Seven proved to be a lucky number for Western Illinois football Monday when the Missouri Valley Football Conference announced its 2018 all-league teams.
WIU landed seven on the postseason lists. First team recognition went to fullback Clint Ratkovich, defensive lineman Khalen Saunders and linebacker Pete Swenson.
Receiver Isaiah LeSure, linebacker Quentin Moon, safety Justin Fitzpatrick and running back Steve McShane were second-team selections.
Ratkovich, a redshirt sophomore from Crete-Monee, was second on the team in receiving yards (616) with three touchdowns and ranked 10th in the MVFC in receiving yards per game. A team captain, Ratkovich was fourth on the team in rushing yards. He was named to the MVFC All-Newcomer Team a year ago.
Saunders, a St. Louis native, repeated as first team All-MVFC. The Buck Buchanan Award finalist ranked third on the team in tackles with 72, while adding 13 tackles-for-loss. Saunders was second on the team and sixth in the MVFC in sacks (6.5) and tied as the team leader in QB hurries (5). He recorded a career-high 11 tackles against No. 1-rated North Dakota State. Saunders also scored a touchdown on first career reception versus Youngstown State.
Swenson, a Mason City, Iowa native, joined Saunders on the Buck Buchanan Award watch list. He led the nation in TFLs (24.5 for a combined 109 yards loss). The team leader with seven QB hurries, Swenson sacked the opposing quarterback in all but one game this season, ranking third in the FCS and leading the MVFC in sacks (14.5). He finished tied for third in the MVFC in forced fumbles (3) and ended the year with 60 tackles.
Fitzpatrick, who also plays center field for the Western baseball team, tied for eighth in the Valley in passes defended and tied for team lead with nine pass breakups and two interceptions. He registered a career-best 11 tackles versus playoff-bound Northern Iowa this fall.
“It means the world to me," Fitzpatrick told Prairie State Pigskin. "It’s no question that this is one of the toughest and most competitive conferences in the country so being recognized as one of the best means a lot. My job in the back end is obviously made a lot easier when I have Pete and Khalen getting the kind of pressure they do play after play.
"I think they were the best 1-2 punch in the country and it’s not even close. Everyone knows how good Khalen is, but no one really knew how good Pete was until this year. Both of them worked their butts off this summer and I’m happy that they both reached the goals they were trying to attain.”
McShane, also baseball teammate of Fitzpatrick, was the team leader in rushing with 672 yards (10th in the MVFC). The Freeport High School graduate was third on the team in receiving yards (403). He tied for third in the MVFC in touchdowns (seven rush, five pass, and one return) and was second in the Valley in punt return average (9.0) and sixth in the MVFC, 34th in the nation in all-purpose yards.
LeSure, a Wisconsin native, finished as Western's active leader in receiving yards (1,318) and touchdowns (12). He ranked 10th in the MVFC in receptions per game (4.1).
Quarterback Sean McGuire and defensive back Xavier Rowe were honorable mentions by the league.
McGuire is Western's all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts. The Franklin, Wisc. native sits second all-time in the MVFC with 9,819 career passing yards.