For the second time in as many seasons and sixth time in seven years, Mary Hardin-Baylor and Wesley College (Del.) square off in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
The football teams, ranked fourth and seventh in the country, meet this year in Texas after playing in Dover, Del. a year ago. Wesley won that quarterfinal matchup 19-9, giving the Crusaders their lone loss in a 12-1 season. Kickoff at Tiger Field in Belton is scheduled for noon, with the winner moving on to the semifinals.
UMHB (12-0) hasn't reached the semifinals since 2008, while Wesley (11-1) has made the Final Four in each of the last two years.
We expected to be playing Wesley in the postseason, it just always seems to work out that way, Crusader head coach Pete Fredenburg said. We have a lot of respect for their program and certainly know what kind of athletes they will have coming in here. We have to be ready to play our best and I think it is just going to be an incredible football game.
All six meetings between the two teams have come in the playoffs, with Saturday marking the fourth time the two will square off in the quarterfinals. Wesley holds a 3-2 advantage in the all-time series.UMHB beat Wesley at home in 2008 and on the road the year before.
Last season, UMHB went to Delaware with NCAA Division III's top scoring offense, but was held to its lowest point total in four years.
Down 12-3 at halftime, the Crusaders couldn't take advantage of a blocked Wesley third-quarter punt, fumbling three plays later. The Wolverines then marched 86 yards on 12 plays to score and stretch a lead UMHB didn't cut into until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Crusaders are again rolling, averaging 456.5 yards per game behind 1,000-yard rusher Darius Wilson and quarterback LiDarral Bailey, who has 2,372 yards combined passing and rushing.
They'll be tested by a Wesley defense that is giving up just 24 yards per game. The unit has pitched three shutouts this season and held a fourth opponent to three points.
You always have that little grudge because they beat us last year and they got the best of us, UMHB center Jacob Hunter said. They're a good football team. This year, we're going to hope that it's not the same way and hopefully we can make a stand with it and beat them.
Saturday's winner moves on to the semifinals and will face either 10-time national champion Mount Union (Oh.) or Wabash College (Ind.).
UMHB will provide free live video streaming at the following link: http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/umhb.portal. Live statistics will also be available at the following link: http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/football/d3.