Hounds absorb 22-19 loss at East Central

CNJ staff

ADA, Okla. — If the Eastern New Mexico University football team has any Lone Star Conference North Division title hopes, the Greyhounds are going to need considerable help.

Junior quarterback Tyler Vanderzee’s third touchdown pass to Chris Espinoza, an 8-yarder with 2:07 left, lifted East Central to 22-19 victory over the Hounds and dropped them two games behind Northeastern State (4-3, 2-0 North) in the loss column in the division.

The Hounds (3-4, 2-2) piled up 468 total yards in the game, but were done in by five turnovers — four coming in the first 21 minutes of the game.

Vanderzee, meantime, completed 24-of-48 passes for 282 yards and the Tigers’ defense held ENMU without a touchdown pass despite sophomore quarterback Wes Wood’s 36-for-49 effort. Wood was picked off three times by the Tigers.

ENMU started slowly on offense, trailing 7-0 before driving 73 yards in nine plays to tie it on a 2-yard run by freshman Melvis Hawkins with 5:36 left in the half.

After punt by East Central, the Hounds went 53 yards in eight plays as Wood completed 4-of-5 passes for 37 yards. When the drive stalled, junior Taylor Cannon gave ENMU the lead at halftime by booting a 32-yard field goal with 17 seconds left.

ENMU took the second half kickoff and drove 68 yards on eight plays, but had to settle for a 33-yard Cannon field goal. The Hounds stopped ECU on its next three possessions, but Tigers cornerback Dontae Smith intercepted Wood in the end zone, his second interception of the game, to thwart a scoring bid.

Junior running back Charles Opeseyitan carried for 33 and 16 yards on the ensuing possession, setting up a 31-yard pass from Vanderzee to Espinoza and give the Tigers a 14-13 lead late in the third period.

ENMU countered with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by senior running back Tony Valenzuela’s 13-yard TD run on the first play of the final period. The Tigers stopped a 2-point conversion run, though, keeping the score at 19-14.

East Central’s winning drive started with 5 1/2 minutes left and covered 53 yards in eight plays. Vanderzee kept for a 2-point conversion run and a three-point lead.

Following the kickoff, Wood completed two passes for a net of five yards, then threw incomplete twice as the Tigers took over on downs with 1:19 left. They were able to run out the remaining time.

Wood completed passes to nine receivers, led by Darian Dale with 10 catches for 98 yards and Chase Kyser with six for 102. Safety Tillman Stevens led the Hounds in tackles with 14, including eight solos.