Missed opportunities piled up against the Savage Storm in a deceptively lopsided 31-9 loss on Saturday at the hands of the Harding Bison.
This game was well within reach as Harding only led 10-3 halfway through the third. But a “poor call” to go for a fourth-down run – after two blocked field goals in the first half – led to a Bison touchdown and the eventual ruination of Southeastern’s final game of this season at Paul Laird Field.
“I made a poor call early in the third quarter, I should have (called for) punting the football,” said Southeastern Coach Ray Richards. “We really got off to a bad start. We gave them 10 points. We made some crucial mistakes today.”
Harding improves to 8-1 on the season, with a 6-1 conference mark and nipping at the heels of idle Henderson State (9-0, 7-0). Southeastern slips to 4-5 on the season and 2-5 in the conference, facing a road finale in Ada next Saturday against East Central (4-5, 2-4).
The Bison eclipsed Southeastern on the ground 338 yards to 125, although Nick Sioson picked up 117 passing yards out of the Storm’s total tally of 160 in the air. Late in the fourth, Sioson connected to Ryan Shelley on a 32-yard scoring pass to account for the Storm’s only touchdown.
Harding scored 10 points in a rough first quarter for the Storm. SOSU racked up two turnovers in their first two plays, both of which ended in scoring drives for the Bison.
Short gains for starting QB Jercolby Bradley, Anthony Gale and CJ Kirk (87 all-purpose yards to lead the team) got the Savage Storm close enough for a field goal early in the second quarter. Chris Peoples got the Storm on the board but they still trailed 10-3.
Simeon Stevenson recovered a Harding fumble, but the offense could not convert. The first half ended with Southeastern going 1-for-3 on field goals and Harding 0-for-1.
Instead of risking another blocked kick, Southeastern elected to go for a scoring pass on fourth down but it fell short. Harding’s Ahmad Scott scored on the next series and the Bison led 17-3 going into the fourth quarter.
Ty Finley broke loose for a big run which set up a short touchdown for Harding a few plays later and the Bison were off to the races at 24-3. Sioson found Shelley on the 32-yard score, but the kick failed and the Bison still led 24-9 with 5:07 left.
An on-side kick attempt by the Savage Storm ended in a 44-yard kickoff return for Harding’s Roderick Cohn and the 31-9 final.
Sioson finished 6-14 with 117 yards and a touchdown; Bradley was 6-9 for 43 yards with an interception. Stevenson was credited with eight tackles and the recovered fumble.
The team seniors were honored before the game, other seniors at a halftime ceremony, and Native American scholars were also honored as part of Native American Heritage Month.