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Trips into Oklahoma successful

It will take more than 60 hours of bus travel for the state's six Division II football programs to meet their scheduling obligations this weekend against their Oklahoma counterparts in the Great American Conference.

More than 4,000 miles will be traversed and upwards of 600 gallons of gasoline will be used to complete the six Arkansas-Oklahoma-Arkansas round trips.

Road sweet road

• All six of the state’s Division II football teams are in action Saturday, but none of the games will take place in Arkansas. Following is a rundown of each team’s opponent, destination and approximate round-trip miles and travel time.

TRIP TO OKLAHOMA;MILES (TRAVEL TIME);KICKOFF

HARDING AT SOUTHERN NAZARENE

Searcy to Bethany;736 (5:31);1 p.m.

ARKANSAS TECH at OKLAHOMA BAPTIST

Russellville to Shawnee;464 (6:50);1 p.m.

OUACHITA BAPTIST at SE OKLAHOMA

Arkadelphia to Durant;432 (8 hrs., 6 minutes);6 p.m.

ARKANSAS-MONTICELLO at EAST CENTRAL

Monticello at Ada, Okla.;670 miles (12:22);6 p.m.

SOUTHERN ARKANSAS at SW OKLAHOMA

Magnolia to Weatherford, Okla.;870 miles (13:30);6 p.m.

HENDERSON STATE at NW OKLAHOMA

Arkadelphia to Alva, Okla.;908 miles (15:04);6 p.m.

NOTE Estimated mileage (4,080), travel time (61:23), according to Google Maps.

But from Bethany in the southeast to Alva in the northwest, Oklahoma's six Division II football programs will be the ones battening down the hatches.

Fact: Arkansas teams are 71-33 (.682 win percentage) when playing in Oklahoma since the GAC's inception in 2011.

Take away Arkansas-Monticello's 3-15 mark against Oklahoma teams and Arkansas teams are 68-18 (.791 winning percentage) in Oklahoma.

Arkansas teams are 156-48 (.765) against Oklahoma foes overall in the GAC.

Henderson State (16-0) has yet to lose to an Oklahoma opponent in Oklahoma, but the Reddies don't lose to anybody on the road (31-1 in GAC). The one defeat was when they walked across the street and lost to Ouachita Baptist in last season's Battle of the Ravine.

Ouachita Baptist (16-3), Harding (14-3), Southern Arkansas (12-6) and Arkansas Tech (10-6) have all flourished against their foes in Oklahoma.

Coaches cite reasons other than having more talent for their road success.

"We don't view it as a negative," Harding Coach Paul Simmons said, noting that a road trip allows for more interaction between coaches and players. "It's one of the neat parts of our job."

Henderson State Coach Scott Maxfield, the reigning king of the road, said bus travel and overnight stays in hotels make it easier to ensure the players are doing what the coaches want them to do be doing the night before a game.

"Not as many distractions," Maxfield said. "You don't have to worry about families, girl friends."

The Reddies also don't have to worry about getting enough to eat or having a comfortable place to stay.

Nobody will ever confuse a trip to Alva, home to Northwestern State Oklahoma, as a lure to draw recruits to Henderson State.

But Maxfield points out that the Reddies, who play the Rangers on Saturday, actually stay in Enid, an hour east of Alva, where they will be housed at the SpringHill Suites and don't have to cram into a small-town diner for their program meal.

"We believe in staying in a nice place, eat nice food," Maxfield said. "We don't scrimp."

Golden Corral is the Reddies' restaurant of choice.

"Our guys are big and hungry," Maxfield said, "and they can eat."

Can Henderson State and the other Arkansas teams continue to feast on Oklahoma foes on their home fields?

Saturday's results will provide a good indication.

Poll-pourri

Three of the state's six GAC teams are ranked in both Division II polls -- the AFCA Top 25 coaches and the D2football.com Top 25.

Ouachita Baptist (2-0, 14/15 AFCA/D2football), moved up 5 spots in both polls, Harding (1-1, 19/17) dropped 12 spots in the coaches poll, 8 spots in the D2football rankings, and Southern Arkansas (2-0, 25/24) debuted in both polls after knocking off Harding 28-23 on Sunday in Searcy.

SAU Coach Bill Keopple said he didn't quite understand how Harding could be ranked ahead of his team after the Muleriders beat the Bisons last week, but polls at every level have a way of working themselves out as the season progresses.

The only rankings that really matter in Division II are the region rankings, which ultimately determine which teams make the postseason bracket.

Four Division II regional advisory committees monitor the first seven weeks before delivering the first of three rankings in late October.

What happens if Harding wins out to finish 10-1, Ouachita loses to Harding but beats SAU, and all three teams finish 10-1?

Can the GAC, which has sent two teams to playoffs three times since 2012, get three teams in?

It's possible, but the GAC is competing with three other conferences -- the 14-team Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA), the 8-team Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) and the 9-team Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (GLIAC) -- for the 7 playoff spots in its region.

Reddies come through

Henderson State, which entered the season with the GAC's all-time best winning percentage of .818, was staring at an 0-2 start last Saturday when it trailed 31-24 with the ball at its 12 and 2:44 to play against Arkansas Tech.

"We were on the ropes," Henderson Coach Scott Maxfield said. "It's didn't look real good."

Then junior-college transfer quarterback Richard Stammetti completed passes of 11, 37, 24 and 21 yards, the last going to sophomore Chase Lodree for a touchdown, and the Reddies tied the game after Temo Martinez's extra point with 43 seconds to play.

The Reddies (1-1) kept the Wonder Boys (0-2) out of field-goal range to force overtime, and Stammetti, the GAC's offensive player of the week, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run and the Reddies defense held the Wonder Boys to 1 yard in 4 plays to win.

Stammetti (25-56 passing, 315 yards, 4 TDs vs. Tech) has thrown for 549 yards and 6 TDs with 1 interception in his first two games. He ranks second in the GAC in passing yards, yards per game (274.5) and touchdown passes.

The Reddies also had the special teams player of the week, sophomore cornerback Bryston Gipson, who had 5 tackles and blocked a 32-yard field-goal attempt in the first half.

Sports on 09/14/2018

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