Cavender makes impact in freshman year

MHS graduate named to Lone Star Conference football honors at West Texas A&M

Barbara Boxleitner
Mirror correspondent
J.T. Cavender

JT Cavender's breakout football performance has earned him multiple honors.

The Lone Star Conference named the Midlothian High School graduate its Linebacker of the Year and Defensive Freshman of the Year. He is on the all-conference first team.

"I didn't think I'd get two (superlative) awards," said the West Texas A & M University inside linebacker.

The Division II Conference Commissioners Association later named him to the all-South Central Region first team, one of two Buffaloes recognized.

A backup linebacker and special teams player in his 2020 true freshman season, when he had four tackles, Cavender started this fall.

"I was able to learn so much in spring ball. I was able to grasp the defense," he said. "I was very excited to get the starting spot this year."

He improved the most in his tackling, which he said became a focus of the coaches after the team missed a bunch of tackles during a loss to University of Texas Permian Basin in the second game. "We had been doing tackling drills after that," he said.

He led the conference with 108 tackles, finishing with at least 12 tackles five times. He had a career-high 20 tackles and a fumble recovery during a win over Midwestern State University, leading players from both squads in tackles.  The conference named him defensive player of the week for his effort.

The 20 stops were the most by a Buffalo since 2014. "I got in a groove," said Cavender, who had a 13-yard sack in the opener. "It was a lot of fun. I have that mentality that I want to be in on every tackle."

He said he recovered the fumble on the goal line. "It was right after one of our players got carted off," he said. "We needed a big play."

"The quarterback had been running away from me. I stopped his momentum at the goal line. My teammate punched it (the ball) out, and it landed in my hands. It was pretty electrifying," he said.

He made 12 tackles and had his lone interception in the final seconds during a win over Texas A & M University-Kingsville. "I was running with the tight end," he said about the interception. "A safety had batted the ball over, and it landed in my hands."

For the coming season, Cavender wants to improve his pass coverage. "I had to cover the slot receivers. Sometimes it was the running backs. A lot of the time it was the tight end," he said.

Send updates about area athletes to Barbara Boxleitner at jdanddoc@gmail.com.