Mistakes Spoil Happy Ending for Lions
Defense Shines on Senior Day
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- "Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending." - author unknown.
Saturday's 27-13 loss to Texas College had a number of opportunities come and go, thwarting Southwestern Assemblies of God University's bid for a happy ending to the 2010 football season.
SAGU took the opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown in just six plays. Eddie Bailey, Jr. (Milwaukee, Wisc / John Jay HS) strolled in from a yard out for a touchdown.
The team would drive into Texas College territory ten more times (see graph below) without another TD. The good news is the team moved the ball into scoring position often. They also enjoyed very good field position, thanks to the defense. The offense was found wanting when it came to finishing those bids to put points on the scoreboard. Those trips to within sight of the Promised Land ended in frustration, as did the club's 2-8 season.
|COMING UP SHORT|
|Drives||Yard Line Reached||How Drive Ended|
|2nd||Tex Col 2||Missed 27 yd Field Goal|
|3rd||Tex Col 2||Lost fumble on running play at the 2|
|4th||Tex Col 39||Lost fumble after pass reception|
|5th||Tex Col 29||Lost fumble after running play|
|6th||Tex Col 34||Dropped pass on fourth down|
|7th||Tex Col 47||Pass intercepted, returned for TD|
|8th||Tex Col 11||Made 28 yd Field Goal|
|9th||Tex Col 16||Made 33 yd Field Goal|
|10th||Tex Col 3||Sacked on 4th and Goal pass play|
|11th||Tex Col 34||Pass intercepted|
|*SAGU had a total of 15 separate possesions, with 11 advancing beyond midfield|
The Lions defense pitched a shutout until nearly the midway point in the third quarter. That is when Texas College, trailing just 7-0, sensing it was indeed their day to finally end their 20-game losing streak, began making big plays. Sophomore QB Joseph Carter, who had missed on a few long passes in the first half, started connecting.
His ability to scramble bought him time against an effective SAGU pass rush. The previously errant thrower hit C.J. Edward with a 21-yard scoring pass to tie the score. It came on a 4th and six play, and his boosted confidence. He gradually was transformed into a dangerous player the rest of the afternoon. Carter completed only nine of 25 passes, but they went for 3 TD's. He had another two scores called back on penalties. He also rushed for 39 yards.
Winning Points Scored by Steers Defense
Garry Minifee returned a pass in the right flat 56 yards for a TD less than a minute after Carter's TD to Edward for a 14-7 lead. The Steers then showed they would not sit on the lead. On their very next offensive play, Carter rolled right and zipped a 62-yard scoring strike to Octavis Parker and a 21-10 lead.
Freshman placekicker James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) split the uprights for a second time, a 33 yard boot into the wind. The Lions had drawn to within eight at 21-13.
The Steers, who finished 1-9 for the season, took advantage of a long kickoff return to the SAGU 39. On their first offensive play, Carter eluded several defenders in the backfield, then darted upfield and fired a TD pass to Albert Harris that sent his teammates into dancing on the sideline. The play was nullified, however, when it was determined he had run a yard past the line of scrimmage before throwing the pigskin.
A few moments later, on the same possession, he feathered a 14 yd TD toss to a wide open Willie Johnson and a 27-13 lead. He almost had a fourth TD pass. From his own 8-yard line, Carter unloaded a bomb down the right sideline. WR Johnny Thomas beat two Lions in the secondary for the ball at midfield. He then jetted the rest of the way to pay dirt. The TD was negated due to a penalty, one of 13 (125 yards) assessed against the guests from Tyler.
Stifled by the Lions' Carniverous D
Southwestern received another solid performance from their defense. They held the Horns to just 238 yards of total offense, less than 100 in the second half when they scored all of their points. SAGU dominated time of possession, limiting Texas College to 56 plays and 13 minutes with the ball. The Lions ran 84 offensive plays.
Led by a great effort by the front four and a linebacking unit that may be the best and deepest in the Central States Football League, the Lions surrendered only 10 first downs. The Steers could convert only 2-of-13 third down plays. Meanwhile, SAGU racked up 21 first downs.
Steers Defense forces Six SAGU Turnovers
The Lions offense short-circuited against a defense that had been yielding an average of over 52 points per game. Led by George Lee and Dontay Livingston, the Steers made big stops throughout. SAGU could turn only three third down plays into first downs and committed six turnovers; losing three fumbles and three interceptions.
Bailey Eclipses the Century Mark Again
Bailey, averaging 6.2 yards per clip, ran for 98 of his game-high 106 yards in the first half, including a TD. After he lost a second fumble, the Lions stopped running the freshman halfback, though much of that likely had to do with also losing the lead. He finished his first season at the GU with over 900 yards on the ground.
A week after rushing for 330 yards behind Bailey and QB Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Texas State Univ, Katy Faith West HS), the team switched to Jeremy Fowler (Caddo Mills, Tx / Caddo Mills HS) in the second quarter, though both signal callers enjoyed their share of success during the game. Rice completed 7-of-12, while Fowler was 19-of-39.
The team had hoped to take advantage of the wind at their back in the third stanza. Texas College, however, outscored the Lions 14-0 in that period and took control of the game.
Struggling on First Down Plays
One area the Steers proved especially effective was in putting the clamps on SAGU's first down plays. Time after time their defensive scheme circumvented Southwestern's option attack. The Purple Pride averaged only 3.1 yards per first down play, totaling 111 yards in 35 plays. Those plays led to a number of second and long, which put more pressure on an offense that struggled to finish drives.
In the first half, the Lions ran 10 times for 48 yards, and were 2-of-6 passing for 27 yards on first down plays. They made two of their turnovers on first downs. After intermission they called four running plays for five yards as they started drives. They completed 6 of 15 pass attempts for 32 yards. Two more turnovers happened on first downs.
Passing Game Summary
SAGU's short passing game resulted in just four first down throws that gained more than five yards. The receivers who were able to turn in big gainers were Bailey and TE Dylan Moore (Denton, Tx / Denton Guyer HS). They were the only Golden Domers who gained 10 yards or longer with their receptions.
Moore snared 7 balls for 81 yards, while Darion Waits (Waxahachie, Tx / Ennis HS), the club's leading receiver, made seven catches for 49 yards. Bailey added five for 35.
Uriah Lester (Austin, Tx / Reagan HS) had three catches; Anthony Morris, Jr. (Houston, Tx / Alief Hastings HS) made two, while Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Robert E. Lee HS) and Kolby Burns (Dallas, Tx / Duncanville Christway Academy) each had one grab.
The squandered scoring chances, coupled with the six turnovers, were the primary reasons the 'Cats couldn't repeat last year's 28-20 win in Tyler.
Defensive Charge led by Hudge, Tank and Country
Led by inside LB's Jared Hudgins (Midland, Tx / Midland Christian), Quentin "Tank" Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) and Alex Moore (Breckenridge, Tx / Breckenridge HS), the Lions roared. Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Univ of North Texas, Wakeland HS) and Donte Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS) applied some major hits for a squad that has performed well enough to win more than half of Southwestern's games this season.
Steve Borden (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS), Ryan McCray (Daytona, Fla / Mainland HS), Jonathan Hulett (Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS), Ike Caston (Dallas, Tx / A+ Academy), Rodney Johnson (Springfield, Mo / Parkview HS) and Joe Astorga (Dallas, Tx / W.T. White HS) played well in the Lions' D-Line rotations.
CB Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS) is the only defensive back who was in the team's starting line-up in August who remained healthy. He turned in a stellar showing on Saturday.
Offensive Big Plays
Some of the pivotal plays that got the offensive in scoring position, included: Bailey bolting 24 yards on a late pitch-out by Rice, and an 11 yard pass from Rice to Moore that sparked the opening drive. On the ensuing march in the red zone, Bailey had runs of 17 and 22 yards and Moore moved the chains with a 10 yd catch.
After getting a first and goal at the Steers two yard line, the team was setback by missteps. Bailey recovered his own fumble on first down before Rice was tackled for a four yard loss when a lineman missed a key block. A third down pass in the end zone to Moore was broken up by TC.
On the next possession, Rice spearheaded a drive to the five yard line. A first down pass to an open Frankey Crawford (Dallas, Tx / Spruce HS) was too high. Burns gained three yards on a running play. On third down, Bailey was stripped of the ball as he hit the hole. Brandon Sam recovered for TC.
In the third stanza, a bubble screen to Lester, a six yard catch by Waits and Fowler's three yard run on fourth and two enabled the Lions to reach the Steers 39.
Three drives stalled when receivers dropped passes and another pass turned into an interception when the ball went through a WR's hands and bounced off his chest before a Steer snared the ricochet for an interception.
Seniors to Remember
Seven seniors closed the books on their careers at Lumpkins Stadium on Saturday. Waits, guard Mike Thomas (Washington, Tx / Brenham HS), center Ryan Arellano (Gonzales, Tx / Gonzales HS), as well as LB Derek Brewer (Denton, Tx / Guyer HS), Hudgins, Moore and McCray on defense - they all played on the best teams in the program's 13-year history.
What could have been the school's first-ever winning season, had several close losses, including four defeats that saw the Lions take leads into the locker-room at the half. The team suffered more than their share of injuries, with a number costing starters the rest of the season.
The team should return an impressive core of players next season along with a talented cast of redshirts expected to make an immediate impact. The Lions will soon enter their off-season conditioning program over the winter months before their annual three-week spring camp.