Crusaders football

UMHB’s Aaron Sims (4) dives for the pylon but is ruled out at the 1-yard line during the Crusaders rout of Texas Lutheran on Saturday.

BELTON — It took Mary Hardin-Baylor’s offense every bit of two snaps to leave Texas Lutheran in the dust, and the Crusaders’ stingy defense made sure the Bulldogs stayed in the rearview mirror.

Aphonso Thomas broke through a gaping hole in the middle of the TLU defense and sprinted 53 yards to the end zone on UMHB’s first play from scrimmage, and Kyle King threw a 50-yard touchdown pass on the Crusaders’ second snap as No. 2 UMHB buried the Bulldogs early in a 49-3 rout Saturday.

“It parted like the red sea. That had nothing to do with me. That was great blocks by the linemen and receivers. All I had to do was run,” Thomas said of his scoring gallop, with little care that his defensive teammates got few moments to rest in the first quarter because of the offense’s quick-strike capabilities. “I think the defense likes when we score like that. It gets us all hyped.”

That must be true because on a beautiful afternoon at Crusader Stadium, UMHB (6-0, 5-0 American Southwest Conference) produced 455 yards and yielded only 124 despite resting its starters on both sides of the ball for the final 25 minutes.

In fact, the Bulldogs (1-5, 1-4) crossed midfield only twice through the first three quarters. Their first foray into Crusaders territory was halted when they were stonewalled on fourth-and-1, and their second trip ended when UMHB senior cornerback Keith Gipson leaped to intercept a Seth Cosme pass.

That was one of three turnovers forced by the Crusaders — they also recovered two fumbles — who got a team-high nine tackles from sophomore linebacker Omari Frazier in the first start of his college career.

“I was nervous. It’s a great defense, so I had to step up,” Frazier said. “I work pretty hard, though, and so does the whole team. It’s all about effort.”

King’s TD passes of 1 yard to Brandon Jordan and 16 yards to Gary Ruckman, and King’s 3-yard scoring run staked UMHB to a 35-0 halftime lead. And when Miller hauled in a 7-yard TD throw from King to cap the opening possession of the second half, it marked the end of the day for the Crusaders’ starters — by which time Thomas had rushed for 136 yards, and King had thrown for 180.

Things got messy from there, though.

Montana Miller’s 5-yard scoring run produced UMHB’s only points in the final 25 minutes, a span in which the Crusaders’ reserves missed two field goals and fumbled twice — the first one leading to Juan Ocampo’s 43-yard field goal that broke the shutout.

“It got really sloppy. We as coaches, we can’t protect those guys,” UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said. “If they’re going to go out there and be sloppy, we have to coach them and make them better because we’re going to need some of those guys as we move along. It was bad.”

Thomas acknowledged that things did not go smoothly for the backups, but he believes the Crusaders still have time to round everybody into shape before the playoffs begin Nov. 20.

“Come playoff time, we need to be playing better than we did today, and I feel like we will,” he said. “We have a long ways to go. But everybody on this team has the same goal, and we’re going to keep working toward that goal. I believe we’ll make it there.”

NOTES: UMHB starting offensive tackle Ethan Ruckman injured his right ankle in the first half and did not return, but Fredenburg said preliminary x-rays did not show any broken bones. . . . Former UMHB players Jerrell Freeman, Darrin Beheler, Decius Tasby, Karson Jenkins, Glen Killough and Ike Shaw were inducted in the program’s Hall of Honor before the game. . . . The Crusaders are on the road next Saturday to face Sul Ross State in Alpine.