The streak is over for the Harding defense.
The Bisons went more than 13 quarters without giving up a touchdown before East Central (Oklahoma) capped off a 90-yard, 10-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run during last week’s game in Searcy.
East Central’s scoring run came with 13:01 left in the first half. For the previous 199 minutes of game time, Harding had kept its opponents from reaching the end zone.
Ouachita Baptist University scored a touchdown against Harding University with 2:12 remaining Oct. 7. The Bisons then shut out Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southwestern Oklahoma State on back-to-back Saturdays, then held Southeastern Oklahoma State to a field goal Oct. 28.
“I’m disappointed that it’s over, but we knew that streak wouldn’t last forever,” Harding Coach Paul Simmons said. “It sure was fun while it lasted.”
What’s not over is Harding’s seven-game winning streak. If the Bisons win Saturday against Arkansas Tech in Russellville, Harding will be in line for a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
“If some things go our way, we can earn a share of the conference title,” Simmons said. “We want to be practicing on Monday. We want at least one more bus ride.”
Ouachita Baptist defensive lineman John Rachal recorded three sacks in the Tigers’ 45-42 victory over Southern Arkansas University, giving him 6.5 sacks for the season.
Rachal, a 6-3 senior from the south Texas town of Channelview, lost his father a year ago and has family in the area that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey earlier this year.
“He played like a senior,” Ouachita Baptist Coach Todd Knight said. “I’m so happy for him. He’s a prime example of someone who knows what to do during adverse situations.”
Coming into last week’s game, Southern Arkansas had allowed only two sacks the entire season and had gone seven consecutive games without giving up any.
Rachal is second in the Great American Conference in sacks, one behind Davondrick Lison (7.5) of Southern Arkansas.
Back to Black
Andrew Black began this season as Henderson State’s starting quarterback. In the latter part of the season, the 6-1 junior from Tyler, Texas, has become the Reddies’ most reliable receiver.
Black caught a game-high eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 28-21 victory over the University of Arkansas-Monticello. It marked the third consecutive week that Black has led the team in receptions.
“He’s done well,” Henderson State Coach Scott Maxfield said when asked about how well Black has adjusted to his new role. “It makes me think I didn’t do a good job of evaluating where he should play.”
Black has caught 19 passes for 188 yards and 1 touchdown. He also has thrown for three touchdowns and rushed for 10 touchdowns this season.
“It was a quick transition for him,” Maxfield said. “He already knew the routes the receivers were running and how to get there.”
After senior Evan Lassiter stepped in to play quarterback, Black told the coaches, “I’ll play wherever you need me.”
“We had to find a place for him to play offensively,” Maxfield said. “He’s one of the best athletes we have. He can throw, he can run and he’s physical. It’s been a good move for us.”
QB vs. QB
Saturday’s Battle of the Timberlands in Magnolia will feature the GAC’s top two leaders in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Southern Arkansas junior Barrett Renner has thrown for 2,904 yards and 31 TDs. Arkansas-Monticello junior Cole Sears has thrown for 2,444 yards and 27 TDs.
“[Renner] is a talented and gifted player,” Southern Arkansas Coach Bill Keopple said. “He’s the kind of quarterback who’s hard to find. They are few and far between. He’s a good kid, a good student, a good leader and a good teammate. I wish we had him for four more years, but I’m glad we’ve got him for one more.”
Renner’s 533-yard effort in last week’s 45-42 loss to Ouachita Baptist was a season-high for any quarterback in the GAC. Renner needs only 96 yards to surpass 3,000 yards for a season for the third consecutive year. He needs 392 yards to surpass 10,000 passing yards at Southern Arkansas.
Sears set an Arkansas-Monticello record for a sophomore in 2016 with 2,972 yards passing. He currently stands at 5,708 yards in his career.
His 53 career TD passes has him tied for the fourth most in school history. He needs 20 more to tie the school record of 73, currently held by Scott Buisson (2007-2010).
“He’s done a great job this season,” Arkansas-Monticello Coach Hud Jackson said of Sears. “He’s a very laid-back young man who doesn’t get rattled. He’s a son of a coach, so he’s been around the game a long time.”
Jackson said the winning team will have an outstanding performance from the quarterback.
“There’s no secret about it,” Jackson said. “It’s the nature of the beast.”
The running game I
Braden Stringer and Bryan Allen combined for 336 rushing yards and five touchdowns in Arkansas Tech University’s 48-10 victory over Southeastern Oklahoma State last week.
Stringer, a 5-7 senior from Blanchard, Okla., rushed for a career-high 230 yards and scored four touchdowns. Allen, a 5-11 junior from Forrest City, finished with a season-high 106 yards.
Stringer’s touchdowns came on runs of 44, 82, 2 and 3 yards. Tech’s 390 yards on the ground were also a season-high.
“I think anytime you can get 300 yards rushing, you’ve got a chance,” Tech Coach Raymond Monica said. “The offensive line played well, and Braden did a good job of running. He outran a lot of people and ran past a lot of people.”
Allen has a team-high 763 yards (5.2 yards a carry) on the ground while Stringer has netted 713 yards
(9.0 yards a carry) on the ground.
The running game II
Harding, the leading rushing team for all NCAA Division II teams, has rushed for 300 or more yards in seven of its past eight games, including a 501-yard effort against Southeastern Oklahoma State on Oct. 28.
“That’s the nature of the Flexbone,” Harding Coach Paul Simmons said. “We think it matches who we want to be as a program. You have to be unselfish because you’re not going to get 25 touches a game. We take what the other team is going to give us and it requires discipline.”
Tech Coach Raymond Monica served as NCAA Division I member Temple’s defensive coordinator for eight years. His teams had to prepare for run-oriented powerhouse Navy on a regular basis.
“Harding runs the option as well as anybody in the country,” Monica said. “And I’m talking on all levels.”
Cole Chancey, who leads the Bisons in rushing with 828 yards on 133 attempts, gained 118 yards on 12 carries in last week’s 44-13 victory over East Central. Chancey is a 5-9 freshman from Commerce, Ga.
“Cole is a warrior,” Simmons said. “He is a three-time Georgia state champion wrestler, and he brings that intensity to the football field. He loves to battle.”
Harding averages 361 yards a game on the ground.
Battle of the Ravine
Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist have one of the most storied small college rivalries in the country, but both head coaches claim preparation for the Battle of the Ravine is no different from any other week of the season.
“As a coach, it’s not any different,” Henderson State Coach Scott Maxfield said. “I know the community thinks a little differently about that.”
“You try to keep your emotions in check and focus on preparation,” Ouachita Baptist Coach Todd Knight said. “But if you live in Arkadelphia, you’re a part of it. It’s like no other game matters.”
This year’s meeting is the 91st between the two schools. Henderson State leads the series 43-41-6.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Ouachita’s Cliff Harris Field is 1 p.m.
Southern Arkansas won’t play in the NCAA Division II playoffs, but like last season, the Muleriders are not out of the running for a Division II bowl game.
“I think it’s a big possibility if we win [against Arkansas-Monticello] on Saturday,” Southern Arkansas Coach Bill Keopple said. “But we’re still trying to pick ourselves up after the last two weeks.”
The Muleriders lost to Texas A&M-Kingsville 24-17 in the 2016 Live United Bowl in Texarkana.
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