September 19, 2013

History lesson: Wesley vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor

More news about: Mary Hardin-Baylor | Wesley

The 2007 meeting between UMHB and Wesley was the third of four consecutive years the two met in the playoffs.
File photo by RC Workman, D3sports.com

History

Sept. 21, 2013: Wesley at UMHB, 6 CT
Dec. 1, 2012: at UMHB 32, Wesley 20
Sept. 15, 2012: UMHB 32, at Wesley 25
Dec. 3, 2011: Wesley 27, at UMHB 24
Dec. 4, 2010: at Wesley 19, UMHB 9
Nov. 29, 2008: at UMHB 46, Wesley 14
Dec. 1, 2007: UMHB 27, at Wesley 10
Dec. 2, 2006: at Wesley 34, UMHB 20
Nov. 26, 2005: Wesley 46, at UMHB 36

Now that longtime rivals Wabash and DePauw are both in the North Coast, and Mount Union and UW-Whitewater have taken a break from annual December clashes in Salem, the best non-conference competitive rivalry in Division III is Wesley vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor.

It wasn't always a rivalry, as D-III's only team in Delaware and an upstart from Texas first met in the second round of the 2005 playoffs. Wesley's 46-36 win then was a big surprise, perhaps because we barely knew Bryan Robinson and Larry Beavers (each of whom would go on to have a cup of coffee in the NFL; Robinson still plays in the Arena League) back then, but mostly because UMHB was coming off an appearance in the 2004 Stagg Bowl.

At first, only the NCAA's skewed regional geography brought the Wolverines and Crusaders together. As other South Region powers like Bridgewater, Washington & Jefferson and Trinity began their declines from elite to only very good, Wesley and UMHB rose.

But then they met again in the 2006 playoffs. And again the first week of December 2007. And in 2008, 2010 and 2011 as well. By 2012, with Wesley having trouble scheduling games because it was a perennial top 10 team and an independent, and with UMHB in a similar boat being a national power on a D-III island in Texas, two aggressive head coaches agreed to a regular-season game.

Now, it's a game that matches the No. 4 Crusaders and the No. 5 Wolverines. Because we have five rounds of playoffs, clashes of top teams aren't rare, but the last top-five matchup in the regular season besides UMHB and Wesley last season was when UW-Whitewater and UMHB met in Wisconsin in Oct. 2010.

Now this game has become so big that it's got its own Facebook page, and is scheduled for under the lights at UMHB's brand-new, on-campus stadium. The Cru considers this their first true home game since the program debuted in 1998 (all other games had been played near campus at Belton High's field).

UMHB brings a 36-game regular-season winning streak in, and beat Wesley 32-25 and 32-20 last season to even their series at four each.

The regular-season meeting between these teams likely won't be the last. In every season but 2009, Wesley or UMHB has ended the other's season, and in every season since that first meeting, only another elite D-III program has ended either of these two teams' seasons, a round or three into the playoffs.

So D-III fans kick back and enjoy on Saturday night. And whoever's side doesn't win, don't despair. This is only a chapter in a continually budding rivalry.

Unhappy playoff endings

2012: UMHB eliminates Wesley,
Mount Union eliminates UMHB
2011: Wesley eliminates UMHB,
Mount Union eliminates Wesley
2010: Wesley eliminates UMHB,
UW-Whitewater eliminates Wesley
2009: Linfield eliminates UMHB,
Mount Union eliminates Wesley
2008: UMHB eliminates Wesley,
UW-Whitewater eliminates UMHB
2007: UMHB eliminates Wesley,
UW-Whitewater eliminates UMHB
2006: Wesley eliminates UMHB,
UW-Whitewater eliminates Wesley
2005: Wesley eliminates UMHB,
UW-Whitewater eliminates Wesley

Links

UMHB game notes
2010 D3football.com feature
2012 D3football.com feature


Jerrell Freeman, right, played in this rivalry in the 2007 playoffs. You probably know now he's an Indianapolis Colt.

File photo by RC Workman, D3sports.com
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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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