Above photo by Luke C. Zayas/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- After an 84-6 victory over Simpson College to kick off the 2021 season, the UMHB football team is set to begin conference play on Saturday against a talented East Texas Baptist squad in Belton. The Tigers come off a 37-31 victory over Wisconsin-Platteville on Sept. 2 and nearly upset UMHB in Marshall during the spring, if not for an Anthony Avila field goal that gave the Cru a 30-28 win.
We break down the matchup, touch on the storylines and bring you UMHB’s two-deep depth chart in this week’s game preview.
The Matchup: No. 1 UMHB vs. ETBU
Date: Sept. 11
Location: Crusader Stadium, Belton, Texas
Time: 6:00 p.m.
The series: UMHB leads the all-time series between the two programs 20-1, having won the last 17 meetings. The first contest between UMHB and ETBU was played on Nov. 11, 2000.
About the opponent: East Texas Baptist University Tigers
Head Coach: Brian Mayper (Third season)
Conference: American Southwest
Season Record (overall/conf): 1-0, 0-0
Names to know (all stats from 2021 season): So. QB Troy Yowman (34-for-54, 33 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT), Sr. RB Cornelius Merchant (16 carries, 189 yds, 2 TD) So. WR Semaj Boyd (3 catches, 76 yds, 1 TD), Jr. DB KJ Kelley (8 tackles, 0.5 TFL), Fr. DL Jahkamian Carr (6 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks)
ETBU head coach Brian Mayper on facing UMHB: “They’re ranked No. 1 in the nation for a reason, so [we’re] just excited to play them and have a hard-fought battle. They’re going to be very physical, fast, and they’re going to play flawless. We got to do the same thing.”
Three UMHB storylines to watch
Thomas’ UMHB debut– Running back Aphonso Thomas was a late scratch in the season opener, but is back on the two-deep. The former three-star recruit is two inches taller and 25 lbs heavier than when he last played at Trinity Valley Community College in 2017. In his first press conference of the year, UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg told the media, “Aphonso Thomas really excites us. He’s an incredible athlete.”
Success in past conference openers– UMHB has been historically successful in past ASC openers. So successful in fact, that the Cru has never lost a conference opener during the 21st century. The Crusaders opened the conference-only spring campaign with a 41-0 shutout of Belhaven, and the year prior, also took down Belhaven, 23-13, in the ASC opener.
Power of the defensive line– UMHB’s defensive line played a major role in Simpson College being held to -9 yards rushing and just 143 yard of total offense in last Saturday’s season opener. Said Fredenburg of the defensive line on Monday: “I thought they kept constant pressure on the quarterback. They’re all so young and I was proud of Caleb Johnson especially. I think he’s really had a great preseason and has started off really strong.” Johnson had two pass breakups in the 84-6 victory.
Two Deep Depth Chart
Quarterback: *Kyle King (Sr.-1L), Tommy Bowden (Jr.-2L)
Running Back: Aphonso Thomas (Jr.-1L), Kenneth Cormier Jr. (So.-1L)
Wide Receiver: Brandon Jordan (Sr.-1L), Jerry Day (Fr.-TR)
Wide Receiver: Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L), DJ Weaver (Sr-2L)
Wide Receiver: Jamaal Hamilton (Jr.-TR), Romello Cook (Sr.-1L)
Tiger End: *Gary Ruckman (Sr.-2L), Connor Mullins (So.-1L)
Left Tackle: Jesse Hoke (So.-1L), Hayes Chizer (So.-SQ)
Left Guard: Reuel Tandoh (So.-1L), John Kazmierski (Sr.-2L)
Center: Jeffrey Sims Jr. (Sr.-3L), Jacob Dailey (So.-1L)
Right Guard: Matt Sanders (Jr.-2L), Cam Williams (Sr.-3L)
Right Tackle: Ethan Ruckman (So.-1L), Wyatt Crawford (So.-1L)
Defensive End: Caleb Johnson (Sr.-3L), Trey Witcher (Fr.-TR)
Defensive Tackle: Pete Smith (Sr.-3L), Tristan Green (So.-1L)
Defensive Tackle: Josh Patteson (So.-1L), Kobe Giles (So.-1L)
Defensive End: Khevon Shepard (Sr.-4L), E’Monte Smith (Sr.-4L)
Weakside Linebacker: *Mikkah Hackett (Sr.-4L), Charles Minniweather (Fr.-HS)
Middle Linebacker: Akeem Jackson (Sr.-4L), Mason Young (Fr.-HS)
Strongside Linebacker: Jacob Mueller (Sr.-3L), Jackson Sennie (So.-1L)
Cru (Flex Safety): Jayden Smith (Sr.-3L), Omari Frazier (So.-1L)
Free Safety: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Khyren Deal (Fr.-HS)
Cornerback: Titus Dunk (Jr.-2L), Tavion Page (Jr.-2L)
Cornerback: Keith Gipson (Sr.-3L), Jordan See (So.-1L)
Kicker: Anthony Avila (Sr.-3L), Brandon Cunningham (Jr.-2L)
Punter: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Brandon Cunningham (Jr.-2L)
Punt Returner: Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L)
Kick Returner: Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L), Tommy Bowden (Jr.-2L)
Long Snapper: Jacob Mueller (Sr.-3L), Ethan Ruckman (So.-1L)
Holder: Tommy Bowden (Jr.-2L), Ryan Redding (Sr.-3L)
Khyren Deal, a Brownwood, Texas native, replaced Omari Frazier (who moved to the Cru position) as the backup to Jefferson Fritz at free safety. It will be his first game on the varsity roster. According to a report by the Brownwood News, Deal garnered interest from Texas Tech, Abilene Christian and Lamar before signing with UMHB. A second-team all-district selection as a senior, Deal tallied a team-high 98 tackles and one interception.