Braunton Harris head coach Howard Payne is heading in the right direction. The Yellow Jackets have only eight seniors on their roster, but are far from winning the most since 2006.
Injuries are unfortunately part of almost every football game. That's why coaches always preach the "next man's" mentality.
Howard Payne took this mentality to a new level last Saturday, after the two top quarterbacks of the Yellow Jackets were injured in their game.
Freshman Kolbi Tate had never taken a picture in a college match until the third quarter against the Southwest. Tate led HPU 10 points for the fourth quarter and a 24-16 win against the Pirates, which earned the Yellow Jackets the trophy for Dave Campbell's team of the week in the Small College category.
After starting quarterback McGwire Martin was injured in the first quarter, starting quarterback Caleb Estes took control of the offense. Estes was injured in the third quarter, leaving the Yellow Jackets to Tate.
Tate answered the call by completing 5 out of 10 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Fortunately for Tate and HPU, the senior receiver-receiver DunTayviun Gross is a reliable target. He had another remarkable game with eight catches for 105 yards and a Tate nine-yard pass for the fourth-quarter winning score.
The Yellow Jackets' defense has also been impressive, forcing five turnovers, including four fumbles.
Defensive lineman Brady Wade led the way with 10 tackles, seven solo, three for defeat, half a sack and two forced fumbles. His defensive linemate James Jakubowski also forced two fumbles for HPU.
Linebacker Austin Kilgore has been the defense leader for the entire season and leads the team with 73 tackles. Kilgore produced eight more tackles, five solo and one bag in the win.
The victory over the Southwest was another significant step forward for HPU head coach Braxton Harris in his third year at the helm.
Division III fans can recognize Harris as he was Mary Hardin-Baylor's quarterback from 2003 to 2005 and competed in the 2004 title game. Before joining HPU, Harris was the defensive coordinator for Texas Lutheran.
Harris inherited an HPU team that needed a complete redesign of the football program. Building the Yellow Jackets was not easy, HPU started the 2019 season with a total of three wins in the last four seasons.
Saturday's win was HPU's fourth win of the year. This is the highest number of wins since 2014. The Yellow Jackets can win an impressive fifth win against Belhaven at home on Saturday afternoon.
A win over the Blazers would be the most wins for the Yellow Jackets since 2006. A win in the season finale would also give HPU the most conference wins of the season since 2005.
Harris is focused on building HPU groups with young players, as evidenced by the fact that the Yellow Jackets only have eight seniors.
This season has been a turning point for the Yellow Jackets and all signs point to continued improvement as Harris continues to make HPU a team that could potentially compete for the title of the Southwest Conference.
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