Crusaders

No. 2 UMHB and leading rusher Aphonso Thomas host Belhaven for an ASC game at noon Saturday at Crusader Stadium.

BELTON — It’s something Pete Fredenburg has had to take into consideration many times in his 24 years at the helm of the Mary Hardin-Baylor football program.

How should a coaching staff react following a blowout victory in which its team did not perform to its full potential?

That was the case last Saturday in No. 2 UMHB’s 72-14 rout of Sul Ross State in which the Crusaders squandered some red-zone scoring chances, committed 13 penalties and gave up two touchdowns on plays that covered at least 50 yards apiece.

“We just made some mistakes. (Sul Ross State) did a nice job executing their defense against what we’d been running. They made some good plays, and we didn’t,” Fredenburg said Monday. “We were frustrated with that and settled down and played a little better at times. Obviously, we’re not satisfied with the execution of the offense or the defense.

“It’s a fine line you walk as a coach. Winning 72-14 is a big win. However, our guys want to continue to get better. Guys who want to get on the field get a chance to get out there and sometimes don’t execute as well as they should. We try to reward them with playing time, but they have to execute a little better. We can’t live with 13 penalties.”

For a team that expects to contend for the national championship every year, good isn’t good enough. Only the best will do.

The next chance for the Crusaders (7-0, 6-0 American Southwest Conference) — winners of 39 of their last 40 games — to put their best foot forward comes at noon Saturday at home against Belhaven (5-2, 4-2) in what will be just their third contest this season against an opponent that still has a winning record.

The Blazers are riding high following last week’s 24-10 victory over previously unbeaten Howard Payne. They rank second in the ASC in total defense and third in total offense, guided by 6-foot-5 senior quarterback Mayowa Asagunla.

“There’s more significance with this game because Belhaven’s win against Howard Payne gets your attention,” said Fredenburg, whose team ranks third nationally in scoring offense and ninth in scoring defense. “They’re very improved and will give us a challenge, and I think our guys will respond to that.

“Their defensive and offensive lines have improved, and they still have the big quarterback running the offense. I think they’re playing with a lot of confidence, obviously, after beating Howard Payne like they did. And any time we play anybody, we know we’re going to get their best game.”

UMHB has just three regular-season contests remaining — at home next week against Howard Payne and a trip to McMurry on Nov. 13 — before the playoffs begin and decisions have to be made about which 58 players will suit up for postseason games.

There’s work to be done to be in peak form come playoff time.

“We want everybody to get the opportunity to get on the field so our coaches can evaluate them to see who we can count on down the line,” Fredenburg said. “The reality, though, is we have to make sure we get there. We understand the incredible effort we’ll get from Belhaven and Howard Payne and McMurry. We have to take care of ourselves. We need to focus on us to become the best football team we can be.”

Regional confusion

When it began being reported two weeks ago that the ASC was moved out of stacked Region 6 and into Region 3, UMHB officials began checking with the NCAA and couldn’t find anybody who could verify a move.

The reason — as it turns out — was because the ASC had been in Region 3 ever since the summer of 2020 but was incorrectly listed in Region 6 in NCAA publications until a few weeks ago. When the NCAA corrected the mistake, it appeared a move had been made.

“I had always wondered why in the world they would put us in Region 6 when there were already so many other strong conferences in that region. Now we find out that they made the decision in 2020 to put us in Region 3,” Fredenburg said. “It’s crazy, but it’s good for us.”

The other three leagues in Region 3 are the USA South Athletic Conference, Southern Athletic Association and Old Dominion Athletic Conference — teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Injury update

Fredenburg said senior weakside linebacker Mikkah Hackett is expected to be available this week after missing the last three games with a nagging leg injury and should share time with fellow senior Jacob Mueller.

No changes

There was no movement in the top 10 of this week’s Division III coaches poll.

Reigning national champion North Central (7-0) remained No. 1, followed by UMHB, Wisconsin-Whitewater (7-0), Mount Union (7-0), St. John’s (7-0), Linfield (6-0), Delaware Valley (7-0), Hardin-Simmons (6-1), Wheaton (6-1) and Central (7-0).