BELTON — Silvio Diaz was already the most feared interior defensive lineman in the American Southwest Conference, and Saturday the Mary Hardin-Baylor senior cemented his spot among the league’s all-time best.
Diaz became the ASC’s career sacks leader, and No. 2 UMHB produced another reel of highlights in a 65-10 flogging of East Texas Baptist on an overcast afternoon at Crusader Stadium.
The blowout followed a recent trend in which the Crusaders (9-0, 5-0 ASC) have beaten their last three opponents by a combined score of 208-17 as they round into form for the fast-approaching NCAA Division III playoffs.
“We’ve said all along that we’re a work in progress, and it’s showing up now,” UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said. “Every Tuesday, regardless of who we’re playing, these guys come to work.
“Right now, our offense is in a really good place and our defense is in a really good place.”
Diaz has always felt that his rightful place is in the opponent’s backfield and he was there again on Saturday, when he recorded two sacks to push his career total to 29½ — breaking the old mark of 28 set by ETBU’s Chad Glover from 2003-05.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches,” said Diaz, a 6-foot, 260-pound native of Cuba. “It means a lot to me. I wouldn’t be anything without them.”
His coach disagrees with him on that point.
“He gives us a lot of credit, but I think it’s genetics,” Fredenburg said.
“I also think he might be the best we’ve ever had on the inside.”
In a near replay of last week’s 80-0 shellacking of Howard Payne, this one was over early.
Sophomore quarterback Zach Anderson raced 48 yards for a touchdown on the Crusaders third play from scrimmage, and Derek Williamson picked off a Josh Warbington pass only 65 seconds later and returned it 45 yards for his second pick-six in as many games.
It was 14-0 only 3:17 in, and the Tigers (2-7, 0-5) were all but tamed.
First-year ETBU coach Joshua Eargle refused to be interviewed after the game, but Fredenburg had an idea of what it must have felt like to be on the Tigers’ sideline in the early going.
“When you come in and you haven’t won many ballgames, you hope that you catch the other team overconfident and kind of drowsy,” Fredenburg explained. “Then immediately you give up a couple of touchdowns? I would think it would be very detrimental and hurtful to have that happen.”
ETBU’s pain was only beginning.
Anderson sandwiched TD passes of 12 yards to Kamray Runnells and 43 to Michael Carpenter around Glen Gilliam’s 1-yard scoring plunge to push it to 35-0 by halftime.
The Tigers, who were held to 53 rushing yards, scored all 10 of their points in the third quarter but they hardly made a dent.
The Crusaders tacked on 30 in the second half, including Anderson’s 40-yard scoring toss to Eric Nelson and Marcus Wimby’s 64-yard TD pass to Wykeyhe Walker out of the Wildcat formation.
UMHB ran for 268 yards, Anderson was 20-of-25 for 246 yards and the Crusaders played their second straight game without a turnover, something that had plagued them in the first half of the season.
“We just got tired of turning it over, honestly,” said Anderson, who also had a game-high 98 rushing yards. “The coaches have really been demanding in practice that if a pass is an incompletion, we run that play again. It gets monotonous at times, but it has really forced me to make the right read and fit the ball in there.”
UMHB pushed its regular-season winning streak to 42 games heading into next week’s conference finale at Mississippi College — the site of the Crusaders’ last regular-season loss on Oct. 17, 2009.
“We want to head off into the playoffs with a lot of confidence, so we don’t want that to happen again,” Fredenburg said.
“Now there’s no one on this team that was part of that loss in Mississippi. No one except me and the old coaches.”
NOTES: UMHB linebacker Deshon Kinsey had a game-high 18 tackles. ... The Crusaders played without leading rusher Elijah Hudson, who missed the game because of a family emergency. ... As part of “Turkeys for Touchdowns,” nine more needy area families will receive a holiday meal, pushing the two-week total to 20. ... The D-III playoff bracket will be released next Sunday, the day after UMHB’s regular-season finale in Clinton, Miss.