Crusaders feel the heat against the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys

Gary Ruckman leaps into the end zone for a touchdown at Crusader Stadium against Hardin-Simmons on Oct. 26. Photo by Mindy Moore/The Bells

 

For a game that was as intense and dramatic as the Crusaders’ 15-14 victory over Hardin-Simmons turned out to be, the weather seemed to convey a sense of calm before the storm.

Clear skies, moderate temperatures, and light breezes were what fans on both sides of the gridiron were met with when they arrived at Crusader Stadium on Oct. 26.

The atmosphere was tense, as for the first time this season the entire “away” section of the stadium was filled to the last seat with fans from Hardin-Simmons ready to cheer their team to victory. The Crusader captains for this game, junior defensive back Jefferson Fritz, senior wide receiver Jonel Reed, senior cornerback Keith Gipson and senior defensive tackle Joey Longoria met with the captains of Hardin-Simmons to win the opening coin toss that allowed Simmons’ possession of the ball first.

The Crusader defense really came to play as their airtight defense easily snuffed out any attempt by Hardin-Simmons to gain an early lead. Senior linebacker Tevin Jones made an impressive sack for a loss of 13 yards, which really disrupted the repetitive Simmons’ offense. After several failed drives from both sides it was made clear that the first quarter did nothing to break the deadlock between the two powerhouse teams of the Division III American Southwest Conference.

The second quarter started off with a bang for Hardin-Simmons as the Cowboys finally found the end zone in a well-run ground assault. With that the Cowboys drew first blood and took the score to 0-7. The Crusaders could not come up with a suitable comeback as the score remained the same for most of the second quarter. That is not to say that the Crusaders did not try to get on the board. Freshmen running back Jo’Vel McDaniel, on one play, went as far as to completely jump over a defender in order to gain a few yards. With only a few minutes left on the clock for the first half, senior QB Jase Hammack connected to senior WR Jonel Reed for a diving catch into the end

zone. This catch finally put the Crusaders on the board. However, a missed P.A.T failed to make it a tied game. As both teams jogged into the locker rooms for halftime the score was Crusaders 6, Cowboys 7.

The third quarter continued much like the rest of the game, with both teams failing to score more points up on the board. While the Crusaders failed many times to get into the end zone, they did manage to properly execute several laterals for a gain of a few yards each time and with every play it was obvious that they were giving the Cowboy’s defense a very hard time.

The Cowboys were once again able to strike first in the half as a fake field goal attempt in the red zone fooled everyone in the stands and on the field. That allowed the Cowboys to just waltz into the end zone and open up the game 6-14.

This time the Crusader offense was ready to strike back as Hammack managed to connect a well-thrown pass to junior tight end Gary Ruckman for the final touchdown of the game. However, the Cru failed to make the 2-point conversion and left the score 12 to 14. From that point onward, the Cowboys tried to sit on the ball for the rest of the game and managed to eat three minutes off of the game clock leaving UMHB only one minute and 10 seconds to win the game.

The Crusader offense opted to go with several short passes that moved the ball closer to the end zone, while also stopping the clock. Eventually they could no longer stop the clock and after a lot of shouting on the sidelines, sophomore kicker Anthony Avila and several other members of the field goal unit ran onto the field with the clock ticking down. With only one second left on the clock the ball was snapped and a winning field goal was made. Never had a football stadium ever been so quiet as the ball sailed through the air.

When the second the football touched the net behind the goal post, the entire home section of the stadium erupted in cheers, while the visitor side remained absolutely silenced. That does not mean that the home crowd felt confident for most of the game. Lauren Murray, senior public relations, major summed up the feelings of home crowd when she said:

“The game seemed pretty discouraging until the very last second…literally,” Murray said. “I had given up all hope and was convinced that we were going to lose, but that field goal…proved me wrong! It was the most insane ending I could have ever imagined…By far the best game I have seen in my time at UMHB.” The Cru will be playing the University of Redlands in the first playoff game of 2019 at Crusader Stadium on Nov. 23.

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