Wonder Boys’ Title Chase Continues at ECU

Football conference championship races typically heat up just as the weather cools off.

Such will be the case on Saturday, Oct. 17, when nationally 24th-ranked Arkansas Tech University (5-1) visits East Central University (4-2) for a 2 p.m. Great American Conference contest at Norris Field in Ada, Okla.

The Wonder Boys are tied with nationally 19th-ranked Henderson State University (5-1) for first place in the GAC standings with five weeks remaining in the regular season.

Arkansas Tech is in pursuit of its 19th conference championship in football, but its first since 1999. This marks the first football season since 2009 that the Wonder Boys’ championship hopes have remained alive long enough to see the leaves begin to turn.

“The thing I’m excited about is we’ve come together as a football team,” said Arkansas Tech head coach Raymond Monica. “I think we’re playing well on offense, on defense and in special teams. This is a pretty tight-knit group of guys. Obviously, with the tragedy that happened in the summertime (death of teammate Zemaric Holt)…I really believe that has brought this team closer and closer together throughout the course of the season. They’ve been working extremely hard, and I’m looking forward to seeing them play this Saturday.”

East Central is part of a four-way tie for third place in the league standings. ECU, Harding University, Ouachita Baptist University and Southern Arkansas University remain very much in GAC championship contention with matching records of 4-2.

The tandem of senior quarterback Rocky Moore and junior wide receiver David Moore is one reason East Central is in that position. Rocky Moore ranks second in the nation at the NCAA Division II level in touchdown passes this season (24). Ten of those scoring strikes have been received by David Moore, who leads the GAC in receiving yards (100.3 per game).

“First thing is their offensive line giving them enough time to throw the football down the field,” said Monica. “Their running backs do a good job in protection, and they have a lot of talent all the way across the board at the wide receiver position. They are big, physical types of receivers.”

Trying to contain Moore and Moore will be an Arkansas Tech defense that leads the GAC in total defense (284.5 yards allowed per game) and ranks No. 3 in the conference against the pass (159 passing yards allowed per game).

Freshman defensive back Cuá Rose has intercepted four passes for the Wonder Boys’ defense this season, second-most in the conference.

Another freshman had a breakout performance for Arkansas Tech last Saturday in a 30-12 win over Ouachita Baptist. Bryan Allen was named GAC co-offensive player of the week after he rushed 29 times for 279 yards and a touchdown.

It was the second-highest single-game rushing total by an individual in Wonder Boys’ history. Travis Horn set the record with 288 rushing yards in a win over the University of Central Arkansas in 2001.

“In preseason camp, (Allen) always seemed like he had a big play in him,” said Monica. “They were 50 and 60 yard gains. He has great speed and very good vision. He got his opportunity last week, and he made the most of it.”

East Central holds a 10-7 edge over Arkansas Tech in the all-time football series between the two institutions. The road team has won every meeting between the Wonder Boys and the Tigers since the formation of the GAC in 2011. When Tech defeated ECU 26-17 in 2013, it was the Wonder Boys’ first victory at Norris Field since 1929.

Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and www.arkansastechsports.com will have live play-by-play coverage of the Tech-ECU game. Pre-game coverage begins at 1:30 p.m.