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Hemphill humble after performance for the ages

More news about: Hardin-Simmons
Jaquan Hemphill
Jaquan Hemphill barely got a carry in a varsity game as a freshman, but two years later, he's breaking records.
Hardin-Simmons athletic photo

By Brian Lester
D3sports.com

Jaquan Hemphill never imagined he’d have the game of his life Saturday evening.

But what a performance it was for the junior running back at Hardin-Simmons in an 80-42 win over East Texas Baptist.

After all, when you break school records, among them a record eight touchdowns, it’s pretty amazing. But in typical Hemphill fashion, he is humble in the wake of his almost video-game like success.

“It was a surprise, but I got great support from my teammates and was just able to make plays,” Hemphill said. “I just wanted to have a good game going and it worked out.”

Oh, it worked out alright. Hemphill rushed for a career-best and school record 293 yards and also scored eight touchdowns, including seven on the ground. The touchdown total is a school and ASC record and ties the NCAA Division III mark.

And his 357 yards of total offense – he had a 64-yard touchdown catch mixed in with his rushing touchdowns – broke his own school record of 342 yards.

As off the excitement was unfolding for Hemphill, HSU coach Jesse Burleson had no clue Hemphill was having a record-breaking day.

“I had no idea the day was as special as it turned out to be,” Burleson said. “It was fun to watch. Jaquan is a guy who works hard and plays hard, and he takes care of business on and off the field.”

It’s been quite a journey for Hemphill since he arrived on campus. Hailing from a smaller high school in Texas, the Cowboys star didn’t get to play right away in college.

He saw action in just three games at the varsity level as a freshman and also spent time on the developmental squad. That isn’t an easy thing to do for any athlete but Hemphill handled his situation well. His situation is a lesson in patience.

“It didn’t bother me at all,” Hemphill said. “I learned a lot from the experience and finally got a chance last year to show out for my team and be productive. I’m proud of that.”

Last season was indeed one to remember for Hemphill, who earned first-team All-ASC honors after rushing for 872 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught three touchdown passes.

He has clearly picked up where he left off from last season, and then some, already rolling up 660 rushing yards and matching his rushing touchdown total from a season ago. He has two touchdown receptions. There is no question Hemphill has come a long way from that freshman season when he rushed for 10 yards.

“His progress as a football player has been amazing,” Burleson said. “He really came onto the scene last year and has worked hard to be a great player. The great thing about him is that he’s so humble and he puts his team first.”

So what’s his secret to Hemphill’s success? Turns out it’s all about having a vision, although having talent doesn’t hurt his cause either.

“As long as I can envision it, I feel confident I can do it,” Hemphill said. “I didn’t think I’d make the impact that I have, but I am thankful I did and that I am helping out my team.”

In the end for Hemphill, it’s all about the team and the next challenge in front of it.

This week, the next challenge is a showdown with reigning national champion Mary Hardin-Baylor, which also happens to be the top-ranked team in the country.

A year ago, the Cowboys lost 20-15 to the Cru in an ASC battle. Hemphill rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown in that game, a game the Cowboys led 15-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

“Last year is in the past. We don’t dwell on it,” Hemphill said. “This is a new year and we are focused on ourselves. As long as we do what we need to do, good things will happen.”

Burleson understands the game against the Cru is a big one, and yet, he is keeping the team focused on itself as it prepares for the showdown.

“It’s the next game on our schedule, and while it is a big deal, we know it’s 100 percent about us,” Burleson said.

Burleson said this team is perhaps the most selfless he has ever coached and he has high hopes for what this team can accomplish this season. Hemphill has high expectations as well. He wants to help the Cowboys contend for a national title and believes it’s possible to do.

It all comes down to everyone doing their job.

“Everyone is on the same page, and it makes it easier for us to have success because of it,” Hemphill said. “We all play a role on this team and we want to keep getting better every week. If we do that, we believe we can be a great team.”

Major win

Millsaps matched its win total from a season ago and did so in impressive fashion, rallying from 13 points down to knock off Rhodes 20-19. The Majors scored their final 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Chance Clowers connected with Patrick McRaney on a 19-yard scoring strike with 58 seconds to go to secure the second consecutive win for the Majors. Millsaps is 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the SAA.

Clowers completed 16 of his 29 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown. In four games this season, Clowers has thrown for 612 yards and six touchdowns. He is completing 52 percent of his passes for an offense that is cranking out 352.2 yards per game.

Millsaps has scored 20 or more twice this year and has held two teams to under 20 points.  The Majors have momentum on their side at the moment and are hoping to win more than three games for the first time since 2013, when they finished 9-1.

Regional notes

Berry set a school record with six interceptions in a game in a 44-10 win over Austin College and remains one of only two unbeaten teams in the SAA. The Vikings are 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the league. Antonio White Jr. led the interception party as he came up with his first two picks of the season. A receiver prior to this year, the senior has established himself as one of Berry’s best defensive players, ranking seventh in tackles (17).

Trinity led 24-0 after three quarters and held off a late comeback attempt in a 26-20 win over Birmingham-Southern. The Tigers rolled up 304 yards in their third consecutive win and have scored 26 or more in every game during the streak. Evan McDowell rushed for 91 yards and scored a touchdown. The 2016 honorable mention All-SCAC selection has 191 yards and three touchdowns on the season.

Eli Lopez was the hero for Sul Ross State in its 34-31 road win over Louisiana College. Lopez drilled a 27-yard field goal as time expired to secure the win for the Lobos, who are 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the ASC and won their second consecutive game.  Lopez also hit a 29-yard field goal and connected on all four of his extra-point attempts. Lopez has been nearly perfect on field goals this year, hitting four of his five attempts. His season-best kick is from 34 yards out.

Howard Payne won its first game of the year with a wild 45-37 win over Belhaven. The 45 points is the most the Yellow Jackets have scored this season and their effort was aided by the play of Edwin Godfrey, who caught two passes for 90 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. The catches were the first of the season for Godfrey, who leads the team in touchdown receptions. Howard Payne is 1-3 overall and 1-2 in the ASC.

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com and wrote Around the Great Lakes for D3football.com from 2012-14. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.

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