ARKADELPHIA, Ark. — After a 635 day wait, Henderson State will play football on Thursday night when the Reddies travel to Weatherford, Oklahoma to kick of their 2021 campaign against Southwestern Oklahoma State at 6 p.m.
TOP STORYLINES: SETTING THE SCENE
– The Reddies are looking to build on a 9-3 season in 2019 which saw their two regular season losses come by a combined four points against Top-25 opponents on the road. HSU is in search of its first GAC title since 2015, which was also Henderson’s last NCAA DII Playoff appearance.
– Henderson is 9-3 all-time against SWOSU and has not lost to the Bulldogs on the road in Weatherford since the formation of the GAC in 2011. The Reddies are 10-5 in season openers under head coach Scott Maxfield and 7-1 in the last eight seasons.
REDDIES REPORT: OFFENSE
– The Reddies averaged 31.7 points per game back in 2019 and the potential for an even more dangerous offense exists in 2021. HSU returns six starters, including preseason All-American L’Liott Curry, All-GAC honoree Chase Lodree, and a seasoned offensive line.
– Curry will be the focal point for Henderson and enters his final collegiate season with high expectations after bursting onto the scene two years ago. The Harlon Hill nominee caught 84 passes for 1167 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first year with the Reddies and will sneak up on no one this fall. Curry was named a Preseason DII First Team All-American by Lindy’s Sports Magazine this summer. Lodree was a Second Team All-GAC pick in 2019 after catching 40 balls for 666 yards and three scores and provides Henderson with one of the best one-two punches in the GAC.
– There will be a new face under center for HSU as senior Adam Morse takes the role of starting quarterback following the departure of Richard Stammetti. Morse, a transfer from Division I Lamar University back in 2019, won the starting job in fall camp. The veteran played in seven games two seasons ago, including extended action in the Live United Bowl, and threw for 202 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
– A deep stable of running backs will likely see action on Thursday night. Darius Austin is the top returning rusher and carried the ball 37 times for 188 yards and three scores two seasons ago. Redshirt freshmen Kris Morris and Korien Burrell will get their fair share of carries in their first college action, as could true freshman Fredrick O’Donald of North Little Rock, who played his way into the rotation during fall practice.
REDDIES REPORT: DEFENSE
– Henderson had one of the better defensive units in the conference two seasons ago and ranked third in the GAC in scoring defense (19.8 points per game). The Reddies were fifth in total defense (360.4 yards per game), led the league with 14 interceptions, made 77.5 tackles for loss in 12 games and return impact players at all three levels of the defense.
– Senior defensive lineman Antoine Roshell will look to lead the group up front for HSU. Roshell has played in 24 games during his career, including every game in each of the last two seasons. In 2019, Roshell amassed 39 tackles, 16 solo stops, 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Joining him in the trenches is sophomore nose guard Denzel Walter, who was terrific as a redshirt freshman and recorded 23 tackles, seven tackles for loss and an interception.
– The linebacker corps is led by junior Jake Chatman, who is the Reddies’ leading returning tackler from 2019. Chatman had 62 tackles two seasons ago and has tallied 88 in his two playing seasons at Henderson. Outside linebackers Jayden Ford and Ketric Sledge will step into bigger roles this season after combining for 26 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss as rotational players in 2019.
– The Reddies leaned heavily on then-redshirt freshmen Patrick Jones and Dedric O’Bryant in 2019, and the two young defensive backs responded. Now sophomores, Jones and O’Bryant spearhead a deep and experienced secondary. Jones, a safety, made 52 tackles, three tackles for loss and two interceptions last season, while O’Bryant, a corner, had 29 tackles, three interceptions and six pass break-ups.
– HSU excelled at forcing turnovers in 2019 and led the GAC in turnover margin (+9). The Reddies outscored opponents 68-15 in points off of turnovers. Henderson was also strong defensively in the red zone and allowed opponents to score on just 69.8% of their trips inside the 20-yard line.
REDDIES REPORT: SPECIAL TEAMS
– The Reddies bring back all of their starting specialists from 2019, as well as their primary return men. The placekicking game is in the capable right foot of junior Temo Martinez, who is a two-year starter for Henderson and has scored 132 points in 23 career games. Martinez is 81-for-86 on PATs in his career and was 7-of-11 on field goal attempts in 2019. He has a career long of 49 yards which he hit in 2018.
– Henderson was one of just four schools in the league last season to average 40 or more yards per punt (40.2). That number could be higher in 2021 as sophomore Tristan Heaton returns from a good true freshman campaign. Heaton punted 54 times, had 13 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and had nine kicks of 50 yards or longer.
– HSU took a big step forward in the punt return game in 2019 thanks to now-senior Braden Boykin. As a junior, Boykin led the GAC and finished No. 6 in NCAA DII in punt return average (16.3 yards per return). He took one return against East Central 78 yards for a touchdown and had 245 total yards on 15 returns. Boykin, along with Lodree and redshirt freshman Jalen Abraham, will also handle kick return duties. Henderson only returned 31 kickoffs in 2019, compared to 47 by opponents, and averaged 17 yards per return.
– Southwestern Oklahoma State enters the 2021 season looking to rebound after three-straight 3-8 campaigns from 2017-19. The Bulldogs’ last winning season came in 2015 when they finished 8-4 and played in the Live United Bowl in Texarkana.
– Sophomore quarterback Tanner Griffin is listed atop the depth chart for the Bulldogs under center. Griffin, who transferred to SWOSU from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2020, threw for 1309 yards and eight touchdowns for the Norse in 2019.
– Griffin will have a big target to throw to in junior transfer receiver Torin Justice. Justice last played at Abilene Christian in 2018, where he caught 18 passes for 161 yards and four touchdowns. He also also played at Trinity Valley Community College in 2016 and 2017 and collected 46 passes for 638 yards and four scores as a sophomore.
– The Bulldogs ran the ball less than all but one team in the conference in 2019 and ran for only 11 touchdowns in 11 games. Southwestern Oklahoma does return sophomore back Kenny Graham, who carried for 265 yards as a freshman last season.
– SWOSU was ninth in the GAC in scoring offense (20.9 points per game) and 10th in total offense (335.2 yards per game) two years ago. The Bulldogs allowed 30.5 points per game to opponents, which ranked seventh in the league, and were ninth in total defense (404.7 yards per game).
THE COACHING MATCHUP
– Scott Maxfield enters his 16th season at Henderson in 2021 and has compiled a career record of 108-57 at the school. Maxfield is 11 wins away from tying HSU legend Sporty Carpenter for most wins in school history (119). During his tenure at HSU, Maxfield is 7-2 against SWOSU and has never lost in Weatherford, Oklahoma.
– Chet Pobolish begins his third season as the head coach at SWOSU in 2021. The Bulldogs are 6-16 in his first two seasons in Weatherford after finishing 3-8 in both 2018 and 2019. Pobolish led Southwestern to a thrilling 35-31 victory over the Reddies in Arkadelphia back in 2018. Before his coaching days, Pobolish was a standout receiver for Emporia State and was a four-time All-MIAA selection from 1995-98.
THE LAST MEETING
– Henderson State jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first 17 minutes on the road against Southwestern Oklahoma in 2019 and cruised to a 35-7 victory in Weatherford, Oklahoma.
– The Reddies scored three touchdowns in a span of two minutes at the start of the second quarter to take control of the game. Querale Hall carried 19 times for 99 yards and Richard Stammetti threw for 151 yards and three touchdowns in the win. The victory improved HSU to 5-1 on the year which matched Henderson’s best start to a season since 2016.
– HSU out-gained the Bulldogs 390-250 and rushed for a season-high 239 yards on the ground in the win. It was one of only two times during the 2019 season that the Reddies went over 200 yards rushing as a team. SWOSU averaged just 3.8 yards per play and ran for only 52 yards on 26 carries.
WHERE TO LISTEN
– The game will be broadcast and available by the Henderson State Sports Network on KDEL 100.9 FM and KVRC 1240 AM in Arkadelphia, KWPS 99.7 FM in Hot Springs, KYXK 106.7 FM in Gurdon, and KZYP 104.1 FM/1310 AM in Malvern. Coverage begins one hour prior to kickoff. The radio broadcast can also be heard on the web by going to the audio link for the game at hsusports.com.–