November 20, 2017

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Lions, Cowboys Renew Rivalry Saturday in Lake Charles

HAMMOND, La. – The Southeastern Louisiana football team will close out its regular season road schedule on Saturday, traveling to face No. 22/22 McNeese at 6 p.m. at Cowboy Stadium.

The Lions (5-4, 5-2 Southland) will be facing its second straight nationally-ranked opponent when it visits the Cowboys (6-2, 4-2 Southland). SLU had its five-game winning streak snapped by No. 5/5 Sam Houston State in a 33-23 loss last Saturday.

Like Southeastern, McNeese is coming off a tough loss as well. The Cowboys had their six-game win streak ended in Conway, Arkansas, as No. 4/4 Central Arkansas pulled away for a 47-17 victory last weekend.

While the Lions-Bearkats clash featured the Southland Conference’s two most prolific offenses, Saturday’s battle in Lake Charles will be more strength-on-strength. The Lions rank among the national leaders in scoring offense (39.9 ppg, 5th in FCS), total offense (471.4 ypg, 7th) and rushing offense (307.8 ypg), while McNeese leads the Southland in total defense (259.3 ypg, 3rd in FCS), scoring defense (19.8 ppg) and is tops nationally in rushing defense (57.5 ypg).

“We’re facing a tremendous defense on Saturday,” Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts said. “We’re going to have to be patient and stay committed to our running game. We have to realize that McNeese is going to limit our explosive plays and we have to take what they give us.”

SLU sophomore Lorenzo Nunez runs the Lion offense, having thrown for 984 yards and 11 touchdowns, while rushing for 334 yards and five scores. Senior Eugene Bethea (548 yards, 5 TD), junior Darren Johnson (547 yards, 4 TD), freshman Marcus Mariotta (504 yards, 2 TD) and junior Julius Maracalin (309 yards, 2 TD) all play big parts in the Lions’ explosive ground attack.

Senior Juwan Dickey leads Southeastern with 33 catches for 403 yards, while freshman Austin Mitchell has a team-high five touchdown receptions. Dickey, sophomore Bransen Schwebel and sophomore Zeke Jenkins have two touchdown catches each.

McNeese has been equally adept at stopping the run and the pass. Senior linebacker Ashari Goins leads the Cowboys with 41 tackles and 3.5 sacks, while Dominique Hill paces McNeese with 7.5 tackles for loss.

The Cowboys lead the Southland with 12 interceptions, as senior defensive back Andre Fuller, sophomore defensive back Calum Foster, sophomore defensive back Colby Burton and senior defensive back Jermaine Antoine have two interceptions each.

McNeese has featured balance on offense as well, as junior James Tabary (1,835 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT) has a quartet of top targets in senior Kent Shelby (37 catches, 469 yards, 3 TD), sophomore Lawayne Ross (29-408-1 TD), senior Darious Crawley (18-246-4 TD) and sophomore Parker Orgeron (17-177-3 TD). On the ground, sophomore Justin Pratt (620 yards, 3 TD) and junior David Hamm (568-4 TD) provide a powerful 1-2 punch.

The Lions answer with a defense that is allowing 28.0 points and 390.3 yards per contest. Senior Max Lyons is second in the Southland with 83 tackles, while senior linebacker Sione Teuhema is pacing the league with 8.0 sacks and 15.0 tackles for loss.

Lyons and Teuhema are joined among the Southland tackle leaders by fellow seniors Jeff Williams II (55, 21st), Lee Spight (51, 27th) and Jake Jiannoni (48, 37th).

Southeastern is right behind McNeese with nine interceptions. Senior Mayori Ellison is atop the team with three interceptions, while Lyons and senior Ryan Sigers have two picks each.

Southeastern carries the Southland’s premier return game into Saturday’s contest. Sophomore Juwan Petit-Frere leads the FCS with 36.3 yards per kickoff return, while

Lyons is second in the league with 8.5 yards per punt return.

Saturday’s game will also feature two of the Southland’s top kickers. SLU senior Dillon Burkhard is 8-for-11 on field goals and a perfect 47-for-47 on PAT tries, while Cowboy junior Gunner Raborn (7-7 FG, 20-20 PAT) has yet to miss a kick in 2017.

Following Saturday’s contest, SLU will have a week off before hosting Nicholls at 6:30

p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16 in the River Bell Classic. The regular season finale between the Lions and Colonels can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9 FM, Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, WFPR 1400 AM), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the TuneIn Radio app.

Prior to the SLU-Nicholls contest, Southeastern will honor the 2017 senior class. Dickey, Lyons, Sigers, Williams II, Jiannoni, Ellison, Bethea, Burkhard, Teuhema, Spight, running back Shamar Busby, quarterback Micah Thomas, defensive back Jonathan Lyles, defensive back Torrance Mosley, defensive back Courtney Rutledge, punter Jim Speights, defensive back Demareyeh Lane, offensive lineman Michael Vick, offensive lineman Paxton Sims, offensive lineman Travis Romero, offensive lineman Cyrus Ekugwum, wide receiver Joe Pack and defensive lineman Greg Hardaway II will be recognized in a special Senior Day ceremony.

About Andy Bryson 548 Articles
Founder of Louisiana Gridiron Football and football coach