The Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (3-4, 3-3 Great American Conference) defense managed to hold the No. 6 Henderson State Reddies (7-0, 6-0 GAC) to 378 yards and 24 points, their least productive offensive performance of their thus far third straight undefeated regular season, in a 24-3 loss at Thone Stadium at Buerkle field on Saturday.
“We had opportunities to score more points,” head coach Raymond Monica said. “We missed a couple field goals and had throws in the end zone that we just couldn’t come up with.”
Although Tech’s defense dug in the trenches and prevented long drives, the Reddie’s offense struck quick with its first of three 55-yard-plus touchdowns on a senior quarterback Kevin Rodgers 56-yard hook up with fellow senior Darius Davis only two minutes into the game.
After a Tech punt, Henderson extended its lead to 14-0 on another Rodgers-Davis deep ball, this time a 68-yard bomb to cap a three-play drive with 8:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
With the help of a Reddie freshman Jonathan Edouard personal foul, the Wonder Boys converted a third down that led to a sophomore Randy Velazquez 45-yard, career-long field goal to make it 14-3 with 3:51 left in the first.
Davis’ third touchdown catch of the game would come after a 4-play drive resulted in a 58-yard Rodgers-Davis connection, giving Henderson a 21-3 lead.
Another Reddie personal foul on the ensuing kickoff allowed the Wonder Boys to set up on Henderson’s side of the 50. Tech would drive the ball to the Reddie 5-yard line but proved unable to convert the eight-play, 43-yard drive on a fourth-and-goal pass that fell incomplete.
Wonder Boy Quincy Peyton prevented a fourth Davis touchdown reception on the next Reddie drive, as Peyton earned his second interception of the season.
The turnover would produce no points, Velazquez’s 30-yard field goal missing wide left.
Both teams had a pair of punts to open the second half, and Tech’s third possession would begin on Henderson’s 27-yard line because of yet another Reddie personal foul.
Again, the Wonder Boys offense churned out a scoreless drive, as Velazquez missed his third field goal attempt on a wide-left, 45-yard try.
Henderson’s freshman kicker Houston Ray successfully attempted his first field goal of the game, knocking through a 40 yarder with 7:17 remaining in the final quarter.
Tech botched the snap on a fourth down punt, and the loss of 25 yards would set up the Reddies with good field position leading to a 30-yard field goal attempt, but Houston’s kick hit the left upright and bounced no good.
Tech’s junior quarterback Dennis Robertson was replaced with junior Curt Ceralde late in the fourth, but Ceralde’s first pass was intercepted by junior Donovan McLeod to seal the Reddie’s 28th consecutive regular season win.
“Henderson has a very good quarterback and great wide receiver,” Monica said. “And those two guys made some really big plays on us.”
Tech’s running game has been inconsistent for the majority of the year, averaging 59.2 yards over the past 5 weeks. This week proved no different, as the Wonder Boys were held to negative 4 yards rushing.
Henderson’s rushing game was stifled by the dual defensive attack of junior Logan Genz’s 18 tackles and senior Wesley McKinney’s 14 tackles, holding the Reddies to 53 yards on the ground.
Robertson completed 23 of his 34 passes for 153 yards.
Tech will travel to Arkadelphia on Saturday to face the 6-0 Ouachita Baptist Tigers at 1 p.m.