SHSU clinches SLC title, win 38-31 over UCA

Senior running back Keshawn Hill rushed for 242 yards and two touchdowns in Sam Houston State’s 38-31 win over Central Arkansas to claim a share of Southland Conference at Bowers Stadium on Saturday.

With Stephen F. Austin State topping Northwestern State 27-24, the Kats will enter the FCS playoffs with the automatic bid over Southeastern Louisiana.

This was Hill’s final regular season game at Bowers Stadium. He rushed for 100 yards in the first quarter, including a 61-yard rush.

“I just wanted to put on a good show for my seniors,” Hill said.

Going into the week, the Bearkats were tied atop the SLC with SLU at 6-1 SLC records. SLU beat Nicholls State 62-3 Thursday to clinch at least a share of the SLC championship. UCA’s slight playoff chances ended following SLU’s dominating win over the Colonels. All the Kats needed to do was win to stay alive in their playoff hunt.

SHSU’s high emotions were present coming out the tunnel as the Kats decided their own fate for the SLC title. The Kats relied on a strong run game to push them into the FCS playoffs. UCA scored first with a 66-yard receiving touchdown by Jatavious Wilson. However, junior transfer running back Donovan Williams scored at the goal line for the first score for the Kats, and Hill added a late touchdown in the first to take the lead.

Both SHSU and UCA scored twice under four minutes in the first half. Bears’ quarterback Ryan Howard threw for two more touchdowns to give the Bears a 21-14 lead, but junior receiver LaDarious Brown tied the game back up with a 52-yard reception from sophomore quarterback Jared Johnson. Sophomore kicker Luc Swimberghe nailed a 32-yard field goal to take the lead for the Kats going into the half.
After Hill tagged on another touchdown in the third, SHSU was inside UCA’s 10 yard line setting up a field goal. Backup sophomore quarterback Don King III scored off the field goal with a fake to give the Kats a three-score lead.

Although the Bears would score twice in the fourth quarter, the Kats held on with a strong defense to clinch the share of the title. SHSU has won three of the last four SLC championships.

In his first year at SHSU, head coach K.C. Keeler led the Bearkats back from a 1-3 start when some started doubting the team.

“It’s been a long journey from 1-3 to here that’s for sure,” Keeler said. “It’s so rewarding to do it with this group because it’s not easy to come in when they’ve been so successful.”

With the automatic berth, the Kats will have to wait to see whom they will play and if they will host. The FCS selection show is slated for Sunday at 10 a.m.

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