BELTON — Two days after falling short in an NCAA Division III semifinal for the second straight year, Mary Hardin-Baylor is already turning its focus toward next season.
“We have to find the guys that can help us beat Mount Union and Whitewater,” UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg said Monday, two days after his team’s heartbreaking 16-15 home loss to Wisconsin-Whitewater. “Those are the guys that we have to spend time with and spend time getting.”
The Crusaders are losing the second-largest senior group in the history of their program.
Among those who finished their careers on Saturday were offensive starters Montana Duncan, Josh Holt and Elijah Hudson and defensive starters Silvio Diaz, Cody Jones, Andy McAteer, Chad Peevey, Korey Steward, Derek Williamson and Brodrick Crain — that last of whom tore a knee ligament in the final minute against UW-Whitewater.
The group of departing seniors includes the team’s leading rusher (Hudson), both starting cornerbacks (Crain, Williamson), the starting free safety (Jones) and half of the starting defensive line (Diaz, Steward).
Fredenburg wouldn’t say if his coaches are focusing their recruiting efforts on any certain positions, only that his program needs to find players who can defeat UW-Whitewater and Mount Union (Ohio).
Crain, a Belton product, and Diaz could be the toughest to replace on defense, and Hudson leaves large shoes to fill on the other side of the ball.
Crain — a three-year starter — developed into one of the country’s best cover men as a senior. Diaz started all four years and was this season’s American Southwest Conference and South Region defensive player of the year.
Hudson also started four years and is one of only three players in program history to have a 100-yard rushing game and a 100-yard receiving game.
During their time with the Crusaders, the departing seniors experienced 50 wins, four losses, four trips to the playoffs and two semifinal berths.
“As much as I would like to feel sorry for myself, I’m the leader of these people and I have to pay homage to them,” Fredenburg said.
The Crusaders will bring back a bevy of playmakers next season, when UMHB still needs two games to fill out its 2014 regular season schedule.
After entering fall camp as the team’s third option at quarterback, sophomore Zach Anderson threw for 2,019 yards and 21 touchdowns to go with 810 yards 11 TDs rushing. He is only the second player in school history to pass for 2,000 yards in a season, and his numbers rank second on program’s single-season list.
On the other side, junior linebacker Deshon Kinsey recorded 132 tackles — the third-highest single-season total in school history.
End Teidrick Smith and linebacker Baylor Mullins, a pair of freshmen, also will be back. Smith had a team-high 19 tackles for loss, and Mullins had four interceptions — two of which he returned for touchdowns.
Big honor for Diaz
Diaz was named to the American Football Coaches Association Division III All-America Team, released Monday. The AFCA selects only 11 offensive, 11 defensive and three specialty players to its prestigious team.
Diaz, who did not play in the semifinal after being suspended for a violation of team rules, made 50 tackles — 14 for losses, with 11 sacks.