Rain, shine and wind. The UMHB football team weathered it all to secure a spot in the quarterfinals round of the NCAA Division III National Championships.
Although Cru defeated the Huntingdon College Hawks 43-23 Nov. 28 in the Second Round of the playoffs, a last-second field goal the following week allowed Linfield College to knock the Cru out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Last year, the Wildcats ended the Cru’s playoff run with a 31-28 victory in Crusader Stadium. This year, the Cru traveled to McMinnville, Oregon to write the budding rivalry’s next chapter.
Entering the game, the Cru had an overall record of 11-1 and were 4-1 in conference play. Their lone loss came midway in the season to Hardin-Simmons University, when the Cowboys defeated the Cru 29-26. After the loss, the Cru rallied a 4-game winning streak and defeated the Tigers of East Texas Baptist University in the regular season finale to clinc a share of the regular-season ASC Champion Title.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Cru travelled to Abilene, where they defeated the Cowboys 37-19. In the second round, The Cru hosted the Hawks and won 43-23.
Junior exercise sport science major Matthew McVey recalled the game against the Hawks and playoff tradition.
“It’s always good to have a playoff game at home, and to get the victory is an even better feeling.
We knew coming into this game, this was not going to be an easy one. Huntingdon was going to fight like crazy to knock us out of the playoffs,” McVey said.
“This is the 12th year in a row the Crusaders have made the second round of the playoffs, I think that’s a tradition of its own.”
Before the game, the team was hopeful to pull off a win against the team who stole their chance at the Stagg Bowl a season ago.
“We feel that we let that game slip away from us last year and beat ourselves with too many mistakes,” said junior exercise and sport science major Baylor Mullins. “In life, you don’t get many second chances and for us that were all here last year, this is another chance at Linfield. We will make sure to take care of business this time.”
Sophomore sport management major Haston Adams agreed with Mullins and couldn’t wait for a chance to beat Linfield.
“Just by looking at last year (and) how they (Linfield) came and embarrassed us in our own home. I think everyone just wants revenge from that. It’ll be great to go beat them in their house,” he said.
The Cru will have to wait another year for for vengance, however, as a late surge from Linfield ended UMHB’s championship hopes.
The UMHB/Linfield game kicked off at 2 p.m. on a 50 degree, cloudy and cool afternoon in McMinnville, Oregon.
The Cru jumped out early to a 21-0 lead and held a 28-14 advantage at the half, but couldn’t hold off the Wildcats as time expired and the final score read 38-35.
The Wildcats lined up for a 32-yard field goal with three seconds left on the game clock, and kicked their way into the semifinal round of the NCAA Division III Playoffs. The Cru finishes their season with a 11-2 overall record and finished 4-1 in conference play as co-champions of the American Southwest Conference.