Henderson State heads into its first road game at East Central 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday with its eyes wide open.

The Reddies want to avoid what occurred last year when East Central played at Henderson State and came away with a 35-28 victory. Four touchdowns came on passes of more than 10 yards.

“We were really playing selfish that game,” said senior defensive back Gary Vines. “We gave up those big plays. We came together after that game. Everybody started playing assignment football and played their role and that is what we need to do this week.”

It figures to be a close game that might come down to one or two plays in the fourth quarter. A week ago, Henderson State beat Southeastern Oklahoma State 13-11. East Central lost 42-28 to Ouachita Baptist. The game will be televised on American Sports Network (ASN).

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Henderson State used the loss to East Central last season as a springboard to 10 straight victories, including a 23-16 win over Sioux Falls in the first round of the playoffs.

“Last year we had that one loss against them and it really opened our eyes and we all remember that and we don’t want that to happen again,” Vines said. “We are a step ahead of last year because we don’t need that eye-opener. We know we can’t take anyone lightly. We have to give our all in every game.”

Vines said the Reddies are a little more athletic than last year, but what he likes best is the togetherness of this year’s squad. It showed in the first game when the defense picked up the offense.

“We played well the entire game,” Henderson State coach Scott Maxfield said of the defense. “We were put in some bad situations. At times, our offense wasn’t really moving the ball, field position wasn’t great. We hung in there and made some plays when we needed to. That was the difference in the game.”

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The Reddies have made the NCAA Division II playoffs three of the past four years.

“It is an accumulation of the hard work in the summer and the offseason and us, as players, trusting what our coaches tell us,” Vines said. “The most talented teams we have had aren’t necessarily the best teams we have had. The best teams that we have had in the past years are the ones that were less talented, but we believed in what the coaches were telling us. That is what gave us an edge, trusting our coaches.”

Vines has made an impact in his four years at Henderson State. Last season, he made first-team All-Great American Conference. He was third on the team in tackles with 76 and also had four interceptions.

“We are a family on and off the field,” Vines said. “We don’t go our separate ways off the field. The experience we have on campus as an athlete. We are not treated any differently. We are held to high standards. It is a great feeling knowing we have the support of the community behind you and all your teammates.”

2016 Statistics

  Henderson State East Central
Record 1-0 0-1
Points Scored 13 28
Points Allowed 11 42
Rushing Offense  170 77
Rushing Defense  122 234
Passing Offense 237 321
Passing Defense  147 162

Southwest Minnesota State looking to build on season-opening win

Southwest Minnesota State heads into its road game at Northern State looking to keep making progress.

The Mustangs are coming off one of their biggest wins in recent years when they beat No. 19 Minnesota Duluth 42-38.

“It was a big win for us this past Thursday,” said Southwest Minnesota coach Cory Sauter. “For us, we talk about trying to take the next step. We are coming off an 8-3 season, which was the best improvement in Division II.”

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In 2014, Southwest Minnesota State finished 3-8.

“In the offseason, we looked at it as what is the next step,” Sauter said. “We want to play more than what is on our schedule. We want to play a postseason game, another game some shape or form. We know the only way to do that is to win and beat top tier teams. We beat a ranked opponent and historically, one of the top teams in the conference. That was a big one for us.”

To accomplish postseason goals, winning road games is a must. Southwest Minnesota did that a year ago, going 5-1.

Sauter knows his Mustangs will face a stiff challenge Saturday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. (ET) and it will be televised on ESPN3. Northern State is coming off a tough 37-34 overtime loss against Augustana (S.D).

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“We have a good formula of having that bunker mentality against whoever we are playing on the road,” Sauter said. “This is a road game against a quality opponent and their fans do a nice job supporting the Wolves. It will be a fun matchup. We got to focus on ourselves and have a great week of preparation. We are going to battle through those things.”

Sauter credits commitment from the players during the offseason over the past few years for the improvement.

“Typically, in the past, we didn’t have the greatest attendance for lifting and running,” Sauter said. “The last couple of summers, the majority of our players stayed around and made that commitment. There are no surprises. We have guys who have bought in.”

2016 Statistics

  SW Minnesota St. Northern St.
Record 1-0 0-1
Points Scored 42 34
Points Allowed 38 37
Rushing Offense  44 276
Rushing Defense  243 187
Passing Offense 397 180
Passing Defense  296 253

Intriguing Top 25 Matchup

No. 24 Azusa Pacific, 1-0, goes on the road and takes on No. 13 Humboldt State, 6 p.m. (PT) Saturday at Redwood Bowl in Arcata, Calif.

Humboldt State won its season-opener 52-45 at Carson-Newman. Azusa Pacific played at home and beat West Texas A&M 28-10 last week.

A year ago, Humboldt State beat Azusa Pacific twice, scoring 62 points in one of the victories. The player to watch for Humboldt State is junior running back Ja’Quan Gardner, who rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns in the opener.