Above photo of KJ Miller by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru
BELTON, Texas- For just the third time this season, UMHB will battle a team with a winning record entering the contest, as Belhaven makes the long trip to Belton on Saturday.
The Blazers enter the game at 5-2 on the year, coming off a 24-10 win over previously-undefeated Howard Payne last Saturday. UMHB is 7-0, having defeated Sul Ross State 72-14 in Alpine a week ago.
We break down the opponent, touch on the storylines, and bring you UMHB’s two-deep depth chart in this week’s game preview.
Belhaven @ No. 2/2 UMHB
Date: Oct. 30
Place: Crusader Stadium, Belton, Texas
Time: 12:00 p.m. CT
About the opponent: Belhaven Blazers
Head Coach: Blaine McCorkle (4th season)
Conference: American Southwest
Season Record (overall/conf): 5-2, 4-2
Names to know:
OFFENSE: QB Mayowa Asagunla (86-of-141 passing, 1003 yds, 9 TD, 1 INT, 488 rush yds, 8 TD), RB Brad Foley (112 carries, 653 rush yds, 7 TD, 5.8 yds/carry), WR Michael Simpson (19 receptions, 297 yds, 3 TD), WR Brooks Brymer (9 receptions, 134 yds, 3 TD)
DEFENSE: Connor Fordham (46 total tackles, 33 solo tackles, 9.5 TFL 4.5 sacks, 1 INT), Carlton Brown (25 total tackles, 18 solo tackles, 11.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks), Isaiah Blackmon (23 total tackles, 18 solo tackles, 2 quarterback hits, 6.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks), TJ Hersey (17 total tackles, 12 solo tackles, 1 INT, 4 pass breakups)
Belhaven Coaches Show: Oct. 28 (Conversation about Saturday’s game begins around 20:35)
Three storylines to watch
A much different opponent: Belhaven is a much different, and much improved, team as compared to the last time UMHB faced the Blazers. The Cru opened the spring season in a 44-0 shutout at Belhaven last February, dominating in nearly every facet of the game, and held the Blazers to 71 yards of total offense. Now, Belhaven is led by the ASC’s No. 1 rushing attack, which features Brad Foley, the conference’s top running back (ASC-best 653 rush yds). The Blazers also have a strong defensive front out of a 3-3-5 formation, as four different players have tallied over 2.5 sacks this season.
Battle in the trenches: This game will likely be won or lost in the trenches as both teams boast standout offensive and defensive lines. The Belhaven offensive line has won D3football.com’s Offensive Line of the Week for the last two weeks, helping the Blazers lead the ASC in rushing yardage (1870). The UMHB defensive front will certainly be prepared, and has been just as good on that side of the ball, ranking first in the conference in rushing yards allowed (581). Establishing the run game early has been critical to Belhaven’s success (all four TD against HPU last week came via running plays), which means stopping it will be priority No. 1 for the Cru defense.
Dominating on special teams: Part of the Cru’s success in last week’s 72-14 win at Sul Ross State was due to the performances of the special teams unit. Returner KJ Miller put UMHB up 14-0 with an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and tallied 123 punt return yards in the contest. Kicker Anthony Avila was 9-of-9 on PATs and also nailed his third field goal of the season. Additionally, punter Jefferson Fritz ranks third in average yards per punt (41.3) amongst punters on Top 25 teams. Performing well on special teams will be critical in UMHB establishing a lead and maintaining that advantage.
Two Deep Depth Chart
*-Team Captain, L-Varsity Letter, SQ- Previously on varsity roster in past season(s) but has seen no playing time, TR- Transfer
Quarterback: *Kyle King (Sr.-1L), Ryan Redding (Sr.-3L)
Running Back: Aphonso Thomas (Jr.-1L), Kenneth Cormier Jr. (So.-1L)
Wide Receiver: Brenton Martin (Sr.-2L), DJ Weaver (Sr.-2L)
Wide Receiver: KJ Miller (Sr.-2L), Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L)
Wide Receiver: Brandon Jordan (Sr.-1L), Jamaal Hamilton (Jr.-TR)
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: Jeffery Sims Jr. (Sr.-3L), Jacob Dailey (So.-1L)
Right Guard: Matt Sanders (Jr.-2L), Adam Dobbins (Sr.-SQ)
Right Tackle: Ethan Ruckman (So.-1L), Wyatt Crawford (So.-1L)
Right Defensive End: Sante Parker Jr. (Sr.-2L), Trey Witcher (Fr.-TR)
Right Defensive Tackle: Josh Patteson (So.-1L), Tristan Green (So.-1L)
Left Defensive Tackle: Pete Smith (Sr.-3L), Anthony Clayton (Jr.-TR)
Left Defensive End: E’Monte Smith (Sr.-4L), James Eckrote (Fr.-HS)
Weakside Linebacker: Jacob Mueller (Sr.-3L), Mikkah Hackett (Sr.-4L)
Middle Linebacker: Akeem Jackson (Sr.-4L), Durand Hill (Fr.-HS)
Strongside Linebacker: Omari Frazier (So.-1L), Johnny Smith-Rider (Fr.-HS)
Cru (Flex Safety): Jayden Smith (Sr.-3L), Jordan See (So.-1L)
Free Safety: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Khryen Deal (Fr.-HS)
Cornerback: Titus Dunk (Jr.-2L), Tavion Page (Jr.-2L)
Cornerback: Keith Gipson (Sr.-3L), Trashawn Adams (Fr.-HS)
Kicker: Anthony Avila (Sr.-3L), Brandon Cunningham (Jr.-2L),
Punter: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), Brandon Cunningham (Jr.-2L)
Punt Returner: *Jefferson Fritz (Sr.-4L), KJ Miller (Sr.-2L)
Kick Returner: Aaron Sims (Sr.-1L), KJ Miller (Sr.-2L)
Long Snapper: Jacob Mueller (Sr.-3L)
Holder: Tommy Bowden (Jr.-2L), Ryan Redding (Sr.-3L)
Two-Deep Notes: LB Mikkah Hackett is on the two-deep for the first time in three weeks, having been held back due to an injury. He has played in four games this season…DE Khevon Shepard, who started against Sul Ross, is not on the two-deep. Sante Parker Jr. is expected to start at the right defensive end position…Trashawn Adams is on the two-deep for the first time this season as a backup CB. Adams saw his first collegiate action on Oct. 16 against Texas Lutheran.
Riley Zayas serves as the managing editor of True To The Cru. He has worked in sports journalism since 2016 and can be contacted at email@example.com.