SHSU football wins Southland Conference championship
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 02:11
The Bearkat football team made sure that nobody was going to stop them as they cruised past the Northwestern State Demons, 43-17, and won the first undisputed Southland Conference title in school history on Saturday.
While the school has previously won three conference championships (1991, 2001, 2004), they were all split championships.
As well as securing the first undisputed conference title, SHSU became the first Texas member of the conference to go unbeaten and untied in the conference.
The team also improved to 10-0 (7-0 in SLC) this season and jumped up to number 2 in the Sports Network Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) rankings and received 71 first place votes, five away from being tied with Montana State for the number 1 spot.
After North Dakota State (previous number one team) lost, the Bearkats are the only unbeaten FCS school and are currently riding the longest winning streak in all of division I football (12). The winning streak is tied for the longest in school history which was set in between 1955 and 1957.
As the final seconds of the clock ran down on Saturday, head coach Willie Fritz was hit with a Gatorade bath as the team celebrated in the middle of the field as Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett presented the conference trophy to the Fritz.
"It was awesome," linebacker Kash David said. "Being a senior and going out with a championship, that's what every player across the nation dreams about. They want to go undefeated and win their conference championship. My dream came true tonight. It took five years, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
David was one of 12 seniors who were honored before the game, as it would be their last regular season home game of their collegiate career.
Early and often in the game, the offense clicked and they racked up 443 yards. Running back Tim Flanders, quarterback Brian Bell and wide receiver Richard Sincere led the way for the offense, combining for 425 yards and five touchdowns.
On the first drive of the game, the Kats took the ball downfield for a 5-play, 82-yard drive that was capped off by a 36-yard touchdown run by Sincere.
On the following kickoff the Kats forced their first turnover of the day as the Demons fumbled the ball away.
On the first play of the second quarter, Flanders scored his first touchdown of the day on a 15-yard run, giving him 18 rushing touchdowns on the season.
After the Kats added a 38-yard field goal by Craig Alaniz to increase the lead to 16-0, the defense again stepped up and safety Darnell Taylor intercepted Demons quarterback Brad Henderson and returned it for a 23-yard touchdown.
The Demons would add a touchdown on a bad snap that went over the head of Sincere in the "Wild Bearkat" formation and Demons linebacker Anthony Gilbert recovered the ball in the endzone.
The Kats took their first offensive drive of the third quarter down for a touchdown. Bell, in trouble, was flushed out of the pocket and found Flanders open downfield for a 35-yard touchdown, widening the lead to 30-7.
The Demons added a field goal as kicker John Shaugnessy made a 34-yard field goal.
Two plays later, the Kats scored again as Sincere ran for a 12-yard touchdown that was set up by the previous play when Flanders ran for a 43-yard gain.
The Kats finished their scoring on the next drive after Bell connected with Sincere for a 62-yard touchdown.
The Demons capped off the scoring and added one more late in the fourth quarter as running back D.J. Palmer ran for a 1-yard touchdown.
"We are really excited, happy and proud that we came away with this hard fought victory," Fritz said. "I know I sound like a broken record, but I really feel like I have the best coaching staff in the country. Those guys do a tremendous job. I'm really proud of our seniors. Those guys embraced me and the coaching staff, and they made it a heck of a lot quicker transition that most people that we would have had."
Next, the Kats will travel to San Marcos to take on Texas State (6-5) and are looking to become the second undefeated team in school history, the first being in 1956.
"We're not done yet and we've got six more weeks of going 1-0," David said. "Once we watch the tape on Monday, it's 1-0 next week. This is a great feeling and we are going to enjoy it tonight, but it's not over yet. We still have a lot of football left to play."
Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 3 p.m.