After a week of celebrating the “Return of the Legends’ ‘ homecoming was capped off with a tough matchup as the Wonder Boys faced the 6-1 Henderson State Reddies.
Coming into the game the Reddies were ranked 20 in the country, but fell to Harding last week when the then number 20 Harding took down the 9th ranked Reddies 46-21.
Coming into Russellville the Reddies looked to spoil the Tech homecoming and find the momentum they had before facing the Bisons when they were undefeated in the first six games.
Although the Reddies did leave Thorne Stadium the winners with a final score of 41-38 there were no hung heads as the Wonder Boys pushed Henderson to their limit forcing overtime.
“We did some really good things. Offensively we kept them off balance, and defensively, they came in averaging 44-points a game so we knew they were going to score, but for the most part we did a good job containing them,” head coach Kyle Shipp said. “I thought we competed, and I thought we competed well. There are just little things we need to work on defensively and we will be challenged as the next two teams we face like to throw the ball around.”
Henderson State scored first in the bout knocking in a 34-yard field goal after Dio Williams broke up a Reddie pass stopping them short of 6-points.
Tech responded finding the endzone after a 6-play, 57-yard drive capped with a 12-yard run by Ron Thompson pulling the Wonder Boys ahead 7-3 with 7:25 left in the first quarter.
The Reddies scored on their second offensive drive, knocking in their first touchdown with 2:07.
On the first play of the second quarter the Wonder Boys retook the lead with a pass from quarterback Jack Lindsey to Joyrion Chase blasting through the Henderson secondary for a 29-yard touchdown.
Henderson brought the within one, knocking down a 21-yard field goal making the score 14-13 Tech with 11:16
Tech was stopped short on the HSU 48-yard line forcing a punt when punter Aaron Winn pinned the Reddies deep on their own 4-yard line.
Monte Toney picked Henderson quarterback Adam Morse on the HSU 43, returning the ball deep into the Reddie redzone to the 11-yard line.
With the Wonder Boys knocking for another touchdown before half Lindsey connected with Jordan Edington for a 5-yard touchdown pass. After a brief moment of celebration, a flag was thrown for a pass interference on receiver Brennon Lewis. The delay of the call and it’s questionable reasoning, sent not only the fans of Thorne stadium but Shipp to be irate toward the officials. After walking onto the field to get a better explanation from the head official Shipp was flagged for unsportsman-like conduct knocking a 15-yard pass interference penalty back another 15-yards putting the Wonder Boys back to the HSU 35 also making it third-and-35.
After a missed 42-yard field goal, HSU took over from their own 26-yard line with 1:11 till the halftime break. The Reddies would knock on the endzone’s door but time would run out on the Reddies on the Tech 42-yard line.
Tech maintained a 14-13 lead heading into the second half.
Tech won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half giving the Wonder Boys a chance to build on their lead once again.
Starting on their own 22-yard line, Tech took the ball into Reddie territory to the HSU 47. Facing a fourth-and-2 the Wonder Boys took the coin flip on a drive defining play opting for a ‘big man package’ wildcat direct snap to full back Keon Simmons. Simmons would hit the Reddie wall and only gain one of the needed two yards tuning the ball over at midfield.
Henderson State would respond, retaking the lead 20-14 after stealing the momentum on the fourth down stop with 5:55 left in the third.
The Wonder Boy would be held and forced to punt as the Reddies punched the ball down field on their next drive.
Tech defense would bend but not break as Tyrus Fort forced a turnover that went back into the Tech endzone and was recovered by Matt Arnold.
This turnover forced new life into Tech as the offense drove 80-yards on 8 plays to find the goal line and retake the lead.
Although the Reddies would respond with an 8-play 75-yard drive of their own and a 2-point conversion on their following possession, Tech would not fold and the Wonder Boys responded with a touchdown of their own making the score 28 all.
The officials would become a factor in the bout yet again as the Wonder Boys forced a Reddie punt on fourth-and-six on the HSU 39-yard line. As the punt was coming out however Aaron Carter attempted to peel off, after attempting to block the punt, but had his momentum shift by a Reddie blocker causing him to fall back into the punter. The 5-yard penalty gave the Reddies the need to convert on the fourth-and-short. Henderson would convert and the drive resulted in an HSU touchdown much to the chagrin of the Tech faithful.
Tech would buy into the ‘Fight On’ mentality as the Wonder Boys needed the endzone and had 3:24 left in the game to do it. Feeling little pressure on the clock, the Tech offense would construct an 11-play, 65-yard drive, knocking the ball across the goal line with :05 left.
“Going for two was in my mind,” Shipp said. “I asked my assistant coaches if we had a play and they hesitated and that told me everything I needed to know. Part of me really wanted to do it, but I knew our kids were playing well offensively.”
Heading into overtime, Henderson would win the coin toss electing to find a defensive stop first. Shipp was faced with another tough decision while facing fourth-and-two on the HSU 7. The Wonder Boys would opt for a Jesus Zizumbo field goal and attempt to hold the Reddie offense.
Although the Reddies would find the endzone and subsequently win the game 41-38, the Wonder Boys and the Tech fans would not go home quietly as positive signs of improvement gave hope to the Tech community.
“I thought it was a really good crowd and a really good energy,” Shipp said. “We are going to need them to keep going through our next two home games and just keep that atmosphere rolling.”
Next the Wonder Boys travel to Weatherford Okla. to face the Southwestern Bulldogs on Oct. 30.