The calendar might say mid-October, but a new four-game football season begins this Saturday for Arkansas Tech. The Wonder Boys will open a stretch of four consecutive Great American Conference games to close out the 2011 season by taking on the Southern Arkansas Muleriders for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Wilkins Stadium in Magnolia on Saturday, Oct. 15. Radio station KWKK 100.9 FM will have the broadcast in the Arkansas River Valley.
Click here to access an Internet stream of the broadcast. Arkansas Tech (1-5 overall, 0-1 GAC) has not played a conference game since dropping a 38-31 decision at Arkansas-Monticello in the season opener on Sept. 3. Since then, the Wonder Boys have played the most difficult 2011 schedule among the 152 institutions that compete in NCAA Division II football. The six teams that Arkansas Tech has faced so far this year have a combined in-division record of 22-5, which is a winning percentage of 81.5 percent. No other team in NCAA Division II has an opponents’ in-division winning percentage higher than 76.2 percent. Arkansas Tech has faced three nationally-ranked teams in the last four weeks, including the teams now ranked No. 1 (North Alabama) and No. 2 (Delta State) in the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II top 25. With all of that behind them, head coach Steve Mullins and the Wonder Boys are looking forward to the opportunity to compete for the inaugural GAC championship during the final month of the 2011 season. “If we are fortunate enough to win this Saturday, the worst we will be is tied for second in the GAC standings,” said Mullins. “A win this Saturday would give our players some things to look forward to and to fight for this season. It’s extremely important that we get off to a good start this Saturday so that things can continue to build for the next three Saturdays.” Southern Arkansas (1-5, 1-2) is led by junior running back Mark Johnson, who ranks third in the GAC in rushing (99.4 yards per game). He has posted three 100-yard rushing games this season. “(SAU) does a great job of mixing up its offense,” said Mullins. “We’ll see plenty of screen passes today. They have the patience to attack in the passing game with a three-step drop. But at the end of the day, they are going to hand the ball to (Johnson).” Arkansas Tech will enter the game trying to snap a four-game losing streak, its longest since losing the final three games of the 1998 season and the first contest of the 1999 season. That group of Wonder Boys responded by winning the 1999 Gulf South Conference championship. This group of Wonder Boys has the same opportunity over the next four weeks in the Great American Conference. “There’s absolutely nothing fun about losing,” said Mullins, whose 90 wins as Arkansas Tech head football coach are the most in school history. “There are times when you can compete and maybe feel good about yourself, but ultimately it’s a loss. In athletics, that’s how your life is built. It is a lot of wear and tear when you go through difficult times, but you’ve got to keep bouncing back. We must work hard to maintain a good attitude. Our biggest advantage right now is that we have a clean break and a chance to look forward to these four conference games, but the other three won’t mean a lot if we don’t take care of business this Saturday.” Arkansas Tech will host Southeastern Oklahoma State for its 2011 Homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 22. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. The Wonder Boys will close out the season by hosting East Central University on Oct. 29 and by visiting Southwestern Oklahoma State on Nov. 5. Both of those games will begin at 2 p.m.
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