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College Footbakll: Early mistakes cost Henderson State

Three first-half turnovers proved costly for Henderson State as No. 12 St. Cloud State upended No. 4 Reddies 40-35, in the first round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs, Saturday at Carpenter- Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia, Ark.

The Reddies totaled four turnovers which led to 13 points for St. Cloud State.

Henderson State didn’t hesitate getting it offense moving as the Reddies quickly moved the ball down field on its opening drive as Kevin Rodgers hit Israel Valentin with a 60 yard toss down to the SCSU 25.

Two plays later, Rodgers hit Darius Davis with a 20-yard toss but Eric Poggenburg forced a fumble with SCSU’s Tate Christopherson recovering the loose pigskin on the Husky 8 to end the Reddie drive.

Henderson’s next drive again ended in SCSU territory as Rodgers threw his first of two interceptions on the day as Poggenburg picked off the junior signal-caller and returned the ball 20 yards to the Reddie 46.

Ledell White scored six plays later on a 10-yard run to give the Huskies an early 7-0 lead with 6:48 left in the opening quarter.

Henderson State answered on its next possession as Rodgers connected with Joseph Snapp for a 7-yard score to cap-off an 11-play, 68-yard drive.

After the Reddie defense held and forced St. Cloud to punt, Al Lasker fumbled the kick by attempting to scoop up the ball off the turf and Joe Mooney recovered for the Huskies at the Reddie 17.

Michael Walker scored on a 1-yard plunge four plays later to make the score 13-7 early in the second quarter. The point-after attempt failed as Zack Richardson blocked Eric Mielke’s attempt. Richardson also blocked a Mielke 31-yard field goal attempt in the fourth-quarter.

Henderson then took the lead on its next series as Keaton Stigger scored his 15th rushing touchdown of the season from two yards out. Charles Gonsalves’ point-after was good to make the score 14-13 with 11:13 to play in the half.

St. Cloud State, 11-1 on the season, built a 27-14 lead with a 40-yard touchdown by Walker and then a 14-yard pass from Phillip Klaphake to Matt Hentges.

The second half began with the Reddie defense forcing a SCSU fumble as Stigger delivered a big hit on Walker to force the ball loose with Trevon Del Rio recovering the on the HSU 46.

Rodgers quickly went to work, hitting Corey Chappell on a 31-yard crossing route to begin the drive, then finished the 5-play, 54-yard series with a 7-yard scoring toss to cut the deficit to 27-21 just 2:17 seconds into the second half.

Again the Huskies responded pushing the lead back to 34-21 when Klaphake scored on an 8-yard rush to complete an 8-play, 66-yard drive with 9:18 left in the third-quarter.

On Henderson’s next drive, the Reddies drove the ball down to the SCSU 6, but on 4th-and-1, Ryan McDonald was stood up at the line by Chris Hansen to deny the Reddies.

The Reddie offense, which accumulated 619 yards of total offense on the afternoon, was moving the ball up-and-down the field in the second-half.

With 7:33 left in the game, Rodgers connected with Davis for a 36-yard gain and then a 25-yard score in which Davis dove into the end zone to make the score 34-28.

However, St. Cloud State put in a trick-play as running back Michael Walker hit Dan Brown for a 47-yard touchdown following a 47-yard kickoff return by Chad Peterson.

Trailing 40-28, the Reddies put together another scoring drive with Kevin Nichols scoring on a 5-yard run with 3:59 left in the game.

St. Cloud State ran the clock down to 12 seconds before the Reddies were able to get the ball back converting a pair of first-downs in the drive.

With no timeouts left, Rodgers hit Chappell for 13 yards out to the HSU 36, but his final pass fell incomplete as time expired.

Rodgers, the two-time Great American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, completed 41-of-54 passes for 567 yards and four touchdowns. The Rockwall, Texas product went over the 10,000-yard career passing mark as he finished the season with a HSU and GAC record 4,807 yards to run his career total to 10,076 yards and 90 touchdowns in 30 games played.

Davis also made Reddie history setting the HSU single-season receiving record after having 10 catches for 213. Davis ended the season with 1597 yards surpassing the previous HSU record of 1505 yards set by Chad Luttrell in 2000. The junior from Frisco, Texas now has 2425 career receiving yards and has totaled 29 touchdown receptions.

Valentin also went over the 100-yard receiving mark for the Reddies as the Fort Worth, Texas product had 138 yards on 7 catches.

Stigger, the GAC Defensive Player of the Year and a Cliff Harris Award candidate, led the Reddie defense with 16 tackles including 12 solo stops and one tackle for lost yardage. The Collierville, Tenn. product set the HSU single-season record for tackles running his total to 136 this season, passing Alan Houston who had 122 stops in 2002.

In his three years at Henderson, Stigger totaled 303 total tackles and earned All-GAC First-Team honors every year.

Also having a big day defensively was Ricardo Mendez who had 12 tackles including several big hits.

The Reddies ended the season with an 11-1 record, their second GAC title, and third conference title in four seasons.

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