarleton since 2016, playing in five seasons. He's played in 40 games, totaling 80 tackles, 19 TFL, seven sacks and two FF.

#61 Javon Chambers: Chambers has played five seasons at TSU, leading the offensive line in 40 games.

#73 Zach Perry: Perry has played three seasons at Tarleton, blocking on the O-Line in 26 games.

#88 J.F. Thomas: Thomas has played four seasons at TSU, recording 99 catches for 1,928 yards and 16 TDs. He had 1,276 yards and 12 TDs his first two years.

#93 Trooper Elwonger: Elwonger has been a Texan for three seasons, appearing in two games in 2020.