Two weeks prior to their 2018 season opener in Newburg, Oregon against George Fox University, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets held an intrasquad football scrimmage Saturday morning at the McCullough Athletic Center practice fields.

“We’re progressing where we need to progress,” said HPU second-year head coach Braxton Harris. “We need some guys to mature offensively and defensively as far as understanding schemes, which will allow them to be able to play faster and give us an opportunity to compete with George Fox in two weeks.

“There were a lot of good things we can improve on, but we had too many roller coasters, too many highs and too many lows. We have to be able to even that out a little bit more than we did. But overall, we showed that we’re faster and bigger than we were last year at his point in time and I think that’s because we’re more mature.”

The Yellow Jackets, coming off a 1-9 record in Harris’ first campaign, are seeking their first winning season since posting a 7-3 mark in 2005, and first multiple-win season since posting back-to-back 4-6 marks in 2013 and 2014.

In order to climb the ladder in the American Southwest Conference, Howard Payne must improve on the 19 points and 294 yards per game generated last season, along with the 56 points and 535 yards surrendered.

“Our offense showed that we have some explosive players, guys that can make that explosive play,” Harris said. “Last year, that’s what really hurt our offense. We didn’t have the explosive plays that could really stretch you vertically. We had a couple of runs and a couple of passes today that we gave up defensively, but those were just big plays. We had good coverages, guys just made a play. So we’re excited about that and our quarterback (transfer Gage McClanahan from Campbell University) is throwing the ball really well.

“Defensively we did a lot of things better once we got settled in, started fitting things a little better and were more consistent with it.”

The Yellow Jackets were originally slated to scrimmage Texas College next weekend, but that has been cancelled. Instead, Howard Payne will hold another intrasquad scrimmage, likely on Friday.

After Howard Payne’s Sept. 8 season opener at George Fox, the Yellow Jackets’ home and American Southwest Conference opener follows on Sept. 15 as McMurry visits Gordon Wood Stadium in a 7 p.m. encounter. Howard Payne’s last home win occurred on Halloween of 2015.