PLAYOFF PREVIEW: No. 3 UMHB faces No. 6 Trinity in second round

Above photo by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru

Previewing this week’s playoff matchup presented by The Best of Belton

No. 3 UMHB

Head coach: Larry Harmon

Located: Belton, Texas

Conference: American Southwest (ASC)

Overall Record: 10-1

ASC record: 8-0

How they got here: UMHB’s defense forced turnovers on Huntingdon’s first two possessions, and the Crusader offense scored on their first five drives of the second half, as UMHB shutout the Hawks 54-0 in the first round, advancing to the second round. 

Postseason playoff streak: 19 (2004-2022)

No. 6 Trinity

Head coach: Jerheme Urban

Located: San Antonio, Texas

Conference: Southern Athletic Association (SAA)

Overall Record: 11-0

SAA Record: 7-0

How they got here: Trinity won the SAA title for the second straight year, and in the first round, defeated Hardin-Simmons at home in wet conditions with a late score on Tucker Horn’s passing touchdown, breaking a 7-7 tie. 

Postseason playoff streak: 2 (2021-2022)

Follow the action

Date/Time: November 26/12 p.m. CT

Location: Trinity multi-purpose stadium, San Antonio, Texas

Watch: https://www.trinity.edu/live

Radio: 93.9 FM/1330 AM

The Series History

UMHB leads the all-time series 6-4, having won the last six meetings between the in-state programs. Trinity won the first four, with the Tigers’ two most recent wins having come in the playoffs in 2001 and 2002. Last season, UMHB faced Trinity for the first time since 2013, and emerged with a hard-fought 13-3 victory. 

In games played in San Antonio, the series is tied, with each team having won on three occasions. 

Senior-laden squads

Both UMHB and Trinity have relied on senior leadership this season, and that experience has paid great dividends. 

Quarterbacks Tucker Horn (Trinity) and Kyle King (UMHB) are seniors who have both started for the last two seasons for their respective teams. Each is also a school record holder, with King having thrown for 76 career touchdowns (most all-time in program history) and Horn holding the Trinity single-game and single-season record for completion percentage. 

At running back, both Justin Carmouche and Aphonso Thomas lead their teams on the ground as senior standouts. And like UMHB, whose top two receivers, KJ Miller and Brandon Jordan, are seniors, Trinity’s Ryan Merrifield and Caleb Crawford are Horn’s top targets downfield. 

On defense, UMHB is led by senior defensive ends Sante Parker Jr. and Pete Smith, as well as defensive back Tommy Bowden. Trinity has senior leaders in linebacker Caleb Harmel and defensive back Ezra Gore. 

Matchup to watch: UMHB’s offense against Trinity’s defense

In what will be an intriguing battle, the Crusader offense faces what might be the toughest defense it has played all season. The Tigers rank sixth nationally in fewest yards allowed per game (206.5), and have allowed just 9.7 points per game. A large part of that has been the defensive front, which limits opponents to an average of 53.2 rushing yards per game, the fifth-best mark in D-III. The UMHB offense has been just as good, averaging 486.4 yards per contest, good enough for ninth-best in the country, and enters the second round ranked fifth in scoring offense, at 45.4 points per game. 

In-state connections

Facing off will not be anything new for a handful of the players involved in this matchup. Not only did many from both sides play in last year’s first round meeting, but many also played against each other in high school, such as UMHB quarterback Kyle King and Trinity linebacker Caleb Harmel. Starring at nearby high schools around the same time, King and Harmel battled on the gridiron on three occasions in high school, with Harmel’s Burton Panthers winning in two of those three. In the final matchup involving both King and Harmel in 2017, Harmel led Burton to a 36-31 win, with King completing 11-of-24 passes and running for 160 yards. 

Another connection involves two former teammates, now on opposite sides. UMHB offensive lineman Matt Sanders and Trinity receiver Ryan Merrifield both graduated in the Class of 2018 from Vandegrift High School, having led the Vipers to a 12-1 record during their senior year. Also on that roster as a sophomore was Trinity reserve quarterback Ryan Back. 

Also, two Hays high school products will be in action, with UMHB offensive lineman John Kazmierski and Trinity tight end Bayler Jordan each in their senior seasons. The duo lined up alongside each other throughout their high school careers, including in 2017, when Hays reached the playoffs. 

The Gagliardi

King was named one of 15 semifinalists for the prestigious Gagliardi Trophy on Tuesday, which is awarded annually to “the most outstanding player in D-III football” by the Jostens and J-Club of Saint John’s University. The award recognizes not only excellence on the field, but also in the classroom and in the community. King is the sixth semifinalist in UMHB history, with the most recent being Jefferson Fritz in 2021, who was also one of the finalists. 

On the brink of history…

Several players on both sides are nearing historic marks entering this matchup, including the potential to become school record holders. 

King’s four touchdown passes in the win over Huntingdon tied his single-season record from 2021, meaning he needs just one more passing score to break the program’s single-season record, with 36. Linebacker Johnny Smith-Rider, with four forced fumbles, needs just two more to set a new single-season record in that stat category. And in the career records, Miller is 309 receiving yards shy of eclipsing the UMHB all-time receiving yardage record of 2,919 yards. 

For Trinity, Harmel needs just five tackles to break into the Top 20 in program history in career tackles, having passed the 200-tackle mark in last week’s win. Additionally, Merrifield recently became the 19th player in program history with 100 or more receptions in a career, and needs 65 more receiving yards to become the 17th player for Trinity to surpass 1,500 career receiving yards. Horn is currently Trinity’s career record holder in completion percentage and second all-time in passing efficiency. 

Where from here?

The winner of this matchup is set to face the victor in Saturday’s second-round duel between No. 5 Linfield and No. 13 Bethel in the quarterfinal round on Dec. 3. 

UMHB Two Deep Depth Chart (Per the UMHB Athletics Department)

*-Team Captain, L-Varsity Letter, SQ- Previously on varsity roster in past season(s) but has seen no playing time, TR- Transfer

Offense

Quarterback: Kyle King (Sr.-2L), Jackson Tingler (Jr.-1L),

Running Back: Aphonso Thomas (Sr. 1L), Kenneth Cormier Jr. (Jr.-2L)

Wide Receiver: Jerry Day Jr. (So.-1L), Jamaal Hamilton (Sr.-1L)

Wide Receiver: KJ Miller (Sr.-4L), Jerry Cephus (So,-JV)

Wide Receiver: Brandon Jordan (Sr.-2L), Jawon Richards (Jr.-TR)

Tight End: Connor Mullins (Jr.-2L), Will McClintock (So.-TR)

Left Tackle: Reuel Tandoh (Jr.-2L), Kyle Wente (So.-1L)

Left Guard: Jesse Hoke (Jr.-2L), Wyatt Crawford (Jr.-2L)

Center: Jeffery Sims Jr. (Sr.-4L), Jacob Dailey (So.-2L)

Right Guard: Matt Sanders (Sr.-3L), John Schnautz (So.-JV)

Right Tackle: Ethan Ruckman (Jr.-2L), John Kazmierski (Sr.-3L)

Defense

Left Defensive End: Trey Belyeu-Witcher (So.-1L), Dorian Pittman (Fr.-HS)

Left Defensive Tackle: Pete Smith (Sr.-3L), Preston Johnson (So.-JV)

Right Defensive Tackle: Tristan Green (So.-1L), Mason Cavness (So.-JV)

Right Defensive End: Sante Parker Jr. (Sr.-3L), Kobe Giles, (Jr.-2L)

Weakside Linebacker:  Johnny Smith-Rider (So.-1L), Caden Steubing (Jr.-JV)

Middle Linebacker: Durand Hill (So.-1L), La’Damian Bailey (So,-JV) 

Strongside Linebacker: Omari Frazier (Jr.-2L), Noel Wright (Jr.-TR)

Cru (Flex Safety): Tommy Bowden (Sr.-3L), Diarva Brown (Sr.-TR)

Free Safety: Dorian Williams (Jr.-TR), Cameron Mitton (Fr.-HS)

Cornerback: Titus Dunk (Sr.-3L), Trashawn Adams (So.-1L)

Cornerback: Chaka Watson (Jr.-2L), Tavion Page (Sr.-3L)

Special Teams

Kicker: Anthony Avila (Sr.-3L),  Jack Bruner (Fr.-HS)

Punter: Kyle King (Sr.-2L), Jack Bruner (Fr.-HS)

Punt Returner: KJ Miller (Sr.-4L), Jamaal Hamilton (Sr.-1L)

Kick Returner: KJ Miller (Sr.-4L), Jamaal Hamilton (Sr.-1L)

Long/Short Snapper: Adam Strawn (Jr.-1L), Will McClintock (So.-TR)

Holder: Tommy Bowden (Sr.-3L)

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