ABILENE, Texas – Hardin-Simmons’ football team fell 23-15 to Mary Hardin-Baylor in the American Southwest Conference Championship game on Saturday at a rowdy Shelton Stadium.
The Cowboys had to punt on their opening possession and UMHB’s Drake Johnson blocked Brooks Barker’s punt. UMHB then went 56 yards in five plays and Kyle King capped off the run with a 3-yard touchdown run.
UMHB added to the lead with a 22-yard field from Brandon Cunningham on the first drive of the second quarter and Cunningham added another field goal with 1:25 to play in the half to give the Cru a 13-0 halftime lead.
HSU came out and forced a punt on the opening drive of the second half and Kyle Jones hit Gatlin Martin on a 2-yard touchdown pass to cap a 57-yard, 5-play drive. Jamie Pogue’s PAT tied the school record for career PATs.
UMHB answered back with a 37-yard field goal from Cunningham to push the lead to 16-7 and Brenton Martin threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Gary Ruckman to make it 23-7 with 14:00 to play.
The Cowboys responded right back with a long 61-yard pass to Rae Millsap but Jayden Smith made a great hustle play and knocked the ball out from behind at the 2-yard line and it went through the end zone for a touchback.
HSU forced another quick punt and the Cowboys then went 50 yards in four plays and Myles Featherston scored on a 4-yard run. Marc Reed scored on a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 23-15.
The defense came up with an interception from Jeffrey McCutcheon on the next series to give the Cowboys the ball back with a chance to tie the game. However, Johnson intercepted Kyle Jones three plays later. UMHB then pushed the ball inside the Cowboy five-yard line before the defense pushed them back and forced a field goal attempt.
McCutcheon came through and blocked Cunningham’s kick to give the Cowboys one more chance with 2:15 to play.
HSU drove to the UMHB 48 and Jones hit Martin over the middle for what appeared to be a 20-yard catch but the officials ruled it came out as he hit the ground. The Cowboys could not connect and the Cru had a couple of kneel downs to claim the ASC Championship.
Kyle Jones went 16-for-28 for 242 yards passing and Kolby Youngblood had 74 yards rushing for the Cowboys. Kyle King completed 8-of-15 passes for 150 yards for the Cru and he also rushed 17 times for 56 yards. Kenneth Cormier, Jr. had 144 yards on 26 carries.
HSU finished the year with a record of 4-1 and the Cru improved to 5-0.