Reddies’ season bigger than final loss

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published November 29, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 28, 2012 at 9:28 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Kevin Nichols scores a touchdown for the Reddies during the Battle of the Ravine at Henderson State University on Nov. 10 against Ouachita Baptist University.

— While the Griffons of Missouri Western State University smacked down the Henderson State University Reddies on their home field last Saturday in an NCAA Division II playoff game, HSU and its football program still ended up a winner.

“Coach Scott Maxfield has built a winning tradition here,” said Troy Mitchell, sports information director for Henderson. “Being undefeated and getting into the playoffs will have a tremendous impact on the team and the school.”

Missouri Western beat HSU 45-21 in the game at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia. The Reddies had a bye week to prepare for the game while the Griffons played against the University of Minnesota-Duluth to move to the second round of the playoffs.

Henderson trailed 31-14 at the half, and Mitchell said things just never got rolling for the Reddies.

“The playoffs are on another level,” he said. “It took three years before Missouri Western won its first playoff game.

However, the Reddies still have their first 10-victory season intact and are the Great American Conference champions. That means more players will be attracted to the Arkadelphia campus to be part of a winning program, Mitchell said.

“There was a time when players might come to school and either quit school or stop playing,” he said. “There might be only three players from a class of recruits left on the team after four years. Under coach Maxfield, we don’t see that.”

Mitchell said more players are being redshirted for the first year, allowing players to be part of the program but not on the active roster for a year.

“This gives time for the players to be bigger and stronger, and time to establish themselves in the coach’s system,” he said. “Kevin Rodgers, the quarterback, is a redshirt sophomore in his third year in the system and was breaking records.”

The exposure Henderson gained with the undefeated season and the national playoff game are expected to attract more regional athletes to the team.

“This will impact recruiting,” Mitchell said. “We had a lot of recruits visiting for the [Ouachita Baptist University] game, and that group will only grow larger now. We will be getting a lot of attention.”

The game was played before 5,069 spectators, Mitchell said.

The game brought back a lot of alumni, the sports information director said, including many who were not regulars.

“I saw alum I had not met before,” said Mitchell, who has been with the Reddies for eight seasons.

“That’s not bad for a week with no students,” he said. “Our side of the stands were filled, and Missouri Western brought about 800 people with them.”

Although classes were out because of the Thanksgiving holiday, all the football personnel, including all of the players, stayed to prepare for the game, including not only the starters, but backups, the scout team and redshirts.

“As soon as coach Maxfield said the team was staying, his wife put the word out that they were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 135,” Mitchell said. “People came to help, and they served 30 turkeys and 10 hams with all the trimmings.

“It was the first time for some of these young men to have a big Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. That was very touching to me.”

With the playoffs behind them, the Reddies have raised the bar for their team’s next season, and they will learn from their experience.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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