December 6, 2004
Berlanga, Helms and Long Will Represent Northwest at the 2005 Cactus BowlMARYVILLE, Mo. -- Northwest Missouri State University football seniors Luis Berlanga (Monterrey, Mexico), Gabriel Helms (St. Louis, Mo.) and Adam Long (Bennington, Neb.) have been selected to play in the 2005 Whataburger Cactus Bowl set for Jan. 7, 2005 in Kingsville, Tex. The game will be televised live on FOX Sports Southwest from Javelina Stadium with kick-off at 6:35 p.m. CST. The Cactus Bowl is an all-star game of elite NCAA Division II athletes where several get a chance to play in front of NFL scouts. In 2002, 22 players who participated in the Cactus Bowl were either drafted or signed by various NFL teams.
"I am thrilled for all three players and for them to be able to represent Northwest," said head coach Mel Tjeerdsma. "It is a great honor for them and it speaks a lot about this program. I think the big thing is it is a great opportunity for them because they all have aspirations to play beyond their college days. Every NFL team will have a scout there so it is a great chance for all Division II players to be seen."
Berlanga, who is one of two kickers on the roster, set the NCAA all-divisions mark for consecutive PAT's made in a single season with 73. The 2004 All-MIAA First Team selection was honored as a league Special Teams Player of the Week on three occasions. Berlanga, who played just one season at Northwest, holds the Northwest mark for most points by a kicker in a single season with 122. In the nation, Berlanga finished 18th in scoring with 9.4 points per game and 10th in field goals per game (1.2). He set a Northwest playoff record with a 51-yard field goal against Texas A&M-Kingsville (Nov. 20) and again at Pittsburg State (Nov. 27); the field goals pushed his season total to 16 which is tops on the season charts...He finished 74-of-76 on PAT attempts - the PAT attempts set a Northwest school single-season record.
Helms was a 2004 All-MIAA First Team selection at defensive back. He saw action in every game despite dislocating his shoulder in Week 10. A week after that injury, he posted two tackles and came up with a key pass defended vs. Pittsburg State (Nov. 6). On the season, he was first on the team with 10 passes defended and totaled 33 tackles, including 24 solo tackles which was tied for sixth on the team. His two interceptions tied for second on the team and his 77 interception return yards was tops as he returned two picks for touchdowns including a 70-yarder vs. MSU-Moorhead (Aug. 28). He was an integral part of a defense to rank 10th in the NCAA in rushing defense (94.0) and 26th in turnover margin (0.8).
Long was the 2004 MIAA Most Valuable Defensive Player and All-MIAA First Team pick at linebacker as he was first in the league with 1.45 tackles-for-a-loss (TFL's). His team-leading 18.0 TFL's put him second on the Northwest single season list, just two shy of the record. For his two-year career at Northwest, Long compiled 29.0 TFL's, which ties him for fourth on the school list. On the year, he tied for first on the team with 81 total tackles, tying a team-high with 43 solo stops. He had at least seven tackles in seven games, which was tops on the club. His season-high tackles mark (12) came against Southwest Baptist (Oct. 30). He was part of a defense to rank 10th in the NCAA in rushing defense (94.0) and 26th in turnover margin (0.8).
The three Bearcats scheduled to play push the league total to 13 on the West squad. Northwest and Central Missouri State have the most members with three apiece.
The last Bearcat to appear on the Cactus Bowl roster was Daryl Ridley in 2004.
For more information, please visit www.cactusbowl.org
The No. 4 Bearcats ended their season at 11-2 after a NCAA Division II Quarterfinal loss to #1 Pittsburg State, 50-34, Nov. 27.
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