Seventeen Arkansas Tech University seniors will play their final home game when the Wonder Boys host Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Great American Conference football at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field in Russellville on Saturday, Oct. 29.
Kickoff for Arkansas Tech’s 2016 Homecoming contest is scheduled for 2 p.m. Party at the Plaza, the pre-game tailgating celebration outside the stadium, will begin at 11 a.m.
Game tickets ($10 adults/$5 students and senior citizens) will be available during Party at the Plaza at the stadium ticket office. Those with a valid Arkansas Tech identification card will receive free admission.
Tech’s seniors --- Greg Abrams of Lakeland, Fla., Nick Akins of Mesquite, Texas, Seth Culp of Temple, Texas, D’Vonta Derricott of Richmond, Va., Michael Fine of Springdale, Tim Finley of Augusta, Demetris Ford of Magnolia, Lovis Hall of Carthage, Texas, Bo Harper of Monroe, La., Bruce Livingston of Bradenton, Fla., Trey Martin of Hot Springs, Quincy Peyton of Mesquite, Texas, Matthew Shade of Mineola, Texas, Ian Shuttleworth of Bryant, Luke Starks of Bigelow, Christian Van Buren of Pineville, La., and Henry Wesley of Winnsboro, La. --- have an opportunity to play a role in achieving something that has not been done at Arkansas Tech in a decade.
The Wonder Boys (4-4) need two wins in their final three games of 2016 in order to secure back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since they had three in a row from 2004-06. Tech will close out its season with road games at Southwestern Oklahoma State University on Nov. 5 and Harding University on Nov. 12.
“I appreciate what they’ve done during the four years they’ve been with me,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Raymond Monica when asked about his seniors. “We’ve been through a lot. Good times, bad times…up and down. I appreciate their effort and what they mean to this program. The thing about it…they’ll always be a Wonder Boy. This week is all about senior day. It’s the last time they’ll get a chance to wear that green and gold in their home stadium. That last home game always means a lot.”
In order to send their seniors out with a victory in their final game at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field, the Wonder Boys must find a way to contain Northwestern Oklahoma State quarterback Reid Miller.
A senior from Pampa, Texas, Miller ranks seventh in NCAA Division II in passing (315.9 yards per game) during the 2016 season. His 31 touchdown passes are the most in a single season in NWOSU history. Perhaps most importantly, Miller has only thrown six interceptions this year, down from the 21 interceptions he threw in 2015.
“I’ve been impressed with (Miller),” said Monica. “He’s been throwing the football very well, and with not many turnovers. They’re a team that has been going for it a lot on fourth down in the red zone, and even a little bit outside of that, to try to keep drives alive. They’ve been scoring a lot of points, and they’re running the ball successfully this year. There’s no question it’s going to be a big challenge for our defense.”
The strength of the Rangers’ defense is pressuring the quarterback. Led by All-America defensive end Joby Saint Fleur, Northwestern Oklahoma State (4-4) ranks third in the GAC in quarterback sacks this season with 17.
“We have to mix it up so those guys don’t know that it is a pass and they can come off the line,” said Monica.
Individual leaders for Arkansas Tech include junior quarterback Jabyes Cross (leads GAC in passing efficiency), junior running back Braden Stringer (13.2 yards per punt return, 1st in GAC), Culp (9.5 tackles per game, T-3rd in GAC) and Derricott (8.7 tackles per game, 9th in GAC).
Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will have live coverage of Saturday’s game.