No. 9 Harding vs. East Central Football – GAME NOTES

#9 Harding Bisons (0-0, 0-0) vs. East Central Tigers (0-0, 0-0)
September. 1, 2022 • 6 pm • Ada, Okla. • Koi Ishto Stadium

The story of the game
Harding Football opens its 71st season of intercollegiate competition Thursday at 6:00 pm against East Central at Koi Ishto Stadium in Ada, Oklahoma. The Bison and Tigers will open the season against each other for the second straight season and the first time in Ada since Harding’s 22-19 win in 2003.

Harding is seeking its sixth straight trip to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. Only two other Division II teams have qualified for the last five tournaments – Northwest Missouri State and Ferris State.

Harding holds a 16-3 series lead over East Central and has won the last nine meetings. The Bison have won the last three meetings in Ada, with East Central’s last win coming 23-16 in overtime on Nov. 5, 2011.

Harding is ranked ninth in the AFCA Preseason Top 25 Coaches Poll. It is the sixth time Harding has been ranked in the preseason poll and his second-highest preseason ranking. Others: 2015 (#21), 2017 (#15), 2018 (#7), 2019 (#18) and 2021 (#22). Harding is the no. 9 in the poll.

Harding enters the game on a five-game road winning streak dating back to a 32-31 loss at Southeastern Oklahoma on September 11, 2021. Harding also enters the game on a nine-game GAC hitting streak, also dating back to Southeastern’s last game the season.

Harding is 44-23-3 (.650) in his previous 70 innings of the season. The Bisons have won 15 of their last 19 games and 10 of their last 12 road games. Harding beat East Central 28-0 in Searcy in last season’s opener.

Harding was voted first in the preseason Greater American Conference Coaches Poll. The coaches picked East Central sixth.

Harding selected six captains earlier this week in a player vote. The 2022 captains are WRs Michael CendrikDL Patrick HealyDB Oric Walker, Jr.DB Grant FitzhughDB Cade Pugh and OL Dalton Allen.

The next one
Harding will play the first of six games at home, hosting Southeastern Oklahoma. The Bison have won nine of their last 10 overall and nine straight in Searcy against the Savage Storm. Kick-off in the first security stadium is at 19:00

Paul Simmons begins his fifth season as head coach at Harding. He has a 41-11 overall record and led Harding to the NCAA II Playoffs in each of his first four seasons, including a berth in the national semifinals in 2017. He is in his 16th season at Harding and had been Harding’s defensive coordinator for the previous seven seasons. Simmons was a three-time All-American defensive end and linebacker at Harding from 1992-94.

Kris McCullough (Henderson St.) will be coaching his first game at East Central.

History of the Series
Harding and East Central meet for the 20th time with the Bison leading 16-3. Harding has won nine straight and 15 of the last 16 meetings with East Central’s lone victory coming 16-13 in overtime in 2011. Harding has won the last three meetings in Ada. Harding is averaging 44.2 points over the last nine games of the series. Paul Simmons The led teams are 4-0 against East Central.

Home/Street Details
Harding was 5-1 on the road in 2021 and carries a five-game road winning streak into the game. East Central was 3-2 at home in 2021, losing its last two home games.

The last meeting
On senior night Cole Chancey became the Big American Conference’s career rushing leader, Harding’s defense also had a memorable game as the 22nd-ranked Bisons shut out East Central 28-0 in front of 3,500 fans on Sept. 4, 2021, at First Security Stadium .

Chancey, a native of Commerce, Georgia, rushed 17 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns. He has 3,775 rushing yards, passing Ouachita Baptist’s Kris Oliver, who had 3,763 yards from 2015-18.

Chancey scored on runs of 6 yards and 1 yard in the first quarter and broke the record on a 24-yard run with 4:06 left in the third quarter. It was his 15th career 100-yard game and fifth with three or more touchdowns.

Harding’s defense recorded its seven opening-night shutouts since the Bisons restarted their football program in 1959. The last defense was 20-0 against Southern Arkansas in 2010. The 28-point margin was Harding’s second-highest shutout. after just a 39-0 win over Lane in 1992.

Streaks, Trends, Records
Harding has led NCAA Division II in rushing four times since 2011, including each of the last two seasons. In 2021, Harding averaged a nation-best and school-record 390.1 rushing yards per game.

Harding has led NCAA Division II in scoring defense in two of the last three seasons and ranked fourth in 2021 with 12.8 points per game.

Harding has eight players on its current roster who have three seasons of experience and seven have earned their college degrees — Michael Cendrik, Jake Madding, Kage City, Cade Pugh, Grant Fitzhugh, Dalton Allen AND James Townsend. Ben KarikariMore he also received his university degree.

Cendrick, a wide receiver from Arlington, Texas, leads Harding’s active players with 37 games played and 24 starts. Patrick Healya defensive lineman from Bartlett, Tennessee, also played in 37 games.

Over the past eight seasons, Harding has 424 rushing TDs and allowed just 75. During that time, Harding has rushed for 35,936 yards and allowed just 8,193.

Harding has outscored its opponents 493-141 in the first quarter of games over the past four seasons.

In 13 games last season, Harding struck out just 21 times. The Bisons’ 1.6 hits per game set an NCAA Division II record.

A quick look at the ECU
Last season, East Central was fourth in the GAC in total defense (370.4) and seventh in total offense (372.0).

Quarterback Kenny Hrncir was seventh in the GAC with 197.7 passing yards per game and sixth with 18 TD passes in 2021. Running back Miles Davis rushed for 55.9 yards per game, good for ninth in the conference.

Returning team leaders
HARDING (2021 stats)

In a hurry – Jalen Spicer: 53 rushes, 524 yards, 6 TDs
Pass – None
Getting – Kage City: 5 receptions, 113 yards, 3 TDs
Defense – Cade Pugh: 46 shots; Nathaniel Wallace: 8 TFL, 4.5 sacks; Cooper Carroll, Oric Walker, Jr.: 2 INT

EAST CENTRAL (statistics 2021)
Rushing – Miles Davis: 103 rushes, 559 yards, 6 TDs
Passing – Kenny Hrncir: 153-290, 2,175 yards, 13 INT, 18 TD
Receiving – JayQuan Lincoln: 26 receptions, 468 yards, 4 TDs
Defense – Cody Alexander: 65 tackles; Michael Onwuzurike: 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks; Jalen Baldwin: 5 INT

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