BELTON — Javicz Jones did it again. So did his team.
One week after he became the American Southwest Conference’s all-time leading tackler and returned two interceptions for touchdowns, including one for a school-record 92 yards, Jones put together another impressive performance.
The senior linebacker had a game-high 12 tackles, snagged his sixth interception of the season and returned a blocked field goal 77 yards for a touchdown as No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor earn its eighth outright conference championship in the last 11 years with a 59-0 win against Mississippi College.
“It’s incredible,” Mary Hardin-Baylor head coach Pete Fredenburg said of Jones’ play. “He is just a great game player. He makes plays at critical times, and the great thing about it is that when guys look to him to lead, he does it.”
With its third straight unblemished regular season completed, the Crusaders turn their attention toward the playoffs as they wait for the announcement of their opening-round opponent this afternoon.
Regardless of their opponent, Jones feels his teammates will be just as prepared as they were for the Choctaws.
“We were focused on the task at hand today, and it was Mississippi College, and whoever comes our way next week, that is who we will focus on,” Jones said. “(Waiting) is kind of interesting. We are just kind of wondering.”
The Crusaders (10-0, 7-0 ASC) certainly handled Mississippi College — the last team to hand Mary Hardin-Baylor a regular-season loss (2009).
On UMHB’s second drive, Darius Wilson broke free for a 39-yard run, setting up LiDarral Bailey’s five-touchdown pass to Chris Wimby three plays later.
Mississippi College then botched a 51-yard field goal and the Crusaders quickly capitalized. Bailey completed a pass to Elijah Hudson, whoran down the left sideline for a 37-yard gain on first down, and Bailey scored on a 29-yard run one play later, giving Mary Hardin Baylor a 14-0 lead with 6:26 left in the second quarter.
Mississippi College (2-8, 1-5) fumbled away its next possession as Crusaders sophomore defensive tackle Marc Perez caught a ball that popped up into the air. UMHB quickly made good on the turnover as junior Elijah Hudson increased the Crusaders’ cushion to 21 points heading into halftime with a 1-yard run to cap off a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
Both offenses sputtered to begin the third quarter and Bailey threw his second interception of the season, and it appeared the Choctaws were in position to score their first points of the game, but junior defensive end Korey Steward blocked a short field goal attempt and Jones returned the ball 77 yards for a a 28-0 lead with 8:42 left in the quarter.
“I just saw it bounce, and I was like ‘We need a play,’” Jones said. “I just picked it up and had a full head of steam and people blocking for me, so I just fed off of them.”
On the ensuing possession, the Crusaders blocked another field goal attempt, and, on the first play from scrimmage, Wilson shot down the middle of the field 35 yards into the end zone. Wilson, who posted a game-high 113 rushing yards on eight carries, credited the fans for inspiration throughout the game.
“It was just the intensity that was in the atmosphere,” the senior said. “We fed of that.”
Mary Hardin-Baylor pulled a number of its starters on the following drive, but Jones remained in the game, and he made the most of the extra minutes by collecting an interception that led to a 39-yard field goal by Chad Peevey.
“We finally got the goose egg for the defense, so it is a great way to end the season,” Bailey said of the Crusaders’ first shutout of the year. “It just finally came together, and this is a lot of confidence for us going into the playoffs.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org