FRISCO, Texas -- They’re always at the top of the rankings. And there are several of them. The teams in the Colonial Athletic Association are considered, year in and year out, some of the best in the country.

This season, the league also had some of the best players and coaches.

The Sports Network announced three of its major awards Friday afternoon, handing out honors to New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans (Buck Buchanan Award for defensive player of the year), Towson running back Terrance West (the inaugural Jerry Rice Award for freshman of the year) and Towson coach Rob Ambrose (Eddie Robinson Award as coach of the year). 

It wasn’t lost on anyone that all three hailed from the same league.

“There are great coaches in this league from top to bottom,” Ambrose said. “The players are as good as anybody in the country at almost any level and that is the truth. I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s like a fight, except it happens every week. Whether you win the fight or not, you come out bleeding every week.

“And the next week, you come out and the guy you have to fight is as good or better than the one the week before.”

West put it a little more succinctly.

People always say that the CAA is the SEC of the [FCS]. Every single week you’re going to face a good opponent and you have to be ready and prepared.
-- New Hampshire LB Matt Evans

“We’re just trying to prove to the world that we can play. It’s not just the big schools on TV; we can ball too,” West said. 

Evans and West can attest to the physical level of play and amount of talent on the field. Still, the pair came out as the best in the country after stellar seasons.

Evans ended his junior year by winning the 17th Buchanan Award and becoming the first player in school history to bring home the trophy. The All-American recorded 165 tackles on the year and was second in the country with 13.8 stops per game. He had double-figure tackles in 10 games in 2011, including a career-high 24 tackles against Lehigh on Sept. 10.

Heading into his senior season, Evans has 334 career tackles, a mark that stands fifth in school history. But going against such a loaded conference slate, it won’t be easy to add to his total.

“People always say that the CAA is the SEC of the [FCS],” Evans said. “We had five teams represented in the playoffs. Every single week you’re going to face a good opponent and you have to be ready and prepared.”

West took home the first of what could be many career honors after a stellar freshman campaign. He paced the country in touchdowns with 29 and finished with 1,294 yards in 11 games, ranking 11th in the country at 117.6 ypg.

West’s exploits helped Towson to the CAA title this fall and pushed Ambrose to take home coach-of-the-year honors. While Ambrose said he’d gladly trade any awards to still be playing on Saturday in the FCS title game, he was happy about one thing: having West on his side.

“You know that little leprechaun that comes with a four-leaf clover and brings good luck? I must have about 50 in my back pocket because of the guys I have on this team like Terrance,” Ambrose said. 

The final major FCS award of the year will be announced later Friday when the Walter Payton Award for national player of the year is handed out. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell of Eastern Washington, quarterback Chris Lum of Lehigh and running back Shakir Bell of Indiana State are the finalists.