From the desk of Dave Campbell

Dave Campbell reviews Mary-Hardin Baylor's big win over East Texas Baptist.

Five consecutive football seasons with neither a defeat nor a game tied at the finish line: that’s not easy to do. How many teams have done it either at the small college or big college level? Or even at the high school level?

Well, of course, you can name at least one. The UMHB Crusaders did it last Saturday in Marshall, routing the East Texas Baptist Tigers, 83-19, before a crowd of 1,986 fans. And that’s five perfect regular seasons in a row for them, five in a row in winning just about everything other than a national championship.

The Crusaders did it in this 2014 regular season game by getting in a rut, a glorious rut.

After giving up a first quarter touchdown, they scored 21 points in the first quarter, 21 more in the second quarter and still another 28 in the third. Maybe they also could have done it in the fourth period as well if such had been necessary. But it wasn’t. So they finished by scoring two more touchdowns but missing the PAT after the last TD.

Thus 83 points. Yes, 83 rampaging, resounding, convincing points did the Cru put on the scoreboard in their final conference game, thus winding up their 2014 American Southwest Conference season in highly impressive fashion.

It’s a victory they now can use as a springboard into their new 2014 quest, namely to keep winning until they have captured a 2014 NCAA Division III national championship.

Their first test will come this Saturday at high noon in their favorite playpen, Crusader Stadium in Belton.

This will be the second football game this football season matching UMHB Crusaders and Texas Lutheran Bulldogs. The first time they met, the game was played in Seguin and the Cru won, 72-16. At the time, the Bulldogs were undefeated and ranked No. 17 nationally in AFCA Div. III football. 

Oddly enough, the most recent ratings (Nov. 17) have those two teams still in those very same positions.

The Top Four in the Nov. 17 AFCA Division III poll were Wisconsin Whitewater 1, Mary Hardin-Baylor 2, Mount Union (Alliance, Ohio, a multiple national champion) 3, and Wartburg (Iowa) 4. But Wesley (Dover, Del.) is not to be taken lightly if you are looking to find a possible Division III national champion. Wesley is 9-1 and has only lost to a Division II school (North Carolina-Charlotte) this season, and actually was ranked ahead of UMHB in the Southern Region of Division III teams two weeks ago.

After UMHB’s Seguin victory had been posted, it was considered the Cru’s most impressive victory of 2014 up to that time. But there have been other one-sided victories for the Cru since then, and maybe some more still to come. 

Crusader football coach Pete Fredenburg offered this word of caution regarding Saturday’s rematch in Belton.

“It’s always difficult to beat a team twice in the same season,” he said. “They (the Bulldogs) will have some revenge on their minds the way things went earlier this season.

“No question, they can use some stuff that we used against them defensively. But our guys are excited to be playing them again.”

As for the Cru’s victory over East Texas Baptist, the Tigers actually scored first (Josh Warbington completing a 31-yard  TD pass to Stephen Alfred) but a pass for the extra points was no good. And then it was all UMHB for as long as it mattered.

The Crusader scoring came in this sequence: 

Blake Jackson on a 19-yard run; Duane Thompson on a 7-yard run; Jaedon Johnson on an interception and 20-yard return; Bayley Novak on a 22-yard pass from Zach Anderson; Duane Thompson on his second TD run, a 4-yarder; and Michael Carpenter on a 53-yard run.

Jacob O’Neill kicked true after all six Cru touchdowns, so at the end of the first half UMHB led, 42-6, and was firmly in control.

The Cru kept scoring until the game had moved into the fourth quarter and the Crusaders had stormed to a 70-6 margin.

They did it by throwing these scoring punches: At the 2:46 mark of the third quarter Teidrick Smith scored on 36-yard interception return; Kamray Runnels got loose on an 81-yard punt return; Kris Brown returned a recovered fumble 65 yards for still another Cru TD; and T.J. Josey got loose on a 54-yard TD run.

With 9:04 left in the fourth quarter the Tigers finally got back on the scoreboard, Warbington throwing a TD pass to Tyler Bates, but a run for an extra point failed. But the Cru had enough time to put two more touchdowns in the record book before the game ended. Jon Isom recovered a fumble and returned it 20 yards for the TD, and Damon Thomas made the most of a scoring opportunity with a 59-yard run. O’Neill kicked true after Isom’s touchdown but a pass failed to connect after Thomas’ TD run.

But never mind, the score favored the Cru, 83-12, and many fans who were there were looking for the exits.

With 54 seconds left in the game and Fredenburg turning the game over to his reserves, the Tigers scored their final touchdown on a 1-yard run by Toi Glover, and for the first time they added the extra point on a kick by Ryan Travis. 

Several of the final figures were highly misleading. The Tigers actually led in time of possession, 37:03 to 22:57; in first downs, 24-19; and in aerial yardage, 308 to the Cru’s 158. However, teams that can establish a strong running game first are the teams that usually win, and the Cru won that phase in Marshall, 345 yards to ETBU’s 132. Less welcome: the 12 penalties for a setback of 105 yards for the Cru. One of them (a roughing-the-punter infraction) wiped out a first-quarter 57-yard punt return for a touchdown by Kamray Runnels, a penalty that set up the Tigers’ first score.

But still, it’s still the scoreboard that counts first. 

Foremost in the running game for UMHB were Damon Thomas (74 yards on just 3 carries), Michael Carpenter (64). Duane Thompson (55), T..J. Josey (54) and Blake Jackson (48). So the Cru has plenty of depth there. Toi Glover led ETBU with 90 yards net.

Zach Anderson had all of the Cru’s aerial yards (12 of 20 passes for 158 yards). Runnels and Marcus Wimby were the leading receivers, Runnels with 46 yards and Wimby with 44. Tyler Bates was the busiest receiver on the field. He caught 10 passes for 158 yards for the Tigers.

However, Runnels was first among yardage and point producers. He had 46 receiving yards, 31 kickoff return yards and a whopping 105 yards on punt returns.

Towering over all Cru players in the special-honors department were sophomore defensive end Teidrick Smith (5-10, 230, from Hallettsville) and senior wide out Runnels (6-0, 155, from Edna).

Smith, named Co-Defensive Conference Player of the Week, had quite a game, being credited with 8 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries and a pass interception that he returned for his first-ever collegiate touchdown.

Runnels was named Special Teams Player of the Week after all the exploits listed above.

UMHB coaches suggest it also is high time that their offensive line also received some credit. Those starters are sophomore Connally Fuller (6-7, 310, from Richardson Berkner) at left tackle, sophomore Broderick Jenkins (6-0, 260, from Frisco Centennial) at left guard, senior Sterling Cantue (6-0, 250, from Beaumont Central) at center, junior Kendrick Booker (6-0, 270, also from Beaumont Central) at right guard, and senior Jose Ostos (6-3, 260, from El Paso Del Valle) at right tackle. 

And senior tight end Eric Nelson (6-5, 225, from Canyon Lake) certainly deserves mention. He often serves as a potential pass receiver but he also is a fine blocker.

All of them should be ready to take their accustomed places now that playoff time is here. 

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