Sacramento State football will be back on the big stage.
That was the sentiment the Hornets felt after an NCAA FCS playoff loss to Austin Peay in 2019. They felt it again Saturday night following a 24-19 defeat to South Dakota State in second-round action. There’s strong reason to believe these Hornets will be back and better under coach Troy Taylor, who has led the Hornets to back-to-back Big Sky Conference championships.
Only 11 players on the Hornets’ two-deep depth chart are seniors. On offense, linemen Thomas Parker and Kooper Richardson, running back B.J. Perkinson and wide receiver Isaiah Gable graduate. On defense, linemen Wyatt Hjelm and Josiah Erickson, linebackers Marcus Hawkins and Taylor Powell and defensive backs Malik Jeter and Munchie Filer lll played their final games.
Powell transferred to Sac State June 2020 after spending the first few seasons at Northern Arizona. He appreciated his Hornets experience and said the good times will continue.
“It’s been amazing,” Powell said. “As a transfer coming in, it was love right away. It’s been a great season. For the guys still here, keep going. It’s definitely not done here. It’s going to keep rolling for a long time.”
Sac State quarterback Jake Dunniway added, “Ever since this new staff has come in, it’s been nothing but a blessing. Not only for us as young men, but for the city of Sacramento. We have a great team and a lot of great seniors.
Dunniway and his running mate at quarterback Asher O’Hara will both return next season. They split reps at quarterback because of their different skill sets. Dunniway was used in the passing attack, while O’Hara was used as a running threat.
Dunniway passed for 331 yards and a touchdown and finished the season with 2,576 yards and 12 touchdowns. O’Hara was the Hornets’ leading rusher this season with 662 yards. He also added nine touchdown runs.
Sac State’s offense will return nine starters. That includes receivers Devin Gandy, Jared Gipson, Pierre Williams, Chris Miller and Parker Clayton and star tight end Marshel Martin. The Hornets on offense also bring back linemen Ivan Garza, Jackson Slater and Brandon Weldon.
One of Sac State’s breakout stars in the second half of the season was Rio Linda High School product Cameron Skattebo, who ran for 520 yards on only 57 carries and six touchdowns this season.
The Hornets defense that held South Dakota State scoreless in the second half will return linemen Tyler Hardeman, Jett Stanley, Ariel Ngata and defensive backs Dominick Sanders, Patrick Dean, Abel Ordaz, Marte Mapu and Jace O’Hara.
Sac State will also bring back all-conference specialists in punter Sam Clark and kicker Kyle Sentkowski.
“We have come a long way as a football program,” Sac State coach Troy Taylor said. “We have an unbelievable senior class that we are losing. We are really going to miss those guys. We have an unbelievable football team coming back next year.”