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SLC Title Hunt New territory for Lions
HAMMOND — Southeastern Louisiana University’s football program recorded a few firsts in last week’s 27-0 win over Northwestern State. Now the Lions are looking to add to that list heading into Saturday’s key 2 p.m. Southland Conference clash with Stephen F. Austin at Strawberry Stadium.
The Lions (6-3, 4-1) and No. 15 Lumberjacks (7-2, 4-1) are two of the teams in a four-way tie for first place in the SLC standings. The other two first-place teams — No. 10 McNeese State (7-2, 4-1) and No. 25 Texas State (6-3, 4-1) — meet at 6 p.m. Saturday in San Marcos, Texas.
SLU recorded its first shutout since 1984 and its first winning season since 2004 in the victory over Northwestern State.
“I used the analogy with the players the other day, you know, we’re walking on freshly fallen snow,” SLU coach Mike Lucas said Tuesday during his weekly media luncheon on the SLU campus. “This snow has no footprints in it at all. We’re not following anybody’s footprints. We’re the first ones — the first ones to have an opportunity to win a conference championship; the first ones to have an opportunity to win eight ballgames; the first ones to have an opportunity to go to the national playoffs. So it’s not like anybody on our team has experience doing it, so we’ve got to do a good job as a coaching staff getting our kids prepared mentally.
“I think it will be a huge impact on our team if this stadium is full.”
Glad to have you back
SLU got quarterback Brian Babin (shoulder) and receivers Merrick Lanaux (ankle) and Simmie Yarborough (ankle) back for the Northwestern State game.
Babin finished 15-for-30 for 200 yards and three touchdowns, while Tyler Beatty was 3-for-13 for 29 yards and had three carries for 14 yards.
“In pre-game, we didn’t know which one we were going to start,” Lucas said of his quarterbacks. “They had alternated at practice all week. You could tell by Brian’s body language in pre-game, he was feeling good. He was jumping around, hyped up and he was ready to go. He’s still not 100 percent. The throwing motion, he still has some muscle-soreness issues…
“Tyler deserved to play,” Lucas continued. “I think it helps us. It’s like a knuckleball pitcher being able to throw a fastball once in a while. You know, people can’t, when they game plan, they can’t just have a Brian Babin game plan, they’ve got to have a Tyler Beatty game plan, too.”
Lanaux had five catches for 63 yards, and Yarborough had two catches for 21 yards.
“It’s amazing how he was limping around but still got behind defenders twice in the ballgame but dropped balls both times,” Lucas said of Yarborough. “I mean, he got behind people limping, so hopefully we’ll have him back full speed this week.”
In last season’s game against Stephen F. Austin, the Lions led 28-7 after the first quarter and 42-21 at the half, but the Lumberjacks outscored SLU 27-3 in the second half to pick up a 48-45 win in Nacogdoches, Texas.
Lucas said that game has helped both SLU and SFA this season. SLU was 5-7 (2-5 SLC) last year.
“It was really the tale of two halves, and you know, a learning experience from both halves,” Lucas said. “I think it showed up a lot (this season). Every time we’re ahead at halftime, I’ll say ‘Remember SFA.’”
SFA, meanwhile, went 4-8 (2-5 SLC) last season after going 0-11 and 0-7 in 2007.
“They (SFA) really started to believe and play better from that point on in their season last year,” Lucas continued. “I said that to (SFA coach) J.C. Harper when I walked across the field after that game. I said, ‘J.C., I’m crushed for me, but I’m happy for you,’ because he was getting some pressure coming off an 0-11 and getting off to a real bad start last year.”
Stephen F. Austin features a pair of Parkview Baptist standouts in center Max Holmes and linebacker Devin Ducote, who have both started every game for the Lumberjacks.
Holmes was a member of LSU’s 2007 national championship team before transferring. Ducote is the team’s leading tackler with 89 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.
“We couldn’t do without either one of those guys,” Harper said. “I can’t say enough about them. Devin Ducote is just a flat-out football player that loves the game, got a lot of savvy to him, a lot of awareness and instincts — hard worker, great kid.
“Max Holmes is our center, very smart, going to get his master’s degree in the spring,” Harper continued. “(He’s) a competitor, a fighter and a winner. I think you can probably sum up both of them … pretty much from the school that they’re from, I mean, they’re a winner.”
Offensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Chris Truax was a four-year lettermen at LSU (1988-1991).
SLC title hunt new territory for Lions
By ROB DEARMOND, The Baton Rouge Advocate (LA)