BELTON — From being an honorable mention all-conference punter as a freshman at Howard Payne, to playing on the Mary Hardin-Baylor junior varsity squad as a sophomore and being the varsity backup quarterback to begin the truncated, pandemic-impacted campaign in the spring of 2021, Kyle King has come a long way — so far in fact that his name is now etched in the UMHB record book.
King threw four touchdown passes — the last of which made him the Crusaders’ career leader in that category — and No. 4 UMHB slowed down Sul Ross State’s retooled offense chalk up a 45-14 victory Saturday afternoon on Fredenburg Field at Crusader Stadium.
King threw for 41 TDs in 2021 — six over the course of the five-game spring schedule and 35 during the Crusaders’ run to last season’s NCAA Division III championship — and has 23 this year with two regular-season games and the playoffs still remaining.
While thinking back to his arrival at UMHB, even he didn’t envision his career turning out like this.
“Records were never a thought in my mind back then. I had the mentality to help the team however I needed to, whether that was on special teams or switching to defense or tight end. I just wanted to get on this green turf and play some football somehow,” said the senior quarterback, who surpassed the mark of 67 scoring passes set by LiDarral Bailey from 2009-12. “The good Lord took care of me, and they say even a fool gets lucky sometimes. I lucked into some good fortune with some good receivers and a good offensive line, and here we are.”
The Lobos (2-5, 2-3 American Southwest Conference) have climbed a few slots in the league’s offensive rankings this season with a slew of talented transfers but found the end zone only twice. Their 308 yards — almost half of which came in the first quarter — were 128 fewer than their season average because of a UMHB defense that sacked Trent Graves six times and kept him under almost constant pressure.
“They have some weapons and can really move the ball offensively. I thought our defensive line was the big reason why were able to keep them to 14 points,” said Crusaders coach Larry Harmon, who got 3½ sacks from Sante Parker, forced fumbles from Parker, Johnny Smith-Rider and Tommy Bowden and an interception from Dorian Williams. “I thought we played pretty well on defense.”
Sul Ross State’s Travell Lumpkin fumbled into the arms of defensive tackle Pete Smith on the game’s first play, but UMHB (7-1, 6-0) couldn’t get in the end zone and settled for Anthony Avila’s 20-yard field goal before it got its offense cranked up.
Williams intercepted a Graves pass at the Crusaders 17-yard line to thwart the Lobos’ second possession, and UMHB capped an eight-play, 83-yard drive with King’s 17-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Jordan for a 10-0 lead.
The Lobos got on the board 7½ minutes later when they moved 61 yards in nine plays for Lumpkin’s 1-yard scoring plunge that trimmed the gap to 10-7 by the end of the first quarter.
The Crusaders dominated the next 15 minutes.
Aphonso Thomas ran in from 15 yards out just a minute into the second period and, after a Lobos punt pinned UMHB at its 1, the Crusaders needed only eight plays to march 99 yards. The drive was punctuated with King’s 57-yard TD throw to Jerry Day, who caught the pass along the left sideline at the Sul Ross State 32 then traversed laterally all the way across the field to beat two Lobos into the front-right corner of the end zone for UMHB’s 24-7 advantage.
The final points of the opening half were set up by Day’s 42-yard reception to the Lobos 4, and Jordan went over the top of a defender in the end zone on the next play to catch King’s fade pass that made it 31-7.
After Sul Ross State successfully executed an onside kick to start the second half but fumbled five plays later, King broke the record with 10:55 left in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass to Day.
“Kyle’s a special player. We’re very fortunate to have Kyle King as our quarterback,” Harmon said of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Milano product who was 19-of-31 passing for 250 yards but threw his first two interceptions of the season. “He’s so cerebral and very prideful. I guarantee you that he will study this film tomorrow harder than probably any of us.”
The Lobos got within 38-14 in the final minute of the third when Graves’ 43-yard pass toward the goal line bounded high off the helmet of a Crusaders player and fell into the hands Eddie Sinegal, and UMHB capped the scoring with Montana Miller’s 5-yard TD run.
Graves finished with 236 yards on 22-of-33 passing, but the Lobos totaled only 57 yards rushing against a Crusaders defense that got a game-high 10 tackles from Omari Frazier.
Thomas ran for 121 yards, and Day totaled 150 yards on seven catches for UMHB, which has an open date next week before a road matchup with ASC co-leader Howard Payne.