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StarBulletin.com

Blaze ready to bang in finale


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hawaii's undulating journey over the past three months bears striking resemblance to the path Blaze Soares has traveled over his career with the Warriors.

The promising start. The disheartening setbacks. A rousing finish.

“;He's sort of symbolic of this football team,”; Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin said.

The speed and abandon Soares exhibited made him a fan favorite early in his career, but a misstep during fall camp last year prematurely ended his season.

After taking close to a year to recover from the torn Achilles', Soares has remained healthy this season to enter Saturday's senior night as the Warriors' most productive tackler and an emotional leader.

“;I'm just blessed having this opportunity,”; said Soares, who yesterday was named the Western Athletic Conference's defensive player of the week. “;Just playing ball, I'm just so lucky to be out here again.

“;As of that day (last year), my season was done. Everybody doubted the fact that I would come back. But I've got somebody up there watching me and I'm very thankful for that.”;

               

     

 

Jones, SMU headed to Hawaii Bowl

        SMU's first bowl appearance in 25 years will take the Mustangs back to the site of their last.
       

SMU has scheduled a press conference today to announce the Mustangs' acceptance of an invitation to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, according to a source close to the situation.

       

SMU's last bowl appearance was in the 1984 Aloha Bowl, when the Mustangs defeated Notre Dame. The program was given the “;death penalty”; by the NCAA in 1986 and had languished through last season, when the Mustangs went 1-11 in June Jones' first season in Dallas after leaving Hawaii.

       

A decade after reviving the UH program, Jones led SMU to a 7-5 regular-season mark and a bowl berth, possibly against the Warriors.

       

Jason Kaneshiro, Star-Bulletin

       

 

       

Soares earned the WAC honor after tying a career high with 12 tackles, including 11 solo, in the Warriors' 24-17 win over Navy. The win put the Warriors in position to earn a spot in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl if they can knock off Wisconsin (8-3) in their regular-season finale.

While he was singled out for the award, Soares credited it to the collective efforts of the Warriors defense in stifling Navy's spread-option offense.

“;This award is supposed to go to our defense because as a team we played awesome,”; he said. “;It was such a team thing, that's why I was kind of shocked I got this award this week. Our defense just played well and I hope we can play this week the same way.”;

After a year away from the field, the Castle graduate hasn't missed a start this season and enters the week leading the Warriors with 96 total tackles, including two sacks, and logged his first career interception against New Mexico State on Nov. 14.

“;Some athletes cannot play after they tear their Achilles'. What he's done is close to a miracle,”; UH defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Cal Lee said. “;The doctor and the trainers and the guys who worked on him to get him ready for this year, they have to be congratulated.

“;I know it killed him not being able to play last year. He wanted to play two weeks after he got hurt, but he just couldn't go. I'm happy for him, that he's feeling good about himself, his senior year and playing like he is.”;

Just as Soares emerged from his trials, the Warriors endured the depths of a six-game losing streak to bounce back with four consecutive wins to earn a shot at the bowl berth.

“;People could have been individuals and gone their separate ways,”; Soares said. “;But it's awesome to see that this class pulled everybody together and kept everybody focused on the main goal ahead.”;

Reaching that goal will require containing Wisconsin's power running game after dealing with the option last week. But it's just another opportunity Soares relishes.

“;It's a different mentality, a different mind-set now,”; Soares said in reference to the unit's struggles early in the season. “;I feel like our defense is going to rise to the occasion and is going to come out fired up.

“;They're just going to pound the ball down your throat, but for me I love it because we're going to bang.”;