EMPORIA, Kan. -- Emporia State University has put together a solid year after going 2-5 in 2019 during a shortened season and the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
The Hornets clash with Southeastern Oklahoma in the Farmer's Bank and Trust Live United Bowl at Razorback Stadium on Saturday at noon.
"I enjoy the community service part of the bowl game," Emporia State University head coach Garin Higgins said. "A team doesn't usually get that in the playoffs. In the playoffs, it is all business.
"I am going to make sure the guys are locked in on Saturday. There are also opportunities for us to give back to the community. We were No. 1 in the country for community service in football last year; our guys enjoy that. It is always a good time for our players to give back, not only to our community, but to Texarkana."
Emporia State's captains are also the main leaders on the team. The captains include wide receiver Corey Thomas, linebacker Jace McDown, offensive lineman Xavier Cason, S-back Dalton Cowan, defensive back Jaedon Pool and linebacker Dawson Hammes.
McDown is a two-time, first-team all conference linebacker. McDown led the MIAA in tackles in 2019. Cowan has been injured over the last several weeks and will be inactive.
Emporia State represents the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, while Southeastern Oklahoma plays out of the Great American Conference.
The Hornets go into the bowl game with a 6-5 record. Emporia State averages 31.2 points per game and give up an average of 27.5 ESU averages 135.7 rushing yards per game and 290 through the air. The Hornet defense has held opponents to 135.8 rushing yards and 272.8 passing yards per game on average.
"It comes down to what each team has done in three weeks of preparation," Higgins said. "We are who we are. We are not going to change our identity on offense or defense."
Emporia State gains 425.7 total yards per game, on average.
Starting on the offensive line for the Hornets are left tackle Cason, left guard Miles Wade, center Hayden Reed, right guard Conner Lierz and right tackle Sherman Deaton.
Braden Gleason, a sophomore, is the starting quarterback. The S-back will be Tommy Zimmerman and Canaan Brooks is the tail back. Jaylen Varner, Cole Schumacher and Thomas are the starting wide receivers.
Emporia State's defense has given up an average of 408.6 total yards per game.
Jordan Williams and Marek Thompson each start at defensive end for the Hornets. Rafe Goucher is the starting nose guard.
Cade Harelson, McDown and Hammes are the three starting ESU linebackers. Rounding out the defensive starters in the secondary are Pool, Gee Stanley, Arich Ansley and Montrell Wilson.
Billy Ross Jr. returns kickoffs and punts for the Hornets. Sam Dobbins is the place kicker and Ross Brunghardt handles the punting duties.