Final farewell for football seniors

Emily Miller

Weber State football closed out their season on Nov. 20 against the University of Northern Colorado in a 48–17 win at Stewart Stadium.

The Wildcats didn’t qualify for playoffs after finishing their season 6–5, and for 13 players, it was their last time stepping onto the field at Stewart Stadium as an athlete of Weber State.

Braxton Gunther started his football career in Logan as a Utah State Aggie. He transferred to Weber State as a safety and has appeared in 16 games for the ‘Cats. Gunther tallied 34 tackles and had a 47-yard interception that he returned for a touchdown against UNC.

From walk-on to All-American, Conner Mortensen closed out his senior season as a linebacker with 237 tackles.

Weber State University's Rashid Shaheed looks to return the ball following the kick off.
Weber State University's Rashid Shaheed looks to return the ball following the kick off. Photo credit: Isabella Torres

Mortensen started his career with Weber State as a redshirt in 2016 and has since earned Big Sky Academic All-Conference honors in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In the Wildcats’ 2021 spring season, Mortensen earned All-American honors and was also named as the Big Sky Conference Defensive MVP.

Mortensen will graduate with a master’s degree in nursing.

Rashid Shaheed is a wide receiver for the Wildcats and a San Diego native.

Shaheed found himself atop the record books after returning his seventh career kickoff return for a touchdown against Idaho State on Oct. 30. Shaheed now leads the FCS and is tied at the FBS level.

Shaheed collected a 100-yard kickoff return, his first of the season, against the University of Utah on Sept. 9.

For the 2021 season, Shaheed was the only player in the Big Sky Conference to receive All-Conference Honors at three different positions. He received first team honors as a kick returner and punt returner and also received second team honors as a wide receiver.

Shaheed is the third player in Weber State history to receive All-Big Sky honors four times in his career.

Ty Whitworth is finishing his career with Weber State as an All-American with over 50 games played as a Wildcat.

Whitworth has earned three-time all-conference first team recognitions as well as Big Sky Academic All-Conference honors for three straight seasons. He was also a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy Award from the National Football Foundation.

The California native is graduating with a master’s degree in education.

Alec Cipollini

Defensive lineman Jared Schiess won four Big Sky titles with the Wildcats as he played in all 58 games he was eligible. Starting in 2016, he redshirted before becoming one of the main focal points in Weber State’s defense. He finished with 169 total tackles and 6.5 sacks. He is graduating with a master’s degree in health administration.

After also redshirting in 2016, linebacker and South Jordan native BJ Taufalele came from Bingham High School. It wasn’t until 2019 when he made his debut and played 31 of 33 games since then. He had 50 tackles and one interception for WSU.

In 2018, linebacker Sherwin Lavaka transferred from Snow College to WSU and won two Big Sky titles. The Kearns, Utah, native was named onto the All-Big Sky second team after finishing 10th in the conference with two sacks last spring. With the Wildcats, he had 71 total tackles and three passes defended.

Offensive lineman Creston Coolidge graduates as a three-time Big Sky champion after moving to Ogden from Surprise, Arizona. Coolidge redshirted his first year in 2017 and played in two games as a Wildcat this year against Dixie State University and James Madison University.

Italian cornerback Fabrizio Umetelli played one game in his three seasons at Weber State as he played in the final game of this season against Northern Colorado University. He played at Layton Christian Academy in high school before joining the ‘Cats.

Dalton Gallegos

Ben Bos started at the center position for four years for the Wildcats and was awarded all-conference honors twice during his playing career with the Wildcats. He redshirted his freshman year with the Wildcats for the 2016 season before starting in 52 consecutive games for the Wildcats.

Senior cornerback Dave Jones played in 35 games in his five seasons with the Wildcats. He started out his career on the offensive side of the ball as a running back but moved to the cornerback position after the completion of his freshman year.

This season, he rushed for 191 yards for 44 attempts along with a touchdown reception of 31 yards. In his playing career with the Wildcats, he had 17 solo tackles and six assisted tackles along with one fumble recovery.

On the offensive side as a running back, he had 225 career rushing yards, with his longest career run at 32 yards.

Senior defensive lineman Jayden Palauni appeared in 47 games for the Wildcats during his four-year playing career. He had 60 total tackles, with nine of those tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks in his career with Weber State. He also had two fumble recoveries, with one of those being a forced fumble in a game against UC Davis during the 2019 season.

An intense exchange between Weber's Braxton Gunther, 25, and James Madison's Seth Naotala, 46, requires intervention as tensions rise.
An intense exchange between Weber's Braxton Gunther, 25, and James Madison's Seth Naotala, 46, requires intervention as tensions rise. Photo credit: Isabella Torres

Senior safety Preston Smith appeared in 56 games for the Wildcats and earned All-American honors during the 2021 spring season and has earned All-Big Sky honors twice during his career. During both the spring and fall seasons of 2021, he had a combined 50 tackles along with 29 assisted tackles and four interceptions.

He had 143 solo tackles with 83 assisted tackles during his career with Weber State. He also had 7 career interceptions, with his longest interception return at 27 yards during a game against Northern Arizona during the 2018 season.