By Okon Ekpenyong
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders won their second Stagg Bowl title on Friday, December 17, 2021, defeating North Central College Cardinals 57-24 at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
It would have been their third, but in their 2016 Championship run, the NCAA stated that the program violated an NCAA Policy, taking away that win. The program played in 2004, 2016, and 2017 and won it in 2018, but their 2016 and 2017 run violated NCAA Policy.
Both teams came into the title game undefeated, and throughout the season, looked good on paper both defensively and offensively. Both teams struggled to put points on the board during the first two quarters, but UMHD managed to end the first quarter on a 16-7 lead. However, in the second quarter, North Central College did outplay them scoring 10-3. In the third QTR, UMHB took advantage of NCC offensive struggles by scoring 14-0, and in the fourth QTR, the UMHB receiving squad of Brenton Martin & Brandon Jordan proved to be much for the NCC Cornerbacks outscoring the Cardinals 24-7 to end the game.
Former receiver for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Eric Schoenert, spoke to the New Americans Magazine about the Crusader Football Alumni Association.
The association organizes tailgates for home and away games, and it is part of the Christian fellowship program that connects former and current players. The majority of the players attending the tailgates and the championship game played 2004-2018.
2021 Stagg NCAA DIII Championship game prediction:
We are very proud of the success we’ve had and what we’ve been able to get back from the program. North Central is a good team, and they got here for a reason. UMHB is firing from all cylinders, and offensively I don’t know how they will stop all of our weapons. We are significantly faster than they are and in a similar size. I think we will win the game, probably by a touchdown, and the team that gets to thirty the fastest will have a better chance of winning it all. (Eric Schoenert)
Eric’s prediction was 24-17, but the UMHD ended up winning 57-24 to take home their second Stagg Bowl for the 2nd time in school history.
Eric added that they had been successfully capitalizing on third and fourth-down conversions. We still like to run on third-down conversion, but we become more of a passing team in the last four to five weeks of play. Because we have outstanding receivers, their corners will typically back off on the opposite side so we can run a hatch route and get a first down on a third and 7 by running a pass and play. (Eric Schoenert).
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium:
The city of Canton and Hall of Fame committee has done a fantastic job taking care of both teams and showing UMHB and NCC the Hall of Fame Stadium and around the Hall of Fame Museum itself. The Committee made it a memorable experience for both programs, specifically the players. It is a great stadium, and it will be something special for the players on either side. We play at a magnificent stadium at Crusader Stadium in Belton, TX, and we are lucky and blessed to have a quality program and facility. Eric added that they are intimidated playing at the stadium, but it is an opportunity that the program will remember forever. (Eric Schoenert)
Growth of Division III:
Players want to go places they think would make a difference and be active right away. Fans can expect those numbers to increase across any football division. Also, with the rise of social media, accessing quality games that are more accessible means that fans will be more aware of better teams versus only following the schools that everybody already knows. It helps put more spotlight on smaller schools. (Eric Schoenert)
“We are in the heart of Texas, so we recruit players from Dallas and down to Houston. The University sells itself, but because some of those players are in weight or height, it may disqualify the DI from giving them a chance. But if they have a passion for the game and are willing to sacrifice to prove themselves, we would love to have them”, Coach Pete Fredenburg said.
“It is always about team chemistry because when you see other players stepping up at the highest level, you too as a player, challenge you to complete with all of your heart and might. And when the team is as successful as we are, it gives us hope that a DIII program will arise, and everybody, including future players, should notice”, QB Kyle King said.
Division III Football has continued to grow since I played back in 2004. Our most famous alumni Darrell Freeman would play for the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, and many successful seasons. Other programs did overlook Freeman for his sizes from DI schools across Texas, and so he came in with a chip on his shoulder by doing everything asked to make himself better and get noticed by the NFL. There’s always an opportunity for the coaching staff to find players committed to the game itself and have a chance to make it to the league stage after their collegiate careers are over.
Crusader Football Alumni Association:
We are a proud alumni association; we support our players and student-athletes across campus. We also support other sports on campus, but Football is our primary focus. (Eric Schoenert)
Coaches and Players reaction:
Fredenburg, Mr. Pete Head Coach, Football, commented on the player Alumni association. We have strived to focus on Team Chemistry since we started the program in 1998. It solidifies the team concept of people that care for one another. Within the association, current and past build a bond, and the players genuinely care for and love one another, and have fun being a part of it, indeed.
“We go through so much being a student-athlete, and because these guys understand and have been there, it helps,” one of the UMHD players added.