NSU’s Hayden Bourgeois sweeps Southland, LSWA special teams honors

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NATCHITOCHES — Northwestern State sophomore All-America candidate Hayden Bourgeois, whose punt returns and blocked field goal in overtime were vital in the Demons’ 37-34 double overtime win over arch-rival McNeese Saturday night, picked up Southland Conference and Louisiana Sports Writers Association awards Monday.

Voters picked the Demons’ safety as Special Teams Player of the Week for the conference and state. He was also an honorable mention on the STATS LLC national FCS list Monday.

Bourgeois kept NSU alive at the end of the first overtime when he knifed through the left side and batted away a potential game-winning McNeese field goal.

In regulation, he had a 17-yard punt return to the Cowboys 35 that ignited the Demons’ first scoring drive, then added a 29-yard return to midfield in the fourth quarter to launch a drive to a 36-yard field goal for NSU. That was part of 17 fourth-period points by Northwestern, which overcame second-half deficits of 14 and 11 points to win.

The 5-11, 184-pounder from Notre Dame of Crowley recorded seven tackles, second on the Demons’ Purple Swarm defense, on plays from scrimmage.

Bourgeois ranks fifth in FCS with five interceptions and has a pair of fumble recoveries, accounting for seven of NSU’s 25 takeaways.

“Hayden somehow, some way is going to find a way to get to the football and make a play,” said Demons’ head coach Brad Laird. “He’s got a knack for it. He’s having a great season and Saturday night, made the play that gave us a chance to win the game in the second overtime.”

Bourgeois shares the team lead with 75 tackles, including five for lost yardage.

The Demons wrap up the season Thursday night at 6 with a visit to Stephen F. Austin in the annual Battle for Chief Caddo, the largest trophy in sports. The game will be televised by ElevenSports.

In the Southland’s weekly awards, running back Ra’Quanne Dickens of Incarnate Word was the offensive winner for his 213-yard rushing output in a win at Central Arkansas, while UIW cornerback Malick Phillips too defensive honors after intercepting two passes and breaking up three passes as the Cardinals clinched at least a share of the conference championship.

The other LSWA honors stayed in north Louisiana, going to UL Monroe quarterback Caleb Evans for his 421 total offensive yards against South Alabama, and Grambling defensive back Joseph McWilliams, who had a 20-yard interception return for a score and blocked an extra point and returned it for a two-point conversion against Alabama A&M.

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