RUSSELLVILLE — Luke Halpin completed 22 of 32 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns, Ketrich Harmon had 16 carries for 81 yards, while Wesley McKinney turned in 12 tackles and forced a fumble as the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys (3-3, 3-2 Great American Conference) picked up a 14-13 Family Day win over Southern Arkansas on Saturday at Thone Stadium at Buerkle Field.
Southern Arkansas got onto the board first, going 80 yards over five plays, capped by a Tyler Sykora pass to Chris Terry to give the Muleriders a 6-0 lead. The Dylan Nowak extra point attempt hit the right upright, a break for the Wonder Boys that would be key as the game progressed.
The SAU defense held Tech in check, forcing a three-and-out before getting the ball back, and going 86 yards over 10 plays, using a six-yard Mark Johnson touchdown run to score again. This time the extra point was good, and SAU held a 13-0 lead.
The lead would hold into the half, as both teams traded three-and-outs on subsequent possessions. Tech drove into SAU territory, but Halpin threw his lone interception of the night, putting the ball back into the Muleriders’ hands.
SAU was unable to capitalize, as the Wonder Boys defense forced SAU to punt, and the teams went into the half with SAU leading 13-0.
After the two teams traded punts in the early going of the second half, the Wonder Boys got on the board as Halpin connected with Cassius Washington on an 86-yard touchdown strike, capping a three-play, 93-yard drive that pulled Tech to within 13-7.
Tech drove deep into SAU territory before turning the ball over on downs at the SAU 11-yard line. However, the Tech defense would make the fourth quarter their quarter, as Deandre’ Bonner intercepted Tyler Sykora’s second-down pass at the SAU 48-yard line, giving the Wonder Boys excellent field position.
Halpin would capitalize, finding Jerry Anderson on the receiving end of a 31-yard touchdown strike that tied the game. Randy Velazquez’ extra point was good, giving Tech a 14-13 lead.
As SAU drove downfield, the turnover bug bit the Muleriders once again as Sykora was picked by Logan Genz at the SAU 48-yard line with 8:50 to play.
The Muleriders’ defense stood their ground on the ensuing possession, forcing the Wonder Boys to punt. However, Tech’s defense would respond with a stop of its own.
Tech would get the ball back with 3:14 to play, and on first down, Harmon picked up eight yards to set up a second-and-two. However, a high snap pushed Tech back 18 yards to the Tech 37-yard line. On third-and-long, Halpin’s pass was incomplete, and Tech was forced to punt
the ball back to SAU with 1:30 to play.
Once again, the Wonder Boys defense came up with a decisive stop, forcing a turnover on downs, and Tech was able to take knees and seal the victory.
The win was Tech’s first win over the Muleriders since the 2010 season, when the Wonder Boys picked up a 35-19 win in Russellville.
The Wonder Boys return to action next Saturday, October 19, as they travel to El Dorado, Ark. for the Murphy USA Boomtown Classic, where Tech will square off against undefeated and eighth-ranked Henderson State. Kickoff from Memorial Stadium is set for 3 p.m.