Southeastern Wins 2021 Live United Bowl
TEXARKANA, Ark. - Daulton Hatley picked up the Farmers Bank and Trust Live United Bowl MVP Award, while Trey Keatts got to play the role of hero, hitting a game-winning 29-yard field goal to lift Southeastern to a 37-34 win over Emporia State on Saturday afternoon in Texarkana, Ark.
The win lifts the Savage Storm to 9-3 to end the 2021 season, with the nine wins matching its highest win total since joining Division II and is tied with the 1921 and 1946 season for the second most wins in a season for the Storm.
The win also caps off one of the most impressive turnarounds in Division II history, posting a 9-3 season following the 1-10 outing in 2019, with this season's team tying for fourth all-time on the Most Improved Teams in Division II lead, improving by seven-and-a-half games, with only three teams ever having a bigger improvement form one season to the next.
"The way we did it," said head coach Tyler Fenwick when asked about the team's ninth win of the season, "It feels pretty darn good. What a game, huh. Winning is not easy and our kids just keep fighting and battling. It's pretty cool."
"It's just sticking with it," he continued. "You just keep fighting and keep trying to find something else. We were throwing the ball well, and we were trying to run it and run a little bit of clock. We just had to get back to spreading out and just running the offense."
"I mean c'mon, who does that," continued Fenwick when asked about what this means to his seniors. "Going from 1-10 and these seniors sticking it out and fighting through it and trusting the coaching staff that's new and the process that we're going through. It's so easy to leave these days, and they stuck it out and they worked and they battled and they win because of it. It's a great example of don't leave and just stay the course."
Hatley picked up his Most Valuable Player honors after tossing the ball around for 336 yards on 23-of-38 passing with three touchdowns.
He would find seven different receivers on the day, but none as often as Braxton Kincade who hauled in seven catches for 111 yards to lead all receivers in yardage.
Katrell Blakely added five grabs for 39 yards and a touchdown, while Marquis Gray added four catches for 84 yards, including the game-long 60 yard TD to open the second half.
Duce Pittman would snag a pair of catches for 42 yards and a touchdown, while Pablo Perini finished with three receptions for 37 yards.
Keatts would punctuate the offense with his best kicking performance of the season, going 3-for-3 on the day while hitting from 28, 29, and 35 yards.
Ryan Taylor would close out the season with his best rushing effort, leading the way with 93 yards on seven carries, including a 51 yard touchdown run.
CJ Shavers had a team-high 16 carries and finished with 85 yards, and the Storm tallied 190 yards total on the ground.
The SE offense led the contest both on the ground and through the air, putting together its 190 rushing yards with 336 passing yards to finish with 526 yards of total offense.
On defense, Ja'Lon Freeman led the way with 11 tackles, while Keelan Chilton was next in line with eight while adding a pair of pass breakups.
Scooter Baker finished with six stops and a fumble recovery and return for 24 yards, while Josh Mulumba had four tackles and a forced fumble.
The tension mounted in the fourth quarter, with Keatts connecting on a 35 yard field goal with 8:19 to play to give Southeastern a 34-27 lead.
However, that lead would not last long as five plays later ESU would cash in on a Canaan Brooks rushing TD to knot the game at 34-34.
Both team's would drive to near midfield and punt on their next drives, with SE surviving a scare as Tainique Taylor would fumble his punt return attempt but was able to recover it at SE's 12 yard line, leaving the Storm with 88 yards to go over the final 2:24 of the contest.
On that final drive, The Storm would convert on third down with a 42-yard hookup from Hatley to Kincade to cross midfield.
SE would also convert on 4th-and-3 at the ESU 35 yard line when Hatley hit Blakely for a five-yard connection and a new set of downs.
Southeastern would push the ball all the way to the Hornet 12 yard line before Keatts lines up and hit his 29-yard game winner with six seconds left on the clock.
The game started much slower than it finished, with SE forcing an ESU missed field goal on its opening drive before going three-and-out on its own.
ESU would score on its second possession, going 60 yards on five plays for the 7-0 lead which would prove to be the only scoring in the opening quarter.
Southeastern would get its first answer three plays into the second quarter when Hatley hit Pittman for a 33 yard score to cap an eight-play, 80 yard drive and knot the game at 7-7.
Unfortunately, the Hornets fired right back and went 70 yards on four plays to regain the lead at 14-7 with 12:00 to play in the first half.
This time the Storm did not wait to respond, marching 78 yards on nine plays, including a fourth-down conversion from Hatley to Perini before Hatley connected with Blakely for an eight-yard TD toss to tie the game at 14-14 with 7:17 to play in the half.
It was ESU though who would get the last word in the second quarter, using a 13 play drive to take a 21-14 lead with 2:22 to play which would hold up as the halftime margin.
Southeastern came out rearing to go in the third quarter as evidence by Hatley hitting Marquis Gray for a 60-yard touchdown on the first play of the half, tying the game at 21-21.
But again, Emporia State would answer with a six-play, 68 yard drive that found the endzone, however, the PAT was no good, leaving the lead at 27-21.
The Storm would take advantage on its next drive as Taylor capped it with a 51 yard touchdown run to tie, with a Keatts PAT giving SE its first lead of the day at 28-27 with 9:16 to play in the third.
It would also be Keatts who got the last word in the third quarter after SE'd defense forced a Hornet punt, the Storm would close out the third quarter driving 69 yards over 7:09 with Keatts hitting from 28 yards out for a 31-27 lead.
Southeastern's defense opened the fourth quarter by forcing the game's lone turnover as Mulumba forced a fumble which was scooped up by Baker who returned it 24 yards to the ESU two yard line.
However, the Storm would be kept out of the endzone by a Hornet goal-line stand, turning the ball over on downs at the one yard line.
The SE defense would respond by holding ESU to a three-and-out, setting up Keatts' second field goal drive. And the game's tense final minutes.