The UMHB football team knew they needed to make a statement in order to lock up an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs. They did just that Saturday afternoon as they thumped East Texas Baptist University 67-20 and grabbed a share of the American Southwest Conference Championship in the process.
Senior quarterback Zach Anderson threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns as the Crusaders picked apart the Tiger defense.
“We just tried to take what they were giving us, and a lot of times, that was the pass,” Anderson said.
The UMHB defense forced a three-and-out on ETBU’s first drive of the game. A short punt gave the Crusaders the ball at the ETBU 38-yard line. On the Crusaders’ first play, Anderson completed a screen pass to freshman DeNerian Thomas, who slipped past a defender and took it to the endzone to give the Cru an early 7-0 lead.
The Tigers responded by driving down to the UMHB 37 before they were forced to punt. However, UMHB returner Jaedon Johnson fumbled during the return and the Tigers pounced on it and had new life at the Cru 13. Three plays later, senior running back Kendall Roberson took it nine yards for a touchdown. A missed extra point left the Cru up 7-6 with 11:33 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cru then managed a 10-play, 75 yard drive that set them up for a fourth-and-goal from the one yard line before senior running back Malcolm Miller fought his way in to the endzone to put the Cru up 14-6.
After ETBU failed a 4th-and-8 attempt at the UMHB 20, the Cru took over and quickly drove down the field as junior wide receiver Wykeyhe Walker hauled in back-to-back receptions of 20 and 30 yards before Anderson found freshman tight end Jaron Dykstra in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. A blocked extra point attempt made it 20-6 with 5:43 left in the first quarter.
With 5:51 remaining in the first half, junior quarterback Blake Jackson entered the game and connected with wide receiver DeNerian Thomas over the middle for a yard score which made it 27-6.
On ETBU’s next drive, defensive back Bryce Wilkerson picked off ETBU quarterback Josh Warbington to give the Cru the ball at the ETBU 31.
Two plays later, on 3rd-and-13, Jackson kept it on a quarterback draw and took it 33-yards for a touchdown to extend the lead to 34-6 before at halftime.
Two minutes into the third quarter, Anderson lofted a fade to the endzone that Walker hauled in over a defender for a 23-yard score to make it 41-6.
Warbington fumbled on the next drive and Reggie Clay scooped it up to set the Cru up at the ETBU 15. Six plays later, Miller rumbled in for his second 1-yard score to push the lead to 48-6.
A Jacob O’Neill field goal an 8-yard touchdown from Miller made it 58-6 before Teidrick Smith dropped Tigers running back Jourdan McNeill in the endzone for a safety to add two more points.
Smith said the defense was able to correct some mistakes that plagued them two weeks ago in a 29-26 loss at Hardin-Simmons football.
“The loss we had was just a matter of too many mistakes. When we play we can be really effective and really dominate. Everybody just got after it all day,” he said.
The Cru scored their final touchdown when Jackson hit Trevian Medlock in the endzone for a 15-yard score.
ETBU would close out the game with a 2-yard touchdown run from Roberson and a 15-yard passing score from Warbington to Richard Johnson make it 67-20.
Head coach Pete Fredenberg was pleased with the energy his players brought to the field early in the game, as the Cru racked up 644 yards of total offense and held ETBU to 307.
“I think 398 yards in the first half is pretty good production,” he said. “I think we were ready to play. Our guys were geared up and ready to go.”
With the win, the Cru earned a share of the ASC Championship in a three-way tie with ETBU and Hardin-Simmons.
UMHB also secured an at-large berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs and will travel to Abilene Saturday for a rematch against Hardin-Simmons.