BELTON — The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor has lost just one game in each of the last two seasons — its last one.
And both times, Wesley College dealt the final blow in the quarterfinals.
In all, the Wolverines have eliminated the Crusaders from the playoffs in four of the last seven seasons, but UMHB got a measure of revenge Saturday by defeating its nemesis 32-25 in a matchup of top-five teams.
While the win was nice, the byproduct is the true victory, according to UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg.
“Anytime you win a game with that much passion involved, it helps unify your team and develops the chemistry, and,obviously, that is our goal,” the coach said. “We wanted to beat Wesley, but that is not the big picture.
“It is a giant step, but it will mean nothing if we don’t continue to grow as a football team.”
Although the road win might have been just a small phase in the maturation process, it was critical in helping Fredenburg attach an identity to his developing team.
“I think the thing that was really interesting was how hard our players played,” the coach said. “That was very significant.
“Guys were making big plays. LiDarral (Bailey) made several plays on third down that he just kind of did on his own, which was outstanding, and our defensive line played really well.”
Bailey completed 16 of 26 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns and added 34 rushing yards on 10 carries, including two touchdown runs, as the Crusaders earned the victory with relative ease.
UMHB used a field goal to take an early lead, but Wesley quickly responded in its home opener, claiming its first advantage on a seven-play scoring drive.
Then Bailey began his assault, producing his first touchdown on a 2-yard run less than a minute into the second quarter. Following a Crusaders safety, Bailey found running back Darius Wilson for a 16-yard touchdown and a 13-point lead, 19-6.
The Crusaders took a 19-13 lead into halftime, but the No. 3 Wolverines would even the score at 19-19 in the third quarter. By the time the fourth quarter began, however, No. 4 UMHB was back in control, scoring on a pair of Bailey touchdowns.
With the win, the Crusaders were able to let go of some of the frustration from the conclusions of past seasons, but more importantly, they were able to collectively latch on to a feeling capable of carrying them forward, as long as they maintain proper perspective.
“Wesley was a big game and a big win, but it has got to just be something that we step (on) to take the next steps,” Fredenburg said.
The Crusaders (2-0 overall) now turn their attention to Saturday’s road game against a high-scoring Trinity team, averaging 40.7 points per game.
Having won each of the last three games in the series, including two at San Antonio, Fredenburg knows the contest will not provide the same dramatic atmosphere as last week, but he expects his team to perform with the similar intensity, and hopefully, an increased sense of unity.
“This game looms even bigger (than Wesley),” Fredenburg said. “We’ve got to know exactly what we want to achieve. Trinity is a well-coached team and has always done a nice job against us, so we’ll have our hands full.”
UMHB ranked No. 2 in both Div. 3 polls
Mary Hardin-Baylor matched the highest ranking in program history as the Cru were ranked No. 2 in the the initial American Football Coaches Association’s Top 25 Poll of the season. UMHB totaled 986 points in this week’s AFCA poll and received a first-place vote for the first time in the 15-year history of UMHB football.
Mount Union holds down the top spot with 39 first-place votes and 1,047 total points.
UMHB’s American Southwest Conference rival Louisiana College is ranked 25th in the AFCA poll, and this week’s opponent, Trinity, is receiving votes, posting the 26th-highest point total.
UMHB also moved up two spots to No. 2 in this week’s D3football.com Top 25. The Cru totaled 598 points in that poll and also claimed two first-place votes.
It marks the first time UMHB has received a first-place vote in the D3football.com Top 25 and represents the program’s highest ranking in the D3football.com Poll since the Cru was ranked No. 2 nationally in the Week 5 poll of the 2005 season. Mount Union is No. 1 with 623 points and 23 first-place votes.