SEGUIN — The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets trailed by just seven points at halftime, but the heavily-favored Texas Lutheran Bulldogs put three touchdowns on the board in the third period en route to a 49-20 victory Saturday night.
Trailing 21-14 at intermission, HPU (0-5) witnessed the game slip away as a 49-yard punt return, a blocked field goal attempt and a failed fake punt allowed Texas Lutheran (4-1) to stretch its lead to 42-14 with four minutes left in the third period, as the Bulldogs mustered just 59 yards of total offense during that span.
“We gave them a short field twice, then on the blocked kick they had tremendous penetration on the right side,” said HPU head coach Roger Geise. “That was probably the nail in the coffin.”
The Yellow Jackets’ initial drive of the second half ended at the HPU 43, where quarterback Richard Young booted a 27-yard punt that Texas Lutheran’s Drake Dowling returned 49 yards to the Howard Payne 21. Three plays and a TLU penalty later, Trenton White threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Chase Ragusa to extend the Bulldog lead to 28-14 at the 11:09 mark.
HPU advanced from its own 22 to the TLU 13 before its next drive stalled, and Josh Martinez’s 30-yard field goal attempt was blocked and eventually scooped up at the 50 by Dowling, who sprinted the rest of the way for a Bulldog touchdown and 35-14 lead at the 7:37 juncture.
After going three-and-out on their ensuing possession, the Yellow Jackets opted for a fake punt, but punter John Cummings’ pass to William Rangel-Alfaro resulted in a 2-yard loss and TLU took over at the Howard Payne 38. Five plays later, White connected with Caleb Oliver on an 18-yard scoring strike and the Yellow Jackets faced a 42-14 deficit.
“We punt the ball right to the guy and he runs it down there deep and they only had about 20 yards to go,” Geise said. “The other one they take over on about the 30 and we’re not the ‘Monsters of the Midway,’ the Chicago Bears from the 50s or 60s that are going to put up a stone wall. That’s just not our team.”
After coughing up the ball 17 times through the first four games, Howard Payne committed just one turnover — that on a fumble after recovering a TLU fumble — but the Yellow Jackets were still a step behind the preseason nationally-ranked Bulldogs.
HPU couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the contest. After holding Texas Lutheran to a three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, Austin Scheaffer recorded the Yellow Jackets’ third blocked punt of the season, and HPU began its first drive at the Bulldog 15.
Three plays later, Young hooked up with Colby Mica for an 11-yard touchdown and the Yellow Jackets owned a 7-0 advantage just 2:37 into the contest.
On the ensuing kick, TLU mishandled the ball and HPU’s Darron Perry recovered at the Bulldog 34. Howard Payne mustered just five yards on the drive, however, and a delay of game penalty resulted in the decision not to attempt a 50-yard field goal and the Yellow Jackets were unable to add to their lead following a failed fourth-and-10 attempt.
“It’s the same old thing,” Geise said. “We had an opportunity to go up 10 or 14 and we don’t take advantage of it.”
Texas Lutheran responded with consecutive touchdown drives to end the first quarter and open and a 14-7 advantage.
The first march was a six-play, 66-yard trek that culminated with a 3-yard touchdown carry by A.J. Saucedo, which evened the score at 7 with 7:26 left in the first period.
Howard Payne went three-and-out on its next possession, and TLU ventured 75 yards in 10 plays as White tossed a 6-yard scoring strike to Jekovan Holmes, which gave the Bulldogs a seven-point edge with 1:51 to go in the initial stanza.
Midway through the second period, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 21-7 thanks to a 13-play, 84-yard journey. The scoring drive ended with an 8-yard hook up from White to Holmes.
A 47-yard kick return by Christian Hosley set up Howard Payne near midfield on its ensuing drive, as the Yellow Jackets traveled 46 yards in seven plays to close the gap to 21-14 with 4:09 left in the first half. For the second time, Young and Mica connected on a touchdown pass with the scoring throw covering 21 yards.
HPU’s next and final score came with the Yellow Jackets facing a 28-point deficit midway through the fourth period. Second-leading receiver and back up quarterback Caisson Montieth threw a 22-yard touchdown to Blayne Parrisher to trim TLU’s lead to 42-20 with 8:03 to go.
Texas Lutheran, which was averaging 41 points and 500 yards per game, finished with 504 yards — 289 through the air and 204 on the ground. Howard Payne generated 245 yards — 134 passing and 111 rushing.
Young completed 16 of 26 passes for 112 yards with a pair of touchdowns to Mica, who grabbed eight receptions for 86 yards. Collin Rome chipped in four receptions for only 8 yards while Parrisher caught a pair of passes for 24 yards with a trip to the end zone.
On the ground, Rome finished with 37 yards while Justin Acosta added 36 yards.
Defensively, Britt Boler and Xavier McFalls finished with seven tackles, Jordan Shaw and Donald Preston added six each and Kris Mack, Jordan Longoria, Jason Disney and Bryan Baker added five tackles apiece.
For Texas Lutheran, White connected on 20 of 27 pass attempts for 221 yards with four touchdowns, three of which went to Holmes, who finished with nine receptions for 78 yards. Ragusa also caught nine balls for 80 yards with a touchdown and Oliver added three grabs for 45 yards with a trip to the end zone.
Saucedo rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown while Marquis Barrolle chipped in 64 yards on the ground.
Dowling led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles.
The Yellow Jackets — who have dropped nine consecutive contests dating to the 2014 campaign — have a bye next week, then open American Southwest Conference action Saturday, Oct. 17 when East Texas Baptist visits for homecoming.
“I told our kids at the end I wouldn’t trade them for anybody,” Geise said. “We’re 0-5 but I don’t feel any different about our players than if they were 5-0. I love them. They work hard, they practice hard, I don’t know if we’re snake-bit, if everyone else has better players or what the deal is, but I love our football team because they don’t quit. They’re going to fight you ‘til the end.
“I know everybody wants to win, and I want to win more than anybody in the world. I hate to lose, but there are some things that kids learn when you have to go through adversity like this. Tough times don’t last but tough people do.”
ASC FOOTBALL STANDINGS
W L W L
East Texas Baptist 1 0 3 1
Mary Hardin-Baylor 0 0 4 0
Hardin-Simmons 0 0 4 0
Louisiana College 1 1 1 3
*McMurry x x 3 2
*Belhaven x x 0 5
Howard Payne 0 0 0 5
Sul Ross 0 1 1 3
* - ineligible for ASC championship
Texas Lutheran 49, Howard Payne 20
Louisiana College 38, Sul Ross 28
Mary Hardin-Baylor 59, Belhaven 13
Hardin-Simmons 31, Trinity 7
McMurry 34, Lincoln-Missouri 14
East Texas Baptist, OPEN
Saturday, Oct. 10
Howard Payne, OPEN
Hardin-Simmons at McMurry
Louisiana College at Belhaven
Sul Ross at Mary Hardin-Baylor
Trinity at East Texas Baptist