By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - Pete Fredenburg has no delusions of a late-in-life career change as a screenwriter.
But not even Hollywood could have come up with a better script for how Mary Hardin-Baylor's playoff run has shaped out this season.
And for Fredenburg and his players, it doesn't get any better than the latest plot twist - a NCAA Division III quarterfinal rematch with Wesley (Del.) College, noon Saturday at Tiger Field.
"I don't think you could have written a better script for us," Fredenburg said. "We know Wesley, we know what kind of team they are, we know what they did to us last year. And then with the (game) against McMurry (a 49-20 win Saturday), it's just an awesome experience to have the opportunity to do what we have the opportunity to do."
UMHB (12-0) will host a revenge game of sorts against the Wolverines (11-1) in the same position the two teams were a year ago, when Wesley's suffocating defense held the Cru to a season-low 239 yards of total offense in a 19-9 ousting in the third round in Delaware.
"I don't think you could have asked for a better opponent for our guys," Fredenburg said. "With the significance of this game ... we have a little bit of (extra motivation) because it hurt last year. We didn't play well, we didn't do the things we needed to do, so consequentially we got beat."
It'll be the sixth time in the program's 11-year history that the Cru advanced to the Division III national quarterfinals, and it'll also be the sixth meeting against Wesley, all coming in the postseason. Three times these same two teams have faced off with a trip to the national semifinals on the line, with the Wolverines winning 34-20 at home in 2007 before the Cru returned the favor a year later with a 27-10 road victory in 2007. Following last year's 19-9 debacle in Delaware, Wesley holds an all-time 3-2 advantage in the series.
"Thank goodness it's in Belton," Fredenburg said, only half-jokingly.
The home game will be the Cru's ninth this year in what will be UMHB's final season in the safe confines of Tiger Field, including all three playoff games so far.
"I think it's awesome, I think it makes a big difference," Fredenburg said of playing at home. "It makes (the players) so much more energized, and I know it certainly helps my home life, because I get to do some things at home on Fridays. My wife is excited."
Since moving back to the "I" formation this season, UMHB has put up some pretty lofty scoring numbers, averaging more than 45 points and more than 450 yards of total offense per game. Led by the dual threat of quarterback LiDarral Bailey (2,372 yards of total offense and 28 TDs) and the steady ground game of tailback Darius Wilson (1,266 rushing yards, 16 TDs), the Cru have outscored their last seven opponents by an average score of 54-16.
But the Wolverines' vaunted defense is another beast entirely. During the regular season, Wesley limited opposing offenses to an average of 10.8 points per game. But in its two playoff games this year, Wesley has allowed a combined 62 points
"Wesley is very good on defense," Fredenburg said. "They've got outstanding players - three really good linebackers, their defensive line is really good - so our offense has got to be able to spread it some, be able to run the ball at them, and I think we're suited to do that."
UMHB's defense will also be tested against a balanced Wolverine offense averaging 204 rushing yards and 205 passing yards per game. The key will be senior quarterback Shane McSweeney, who's combined for more than 3,000 yards of total offense (2,416 passing) and 39 touchdowns. As has been the case the last several games, forcing turnovers on defense could be the difference, with the Cru causing opponents a combined 34 turnovers.
"I still think our best game's still ahead of us, yes I do. I think our best game is still coming," Fredenburg said.
Of course, whether or not a Hollywood ending is in the cards, well, that'll be up to the players.
"We've just got to play better. ... We've got to be able to move the ball against their very good defense, and we've got to contain their very good quarterback," Fredenburg said. "If we can do those things, then we'll have a very good chance to win."