|Darius Wilson ran for 222
yards the first time these teams met this season.
Mary Hardin-Baylor athletics photo
By Jason Galleske
Will Morris wanted nothing more than the chance to play Mary Hardin-Baylor again after his McMurry War Hawks fell 28-27 during the regular season after a two-point conversion was intercepted in the closing minutes.
Morris and his teammates get that opportunity Saturday as the War Hawks (8-2) travel to Belton in a second round Division III football playoff game against the Crusaders. The matchup extends the War Hawks’ first NCAA postseason.
"We had to forget to about it, but it has always been in back of our minds," Morris said of the loss to the Crusaders. "We have tons of respect, they're on top and that's what we want and I have no problem taking it from them. It definitely brought some angry tears to my eyes after losing by a point."
The two American Southwest Conference rivals opened up league play with the thriller that saw the Cru build a seemingly comfortable 28-6 lead and held on to capture their 11th consecutive triumph over McMurry.
"McMurry is really a great football team," Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Pete Fredenburg said. "We've got to play for 60 minutes against them. They can score fast, we've got to stay after it. The last two years we've jumped out on them, got a lead, coasted a bit and they made games out of it. We were fortunate to win them and hopefully we won't do that this time."
War Hawks coach Hal Mumme quipped that he wouldn't mind giving the Cru a slight lead, just not as much.
"We'd like a faster start," Mumme said. "Maybe if we'd just spot them 14 instead of 28, maybe we'll be good."
The run-oriented Cru grounded out a 34-13 first round victory over Redlands on the strength of 336 rushing yards. Mary Hardin Baylor advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the eighth straight year. Practicing during the Thanksgiving week has become commonplace for the Cru.
"I think we're playing really good," Fredenburg said. "There's always room to grow, we have guys that are talented that are playing extremely hard and we're just proud to be in the playoffs.
Cru quarterback LiDarral Bailey led the way with 112 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Bailey is the team's second-leading rusher with 773 yards on 117 carries and 12 touchdowns. Darius Wilson is the leading rusher for the Cru with 1,229 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Cru has the NCAA's seventh best rushing offense with 302.64 yards per game.
"I think the quarterback is what makes them go, "Mumme said. "The tailback has gotten more press, but the quarterback is what makes them go."
McMurry won its first-round game on the strength of an opportunistic defense and thriving special teams play. The defense picked off four passes and recovered a fumble. On special teams, D.J. Baiza scored on a 52-yard punt return and the War Hawks also blocked a punt in a 25-16 win over Trinity for the school's first ever playoff win. Morris said the key was being able to read what Trinity was going to do on offense.
"When that happens, the defense is definitely going to thrive," Morris said. "Once we got in rhythm we were able to go from there."
McMurry also got a boost from the bench as Stephen Warren filled in for starter Jake Mullin, who was out with partially torn cartilage and LCL in his knee. Mullin's status is in doubt this week. The War Hawks, who are the NCAA's leading passing offense with 353.27 yards per game have been led by Mullin with 3,102 yards and 26 touchdowns.
"I don't think (their offense) would dramatically change whomever the quarterback is," Fredenburg said. "(Warren's) a talented youngster just like Mullin. We're anticipating (Mullin) will be there."
The War Hawks' top target has been tight end Delfonte Diamond with 64 catches for 887 yards and seven touchdowns. Fredenburg said Diamond creates several matchup problems.
"He is a great receiver, a clutch receiver, he's really a dynamic guy," Fredenburg said. "He spreads out, he can run the field. It's a real issue."
Delfonte is one of 12 seniors that went 0-10 in 2008 as freshmen to now having the opportunity to knocking off the fourth-ranked team in the nation.
"This has been kind of a miracle season for the seniors," Mumme said. "For them to go out in this fashion is really kind of heartwarming."