By C.J. Halloran
In a year where nothing has felt familiar, one thing remained consistent, and that is The Cru’s dominance of the American Southwest Conference on the gridiron. Case in point: the Cru made huge plays on both sides of the ball at the end of the game with Hardin-Simmons University to hold off and defeat HSU, with a score of 23-15 for the ASC Championship.
The stage was set for the Cru coming into the Championship game in Abilene on Saturday, March 27. According to the only media that has been ranking Division Three Football this year, Jay Sports Network, UMHB and Hardin-Simmons were batting for the number one spot in all of D3, prior to their game, on top of an ASC Championship.
When championship day came, the Cru started strong, as a blocked kick and 43-yard reception by Kadarius Daniels set up a 3- yard touchdown run by Cru QB Kyle King. Both teams were held scoreless the rest of the quarter, and UMHB Kicker Brandon Cunningham pulled off two field goals before the half, giving the Cru a 13-0 lead going into the second half.
That second half saw much more action, as Hardin-Simmons’ Mark Reed threw for a touchdown on the first possession of the half. After another Cunningham field goal, the Cru forced a punt and drove down the field, capping off the drive with a sneaky trick play that saw wide receiver Brenton Martin make a 7-yard pass to Gary Ruckman.
Hardin-Simmons attempted to battle back with a 4-yard touchdown run by Myles Featherston, but the Cru defense had them shut down. A Drake Johnson interception to end one possession, followed by a lock-down performance by the Cru defense to force four straight incompletions. Their very next possession shut out any hopes of Hardin-Simmons winning the Championship.
The Cru rushing game dominated the Hardin Simmons defense as Kenneth Cormier, Jr., Kyle King and Montana Miller combined for 231 yards on the ground, setting up nearly every scoring opportunity the Cru had.
King also showed his prowess in the air, throwing for 148 yards. Kadarius Daniels showed out in his final game as a Crusader, receiving the ball three times for 68 yards. Senior Linebacker Jacob Mueller also showed his dominance in his final game with the Cru, making 12 tackles, four of which were for a loss.
UMHB finishes the season at 5-0 overall and wins the 16th ASC Championship in program history. Hardin-Simmons finishes the season at 4-1. The two teams advanced to the title game after winning their divisions as the ASC moved to divisional play in football for the first time in league history for the spring season of 2021.