SEARCY – On the night senior Cole Chancey became the Great American Conference’s career rushing leader, Harding’s defense also had a memorable game as the 22nd-ranked Bisons shut out East Central, 28-0, before 3,500 fans at First Security Stadium.
Chancey, a native of Commerce, Ga., rushed 17 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns. He has 3,775 rushing yards, surpassing Ouachita Baptist’s Kris Oliver, who had 3,763 yards from 2015-18.
Chancey scored on runs of 6 yards and 1 yard in the first quarter and broke the record on a 24-yard touchdown run with 4:06 left in the third. It was his 15th career 100-yard rushing game and fifth with three or more touchdowns.
Harding’s defense recorded its seven opening-night shutout since the Bisons restarted their football program in 1959. The last shutout was 20-0 over Southern Arkansas in 2010. The 28-point margin was Harding’s second-largest shutout behind only a 39-0 victory over Lane in 1992.
Harding’s defense forced five turnovers, including four interceptions. Chancey’s first touchdown came after East Central (0-1) fumbled the opening kickoff. The Bisons took over at the East Central 16 and needed four plays before Chancey pounded through the middle of the East Central line to put the Bisons up 7-0 with 13:02 left in the first quarter.
After an East Central three-and-out, junior transfer Omar Sinclair took a pitch and raced down the Harding sideline, hurdling a pile of would-be tacklers and cutting across the field for a 72-yard touchdown. It was only his second carry as a Bison and gave Harding a 14-0 lead only 3:11 into the game. Sinclair carried four times for 92 yards.
The first of Harding’s four interceptions led to the team’s third first-quarter touchdown. Senior linebacker Shedrick Robinsonlaid out haul in his first career interception, giving the Bisons the ball at the Harding 44. A 13-play drive resulted in Chancey powering in from a yard out on 4th-and-goal.
Harding (1-0) has outscored its opponents 368-99 in the first quarter under head coach Paul Simmons.
Sophomore Ahmad Butler’s first career interception came in third quarter and gave the Bisons possession at the East Central 27. Two plays later, Chancey found a hole up the middle and found his way into the GAC record book with his third touchdown.
Harding’s defense limited East Central to only 48 rushing yards and 98 passing yards. The 146 total yards were the fewest by a Harding opponent since Southwestern Oklahoma had 135 yards in 2018.
Harding will play the first of two consecutive road games next Saturday against Southeastern Oklahoma in Durant. The Savage Storm won its opener 38-20 at Arkansas Tech on Thursday in Russellville.