Lions hook Horns in finale, 31-20
Defense saves the day, scores 2 TD's
Rice scores game-winner, connects with McKinley for TD
TYLER, Texas -- Stories with heroes always find a place in the hearts of people.
Whether it’s Walker Ranger, Jim Dandy, MacGyver, Casey Ryback, Hans Solo, Superman, Lassie, George Bailey or Roger Staubach, we long for those who will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Led by a defense that started the season strong and faded, Southwestern Assemblies of God University wrapped up the 2011 college football season with an inspiring 31-20 win over Texas College. The difference was a unit that scored two memorable touchdowns and prevented another with a critical fourth quarter interception.
The triumph enabled the Lions to equal their best-ever season win total with four. The squad began the season at 3-1 when a string of heartbreaking defeats took their toll on a season that could have seen them produce wins in most every game.
Miscues have been the team’s Achilles heel throughout the season. On a sunny day in high 60’s, turnovers would again be the determining factor.
Nursing a 17-12 lead in the fourth quarter, a muffed punt attempt gave the Steers the ball on the SAGU one yard line. They punched it across for a touchdown, and then added a two point conversion for their first lead since 3-0 early in the game. It was the only TD allowed by the defensive unit.
Senior quarterback Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Faith West HS) engineered what proved to be the game-winning drive. Starting from the Lions 43 with seven minutes to go in the game, Rice assembled a drive that culminated with him scoring from two-yards out on an option play. James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) added the extra point and SAGU led 24-20 with 3:50 left on the game clock at Tyler’s Mewbourne Field.
Enter: Defensive Hero.
Texas College was threatening a comeback in the closing minutes, driving inside the Lions 40. The protagonist emerged.
Freshman cornerback O’Shae Cofer (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS) made a great read on a screen pass, stepping in front for an interception on the 23 yard line. Reports he wore a cape were unfounded.
He darted upfield clutching the hopes of the Steers in his hands. He returned the pick 67 yards, where, just as was about to be tackled, he pitched the ball to Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Univ of N. Texas, Wakeland HS), who strode into the end zone for the game-clinching TD.
“It was crazy,” said head coach Jesse Godding . “I have never seen a game with two defensive touchdowns in which both were produced by laterals during the runback.”
In the second quarter the Lions defense struck in similar fashion.
Senior outside linebacker Patrick Smith (Bluffton, SC / Hilton Head Christian) stripped the ball from a Texas College running back. Heathcock scooped up the pigskin and bolted for greener grass. Thirty-five yards later, as he was getting hit by a would-be tackler, he turned and flipped the ball to Marcus Uriah Lester (Austin, Tx / Reagan HS). The senior cornerback sprinted the final 40 yards to nail down the team’s elusive fourth win.
The offense, when they weren’t having difficulty with an inspired Texas College defense, committed three costly turnovers on fumbles.
One was lost on the SAGU three-yard line. The carnivorous D rose up with a goal line stand, holding the Steers to one of their four field goals. The second occurred on a play that gained a first down on the Steers’ 20. Finally, a third giveaway was at the end of a 14-yard run that stopped a drive at the TC 12-yard line.
The Lions’ first scoring drive happened in the opening period. Rice directed a seven play, 48-yard trek that ended with a big play strike. He connected with Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS) from 29-yards out for a 7-3 lead with 5:50 showing on the clock.
The Steers made field goals of 23, 45 and 25 yards to trail at the half, 14-9. Their fourth, from 20 yards, was the only scoring in the third stanza.
“I am glad for our seniors and this team that we finished with a win,” Godding pointed out. “The season did not end as we had hoped, but my enjoyment coaching this group of players has been boundless. They truly are a great group of young men.”
The defense did a yeoman’s job. They bent but would not be broken. The squad forced four punts, came up with stops during three long drives, forcing TC to settle for field goal attempts. They stopped another drive on downs and limited the Steers to only 4-of-16 third down conversions, including 1-of-7 in the second half. Credit senior 'Backers Richard Donte Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS), Quentin "Tank" Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS) and defensive tackle Jonathan Hulett (Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS).
In the final quarter the defense snarled with three interceptions. One was made by Cofer, which produced a TD. Safety Jonathan Bailey (Seagoville, Tx / Seagoville HS) picked off another. Tight end converted to linebacker, Anthony Morris, Jr. (Houston, Tx / Alief Hastings HS), at 6’2, 210-pounds, dropped into coverage and thieved his second of the season.
The Southwestern offensive attack was led by Rice, who gained 45-yards on 12 carries and completed 5-of-20 passes for 85-yards and a touchdown. Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne Univ, Grandview HS) ran six times for 19-yds and went 3-of-7 passing for 59. Neither QB threw an interception.
David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS) put the wraps on one of the best careers ever by a SAGU receiver. He added to his career with 5 catches for 102-yds, including a 28-yard catch-and-run from Golson. McKinley made two receptions for 33-yds and a TD, with Jeremy McDonald (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) reeling in one for nine.
Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) gained 21-yds on seven carries, while Sean Haynes (Katy, Tx / Taylor HS) toted the ball twice for 11.