Fighting On the Ground
SAGU-NWOSU Football Preview
Team with Best Running Game Could Win on Saturday
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- Two teams with similar themes meet on Saturday afternoon in Alva, Oklahoma. Southwestern Assemblies of God University and Northwestern Oklahoma State University both carry 3-5 records into their game, which kickoff at 4:00pm.
For the host Rangers, who were the pre-season pick to win their eighth Central States Football League title in twelve years, the 2011 campaign has brought its share of disappointments. Their crown, as Frederick the Great said, has been "a hat that has let in the rain."
Enduring a list of injuries and tough luck, NWOSU had their request to join the NCAA’s Division II denied while Southern Nazarene University (6-2 overall, 2-1 in CSFL), also an NAIA member in the CSFL, were accepted. Last week they fell behind 28-12 to Langston University (6-2, 3-0 in CSFL). They put on a frenzied rally but came up short, 42-39.
It's been that kind of fall for the defending CSFL champs.
SAGU began the season with a 3-1 start and made the national coaches poll for the first time. What has followed in the four weeks since has been difficult setbacks, mostly due to turnovers, missed opportunities and a defense that ran out of stops in the latter stages of games.
Parade of Promise
The rain has fallen on the parade of promise for both the Rangers and the Lions.
One of the teams, as musician Roger Miller quipped, “will walk through the rain” while the other will “just get wet.”
Northwestern Oklahoma State will have the advantage of playing on their home turf. The Rangers last hosted the Lions in 2004, when they won, 42-0. The most recent games, in 2009 and 2010, have been played at Lumpkins Stadium, where NWOSU won.
In recent years, coach Keith Barefield’s Rangers have hitched their horses up to the running game. Former Iowa transfer, Nate Guillory (GILL-ah-ree), strung several years of thousand-yard seasons before graduating.
This year the Pokes are paced by junior quarterback Kyle Jech . He ranks #25 in the NAIA in total offense per game (198.4), mostly due to 1,573 yards passing. SAGU’s dual QB-attack of senior Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Texas State Univ, Faith West HS) and sophomore Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) rate #54 and #53 respectively, combining for 1,563 aerial yards while leading head coach Jesse Godding’s version of the spread-option.
Rice is the starter, completing 62 of 132 attempts for 477 yards and 8 TD’s. The 6'3 signal caller is known for his leadership, confidence and toughness. Golson, whose dazzling feet often overshadow his arm, has now connected 52 of 103 for 505 and five touchdowns. The duo has tossed seven and six picks respectively.
Kent McDonald is Jech’s top choice when throwing. McDonald has caught 50 balls for seven scores while picking up about 16 yards per reception. Taylor Hooper has snared 30 passes.
The Lions have a wider array of targets, led by steam-engine, David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS). The rugged senior has 36 grabs for six touchdowns and a 14.5 per catch average. Former Waxahachie High School player, Max Whitfield, has laid claim to 19 passes, gaining 17.1 per, mostly after the catch.
Scatback Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Taylor HS) has caught 18 for an average gain of 8.6, while Nic Morphew (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) has added a dozen balls and a 12.4 average pick-up. A pair of fleet-footed threats are Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS) and Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Lee HS) both average 16 yards per clip on 10 and nine catches.
Marching Orders could Advance Odds at Winning
That leaves it up to which team can muster the best ground game. Through eight contests, the Lions have the edge on land, averaging 165.1 yards to the Rangers rather pedestrian 103.0 per game.
Junior Jared Jackson leads the Rangers with 467 yards and a 3.6 per carry average and 5 TD's. Jermil Martin has contributed 221 and a 3.8 yards per tote.
Southwestern counters with four ball carriers; QB’s Golson (431, 4.0) and Rice (279, 3.2) and two halfbacks; junior Haynes (323, 4.3) and freshman Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) (266, 6.5).
Which team controls the ball will hold the keys to the game, provided turnovers are minimized.
Northwestern State has committed only 13 miscues, half of SAGU’s total, while the Lions own an 18-11 margin in takeaways.
Defensively, SAGU yields 347.3 yards per game; the Rangers allow 398.0. In points, both squads permit the opposition to put 29 points on the scoreboard. Each secondary gives up similar yards, though the Lions have the advantage up front. Enemy runners gain 142.3 while the Rangers succumb 185.0 per outing.
The stalwarts up front are tackles, senior Jon Hulett (Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS) and freshman Richard Adewola (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS). Hulett is a three-time All-CSFL performer, requiring double-team attention or second-guessing for believing otherwise, while Adewola (AH-dah-WAH-lah) is agile and disruptive.
The Lions 3-4 defense is anchored by three senior linebackers; Richard Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS), Quentin Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) and Patrick Smith (Bluffton, SC / Hilton Head Christian), and a freshman, Rockie Davis (Santa Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS). They apply more brakes than Midas at 7.1, 4.6, 4.1 and 5.0 respectively.
A pair of defensive backs, Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Wakeland HS) and former Waxahachie Indian, O’Shae Cofer , make 6.5 and 4.2 stops per game.
Live Audio Available
Fans can tune into the audio version of the game on radio station KALV 1430. Visit www.nwosu.edu/broadcast for free access. Windows Media Player is needed on your computer, though it is downloadable from the aforementioned site.
Regular season finale in two-weeks in Tyler
The Lions will close their season in two weeks, November 12, with a road game in Tyler against Texas College. That game will be a clash of the state’s only two football members in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).