SHAWNEE, Okla. — In a game that will be remembered forever in Arkadelphia, Henderson State kicker David Heaton connected on a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift the No. 16 Reddies to a 36-34 win at Oklahoma Baptist.
The incredible victory improved HSU to 9-1 and kept the Reddies in the hunt for the GAC title and NCAA DII Playoffs. Henderson can clinch a share of the league crown next Saturday with a win over rival Ouachita Baptist in the Battle of the Ravine.
It was a back and forth battle between two of the top offenses in the conference, but defense was the story in the first half as the units for both teams stood tall to keep the game low-scoring through the first 30 minutes of play.
After leading 14-9 at the half, Oklahoma Baptist extended its lead to two scores, 21-12, with a touchdown at the 2:42 mark of the third quarter. Needing to answer to stay in it, the Reddies got a huge play from L’liott Curry who took a slant 66 yards to the house on a 1-play drive for HSU which made it a one-score game again, 21-19, in the blink of an eye.
The momentum swung hard in Henderson’s direction on the next drive for the Bison. On OKBU’s first play, Preston Haire’s pass was tipped up in the air and picked off by HSU’s Cameron Thomas deep in Oklahoma Baptist territory. The Reddies cashed in seconds later, again courtesy of Curry, who made a diving catch in the end zone from 28 yards out to put Henderson in front, 26-21.
The Reddies were not done scoring. After a stop by its defense, Henderson marched down the field for a third-straight possession and capped off an 11-play, 87-yard drive with a 17-yard bulldozing run from Fredrick O’Donald to seize a two-score lead, 33-21, with 9:13 remaining.
Suddenly behind by two touchdowns, the Bison refused to go away and swung the momentum their way once again. OKBU used an 11-play, 58-yard scoring drive to trim the deficit down to 33-28 with 5:54 to go, and after a three-and-out by Henderson, got a 46-yard touchdown run from Haire on a quarterback draw to come flying back and take the lead, 34-33, with 3:37 left.
It looked as though hope was lost for the Reddies when the Bison intercepted a pass on HSU’s ensuing drive and took it down to the Henderson 9-yard line, but the HSU defense came up with its biggest stand of the season and forced an OKBU turnover on downs at the 1-yard line with 2:14 on the clock.
With no timeouts and starting on its own 1-yard line, the Reddie offense went to work. Adam Morse came up with two big scrambles for HSU, and also connected with Curry for 17 yards on a 3rd-and-10, to methodically move the ball into OKBU territory. As the seconds ticked down, Morse found Curry for one last 6-yard completion to the Bison 26-yard line. Curry stepped out of bounds with one second remaining in the game.
Heaton, who had previously connected on a 38-yard field goal at the end of the first half, came on with the wind against him, but it made no difference. The senior calmly stepped up and hammered a career-best 43-yarder straight through the uprights to set off a euphoric celebration from the visitor’s sideline. The kick was the longest of the season for Henderson State.
Morse finished 28-of-50 for 374 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the win. Curry put together another epic performance with 10 catches for 155 yards and two scores. Duce Sproles led the Reddies on the ground with 19 carries for 100 yards. Heaton hit field goals of 22, 38 and 43 yards and scored 12 points.
Henderson ran a staggering 89 plays in the win and out-gained OKBU 581-367. The Reddies held the vaunted Bison passing attack to just 173 yards through the air — their second-lowest mark of the season.
The Reddies will look to earn a share of the GAC title next Saturday at Cliff Harris Stadium when they walk across the street to face rival Ouachita Baptist (8-2) at 1 p.m. in the 94th Battle of the Ravine.
From Henderson State Reddies Athletics staff reports