Trinity defense leads Tigers past Hardin-Simmons in DIII playoffs

Photo courtesy Trinity Athletics

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SAN ANTONIO – Trinity coach Jerheme Urban built his program on a solid defensive foundation. While the defense has taken a back seat to the Tigers explosive offense over the last two seasons, it reminded everyone that defense wins championships in a 20-6 win over Hardin-Simmons in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.

The Tigers advance to meet the reigning national champion, North Central (Ill.), in the second round of the playoffs. The NCAA will announce the host on Sunday, but the Tigers faithful are preparing for a trip to Naperville, Illinois.

The Tigers defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage while holding the Cowboys to minus three yards rushing. To put that in perspective, HSU entered the contest with the 25th-best average rushing yards per game in DIII (213.6 ypg). 

“Our team is kind of coming together at the right time. We’ve been pretty stout against the run the last few years, but we had some guys learning the ropes on the defensive line,” Trinity coach Jerheme Urban said. “The last few weeks, we’ve been able to get some of our veteran interior guys healthy while some of the young guys continued to grow into their role.”

“That’s a very good defense we played,” HSU head coach Jesse Burleson said. “They have a bunch of guys like number 21 and number zero that we played against in 2019, so they’ve played a lot of football. And they’re really good players. We didn’t stay on our blocks long enough, but our guys played their hearts out.”

Senior linebacker Caleb Harmel led Trinity’s defense with seven tackles, six solo, one and a half tackles for loss, one sack, one pass break up, and one quarterback hurry against the Cowboys.

“We knew it was going to be a physical game, and we knew they wanted to run the ball on us, so we had to be physical at the point of attack,” Harmel said. “That was 100 percent the d-line today. That’s probably the best game I’ve ever seen them play, and they’ve had some great games.”

It was a disappointing end to an outstanding season for Hardin-Simmons. The Cowboys earned their first outright American Southwest Conference title since 2004 this season.

“I’m super proud of this team and what we accomplished this year,” HSU quarterback Gaylon Glynn said. “We sat down as a team at the beginning of the year and wrote down our goals for this season. One of the things we wrote was ‘outright champions,’ and we accomplished that. It’s tough to celebrate right now because the season didn’t end how we expected.”

“We had a crazy amount of injuries this year. I know every team can say that, but it’s the most injuries I’ve seen on a team in my 23 years of coaching,” Burleson said. “These guys overcame all of that and won the ASC, which is an extremely difficult conference. It says a lot about the character and substance of the guys on our team. I’m impressed with how they stuck together through everything.”

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