Pioneers win first game in 72 years - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Pioneers win first game in 72 years

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Provided by Wayland Baptist University

Playing their first football season since 1940, the Pioneers captured their first victory of the year on Saturday afternoon, keeping 3,000 fans on the edge of their seats at Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldog Stadium as Wayland defeated Howard Payne University, 27-23.

"That was fun," Wayland coach Butch Henderson said after the historic win. "The kids made play after play after play."

Looking half overjoyed and half relieved to get that first win under their belt, Henderson admitted to getting a bit choked up in his post-game speech to his players.

"I couldn't talk a whole lot," he said.

It's no wonder. The Wayland campus and Plainview community have been buzzing ever since it was announced 2½ years ago that football would return to Wayland for the first time in more than seven decades. After going through a season without playing any games last year, the excitement erupted in San Antonio on Sept. 1 when the Pioneers took the field in an exhibition game against Monterrey Tech of Mexico. It reached a fever pitch last Saturday when Wayland played its first home game against Adams State of Colorado.

The next step in the process was notching a victory, and Wayland took care of that against Howard Payne, a program that's been playing football for more than a century.

"It feels good. Some of these guys have been waiting a year, so I feel good for them," said Cody Frye, a true freshman linebacker from Birdville High School whose interception with 25 seconds left in the game sealed the victory.

"This is 72 years of history," said Kendall Roberson, one of the players who formed Wayland's "leadership class" last football season. "We got our first win right here. This is very exciting … very exciting."

Roberson certainly played a large role in it. The redshirt freshman who played at Lubbock Coronado High School under Henderson scored all four of Wayland's touchdowns, including the go-ahead score on a 2-yard run with just 47 seconds left in the game. That touchdown followed a 1-yard TD run just three minutes earlier that pulled the Pioneers to within three.

"Coach emphasized believing in yourself," Roberson said, adding that the Pioneers really pulled together after last week's 55-7 loss to Adams State . "Our unity went way up."

Trailing 23-20 with under four minutes to go, Wayland's defense forced the Yellow Jackets into a 3-and-out, and the Pioneer offense took over with great field position – the Yellow Jacket 30-yard line – following a 9-yard punt. A pass interference penalty got the Pioneers halfway home, but an illegal block set them back to the 16. However, another pass interference against Howard Payne set Wayland up with a first down at the 5, and Roberson went over for the score two plays later. Reid Layton booted the capping extra point.

"The offensive line did a heck of a job, and the coaches did great with their calls," Roberson said. "Everybody played with great effort."

With 47 ticks left on the clock and 85 yards away from Wayland's end zone, Howard Payne's offense took over. The Jackets completed a single short pass before Frye intercepted a pass at the HPU 30 to seal the deal.

"It was a nail-biter," Frye said. "We moved it a lot better on offense (than last week), and our defense held them real good. We still made a couple of mistakes, but …"

…But they won, and after 72 years in between victories that was all that mattered.

Henderson said his team showed lots of improvement since its last two outings.

"They really improved with the detail things," the coach said. "When you concentrate on details you're able to eliminate a lot of those mistakes we had the week before: penalties, fumbles, busted coverages. We didn't have that this week."

Roberson scored the game's first touchdown on a 44-yard run on the fourth play from scrimmage just 1½ minutes into the first quarter. Howard Payne scored the next 10 points, including a 20-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the second quarter, to lead 10-7 at halftime.

Roberson regained the lead for the Pioneers, 14-10, on a 16-yard TD run with 3:45 left in the third. The Jackets scored a pair of quick touchdowns early in the fourth quarter after Wayland fumbled a kickoff, giving Howard Payne the ball at the Wayland 40-yard line. After the turnover the Jackets needed only three plays to find the end zone, assuming a 23-14 lead with 10:17 left prior to the Pioneers' late heroics.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Luiz Gonzalez, getting his first start for injured starter Anthony Campuzano, expertly directed the late scoring drives. Gonzalez twice hit Saul Elizalde for big completions, including once when Elizalde made the grab despite an interference flag flying.

After Wayland pulled to within 23-20, the Pioneer defense came up with a huge stop, with key tackles made by Holt Henderson, Braedyn Sherrill, Geoffrey Gonzalez and Stephen Collins, among others. After the Jackets' 9-yard punt that may have been partially blocked, Luis Gonzalez and the rest of the Wayland offense set up at the Howard Payne 30 with 1:53 left. After a couple of pass interference penalties, Roberson was dancing in the end zone following his fourth TD, this time with Wayland's momentous victory just 47 seconds away.

Led by Roberson's 169 yards rushing on 25 carries, Wayland ended with 408 yards of offense compared to 349 for the Jackets (0-3). Luis Gonzalez completed 21-of-34 passes for 259 yards, and Elizalde was the team's top receiver, grabbing six catches for 73 yards.

On defense, linebacker Kevin Carter of Irving Nimitz led the Pioneers with eight tackles, including an 11-yard sack. Blair Magee ended with six stops and Kaleen Jones five. 

Wayland improved its record to 1-1 on the season. The Pioneers play on the road the next two Saturdays – at 6 p.m. Sept. 22 against McMurry in Abilene then at 2 p.m. against Texas College in Tyler – before returning home to take on Langston, Okla., on Oct. 6.

Frye said he wasn't surprised the Pioneers were able to taste victory so soon into their first season. What's more, he feels there are more where that came from.

"I didn't think we would go undefeated, but I felt like we would be OK," Frye said. "I think we have a good season ahead of us."

Henderson also feels optimistic about where the Pioneers are headed.

"We've got that (first) win off our back," he said. "Now we can stop worrying about making mistakes and just go play.

"I'm really proud of what the team has been able to do."
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