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Tiger Football Opens SAA Play with a Road Win Over Hendrix

Tiger Football Opens SAA Play with a Road Win Over Hendrix

CONWAY, Ark. – Trinity's fifth-ranked football team began Southern Athletic Association play with a 28-7 road win over Hendrix College on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers improved to 4-0 this season, while Hendrix dropped to 1-3 to start the year. Trinity also improves to 4-2 against the Warriors with its second straight win in the series.

Quarterback Tucker Horn (Graham, Texas / Graham) accounted for three of Trinity's four touchdowns in the game, including a pair of TD passes in the second half. He finished 18-of-22 passing for 177 yards, while rushing for 18 yards and a score.

The Tiger defense recorded seven total sacks and held Hendrix to just 20 yards rushing in the game. Trinity also forced a turnover and blocked a field goal. Michael Jewett (Houston, Texas / Strake Jesuit) and Carson Byrd (Waco, Texas / Midway) had 2.5 tackles for loss among eight total tackles and the duo combined for three sacks.

Trinity will be at home for a mid-season showdown that will almost certainly have a hand in determining the league champion this year. The Tigers will host Birmingham-Southern in a clash of two 2021 NCAA Playoff teams, as well as matching up the top two teams in the SAA from a year ago.

The Rundown

Trinity opened the game with a 13-play scoring drive that ate up nearly half of the first quarter and covered 66 yards. The longest play was a 19-yard pass to tight end Matthew Kovacevich (Friendswood, Texas / Friendswood) and the Tigers converted a pair of third downs to keep the drive going. Winston Hutchison (Round Rock, Texas / McNeil) punched in the game's first score from three yards out to put the visitors on top 7-0.

Hendrix answered with a drive of its own that stalled inside the Trinity five yard line as the Tiger defense made a huge stand on the first possession. The Warriors covered 67 yards on the drive that featured 15 plays and took 8:30 off the clock. Hendrix ended up settling for a short field goal attempt, but Kennedy Stewart (The Woodlands, Texas / The Woodlands) blocked the try and the Tigers took over at the 30 yard line just over a minute into the second quarter.

Both teams traded short three-and-out drives after that, but the Tigers fumbled the punt by Hendrix and the Warriors ended up with another possession. Hendrix drove inside the Trinity 25, but Byrd picked up a sack on fourth-and-seven to avoid any damage.

As Trinity picked up a first down early on the ensuing drive, a penalty by Hendrix moved the Tigers across the 50 yard line. Horn then hit Ryan Merrifield (Austin, Texas / Vandergrift) for a 19-yard game and Legend Grigsby (Houston, Texas / Cypress Creek) rushed for 15 more yards to make it first-and-goal from the 10. Two plays later, Horn ran it in himself for an eight-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Tigers with under six minutes left in the half.

Hendrix used all but three seconds of the remaining time in the second quarter, but a 44-yard field goal fell short and the Tigers took a 14-0 lead into the locker room.

The second half began with another extended drive by Hendrix, going 66 yards over 13 plays and taking nearly seven minutes off the clock before Trinity's offense even saw the field. This time it was a 33-yard field goal that missed wide right and the shutout remained.

Trinity was stopped just short deep in its own territory, but went for it on fourth-and-inches to try and keep the drive alive. Hendrix got the stop, though, and took over at the Trinity 29 yard line. The Warriors converted on fourth-and-short from inside the five, then powered across the line on the next play to cut the Tiger lead in half.

For the second time in the game, Hendrix opted to kick it away from Trinity return man BJ Stewart (Shreveport, La. / Woodlawn). The short kick turned into a 14-yard return and the Tigers started the drive from their own 44 yard line. Four plays later, Horn got the ball to Stewart anyway and he streaked down the sideline in front of the Hendrix bench for a 38-yard score.

Hendrix looked poised to score again to keep pace with the Tigers, making it into the red zone before Trinity's defense picked off a deflected pass at its own 10 yard line. Trey King (Round Rock, Texas / Round Rock) got his first interception of the year and promptly returned it 31 yards to set up the Tiger offense near midfield. The Tigers still led 21-7 early in the fourth quarter

On the ensuing drive, Trinity moved the ball to the Hendrix 31 before facing a key fourth-down play with 6:39 remaining in the game. The Tigers converted as Horn scrambled for a six-yard gain, then after a false start penalty, Horn connected with Merrifield from 27 yards out for the game's final score.

Jewett and Byrd combined for a sack on the first play of the ensuing drive and Hendrix never really recovered. The Warriors had to punt it away with less than four minutes remaining and a three-score deficit. Trinity nearly ran out the remainder of the clock, but a penalty interrupted the momentum and Hendrix got the ball back with 90 seconds left. Trinity's defense finished like they started, though, dropping Hendrix for two tackles for loss on the game's final three plays.

Numbers to Note

Mac Douglas (Fairhope, Ala. / Bayside Academy) led the team with nine total tackles in the game, sharing in one of the team's seven sacks.

All three of the tackles made by Jacob Munoz (Cedar Park, Texas / Cedar Park) were for a loss, including a pair of sacks to match Byrd for the team lead.

Merrifield led the Tigers with six receptions for 77 yards and a score, while Stewart finished with three catches that covered 47 yards and a touchdown.

Horn's 18-for-22 passing day is tied for the 10th-best completion percentage (81.8%) in school history (minimum of 10 completions).

Blake Lin (Tyler, Texas / All Saints) went 4-for-4 on PATs in today's game and has connected on all 20 of his attempts this season.

Coach Speak

"First and foremost, I'd like to congratulate our guys on winning their first road trip of the season, as well as earning their first SAA win of the year," said Head Coach Jerheme Urban. "Hendrix did a great job during their bye week of changing some things up and putting together a really nice game plan. It was evident from the beginning of the game that they were not going to allow us a chance in the return game, and that they were going to really try and shorten the game by using as much of the play clock as possible on every play. This was different for our guys as they are used to trying to dictate the tempo of the game and this was a great learning experience for us in terms of not counting plays, but just making our plays count on offense. I believe we had 23 total plays in the first half and 21 in the second, and were able to convert those into four TDs, so I was pleased with that. 

Defensively it was really good to get a couple of guys back from injury and to start getting them back in the flow of things. We'll need a good week of practice because we put on film a handful of offside on the Hendrix hard count, and we have to expect more teams to do that moving forward. We're a very aggressive defense, and we can't let teams extend drives because of our eagerness to make plays. With that being said the defense did an outstanding job of playing with their backs against the wall. Kennedy Stewart had the big FG block on their first drive, they forced a four and out after Hendrix gained possession when their punt hit our hold up guy and they recovered, forced two more missed FGs, and Trey had the big interception late in the game. 

As we get back to work next week we know we have some areas to clean up as we prepare for a really physical and very talented BSC team at home next Saturday. We will be better because of this game, and again, I'm so fired up for our players to be 4-0 on the season and 1-0 on the road."

Up Next

The Tigers return home for the first SAA home game of the year, facing off against Birmingham-Southern College at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 8.