Lions build 20-7 lead but fall in opener
Bethany scores final 28 to spoil SAGU debut
Defense shines early, delivering big hits
MIDLOTHIAN, Texas -- What started with much promise after gaining a 20-7 lead ended with Southwestern Assemblies of God University on the wrong side of a 35-20 defeat at the hands of Bethany College (Ks).
The Lions delivered a number of big plays and big hits in the opening 18 minutes.
Senior quarterback Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Grandview HS, Howard Payne Univ) directed a crisp 13-play, 69 yard march after taking the opening kickoff. Troy Griffin (Houston, Tx / Texas A&M-Commerce) blasted across the goal from a yard out for a 7-0 lead.
A 20-yard run by James Hopkins (Ferris, Tx / Ferris HS, Northwest Oklahoma State Univ) and a 19-yard crossing pass to tight end Caleb Shelly (Cold Spring, Tx / Cold Spring HS) were key plays.
After Tevis Linnebur knotted the score with a 21-yard dash, SAGU turned a fumbled exchange by Bethany – recovered by Lions linebacker Jeremiah Maat (Slidell, La / Slidell HS) into seven points.
On third and five from the 12 yard line, Golson connected with senior wideout Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Seguin HS) in the end zone for a TD. Golson feathered a fade pass that McKinley spun and caught over his left shoulder. It capped a 17-yard; three play drive to pay dirt.
Meanwhile the defense was lighting up the Swedes.
A long pass to an open Kelton Evans fell incomplete when freshman safety Dylan Snyder (Ennis, Tx / Ennis HS) separated him from the ball and almost his senses. Evans would make amends later.
The heralded return to the game for Bethany’s 29-year old senior QB Justin Bain didn’t last long. He was sandwiched between linebackers Kendal Evers (Danbury, Tx / Danbury HS) and Kirk White (Dallas, Tx / Oak Cliff Life School), injuring his right shoulder.
Bain’s replacement, freshman Bo Savage, got off to a rough start, fumbling a snap and throwing a ‘pick six.’ His screen pass to Jarrot Bell early in the second quarter was swiped by freshman Ethan Eastwood (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS).
The linebacker rumbled 30-yards, stiff-arming Savage on his way to the end zone. SAGU led 20-7 with 11:57 to go in the first half.
The Lions, sporting new helmets and donning white pants, had built a solid lead. There was a lot to like. But it could’ve been even better.
They could have broken the game wide open had the offense cashed in on three great opportunities.
Leading 7-0, the Jungle Kings forced a three-and-out. A short punt set the table for the Lions on the BC 45. A fumble on the next play squandered the scoring chance.
The Swedes responded by moving 52 yards for the equalizer.
A shanked punt set up shop for Golson and the offense at the BC 31. A great catch by Jeremy McDonald (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) was ruled out of bounds. What followed was a penalty and a dropped pass, resulting in a second spoiled chance to make the Swedes pay. Both occurred in the first quarter.
Leading 20-7 the Lions started on their 40 after a Swedes punt. An incomplete pass, a penalty on the offense and a dropped pass meant a third opportunity went fruitless.
The defense of Ike Caston (Dallas, Tx / A+ Academy), who had nine tackles, Maat (eight stops) and D.J. Johnson (Detroit, Mich / Springfield, Mo Parkview HS), who registered seven tackles, had the Swedes under wraps.
Bethany needed a break. They got it on the ensuing SAGU punt.
A 50-yarder with the wind sailed beyond the coverage, giving Evans a head start with the return.
He bolted past the first wave of would-be tacklers, and then zoomed down the right sideline untouched for an 84-yard, amends-making, runback with 8:45 left in the half.
The Swedes had life at intermission. SAGU still led 20-14. The missed occasions to score more, to put distance between them and the Swedes, would not exist in the second half.
Bethany eschewed the pass and turned to a pair of junior backs in the 5’7 Linnebur and Bell, a 5’9 transfer.
The visitors took the second half kickoff, grinding 52-yards in twelve plays, eleven of them runs. Dhaniel Bly scurried the last three yards to finish a drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock. BC led 21-20.
A three-and-out for SAGU and “Old Man Mo” was wearing white. The Swedes went 69 yards in eight rushing plays with 14:54 to go in the game.
They added a late score after SAGU fumbled on their own four yard line.
Bethany’s defense had applied the clamps to the Lions running game and took advantage of a number of penalties against the SAGU offense. Four of the flags came on first down. Two others wiped out big gainers on receptions in the first half.
After halftime SAGU gained 26 yards and picked up one first down. They ran 16 plays (9-7 run-pass). Since taking the 20-7 upper hand, they were restricted to 61 yards on 30 plays (15-15 run-pass), with three first downs.
Bethany churned for 214 yards on 39 plays, moving the chains 12 times, all in the second half. Linnebur earned 151 yards rushing by toting the pigskin 25 times.
Golson led the Purple Pride by running for 47-yds and completed 10 of 24 passes for 70 yards. McKinley led the receivers with five catches.
The game was played at Midlothian Stadium to make room for the Dale Hansen Classic at Waxahachie’s Lumpkins Stadium.
SAGU (0-1) returns to the field next Saturday, Sept. 14, when they welcome Howard Payne University (0-1) to Lumpkins Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:00pm.
The Yellow Jackets dropped a 47-29 home decision to Trinity University on Saturday night.
The game will be broadcast in HD by SAGU Sports Live. Fans can also follow the play-by-play account of the Lions-Yellow Jackets on a LiveStats webcast.
A complete Game Day Preview will be posted on Friday.
Box Score and Statistics: http://www.dakstats.com/WebSync/Pages/BoxScores/BoxScores.aspx?association=10&sg=MFB&sea=NAIMFB_2013&team=2272&compID=45804
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