Saturday Football Preview: SAGU at Bethany
Lions open 2011 season in Kansas
Look for offenses to share the spotlight
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Southwestern Assemblies of God University football Lions season will commence this Saturday night, September 3, with a 6:00pm kickoff in Lindsborg, Kansas. The opponent, Bethany College, has faced SAGU once previously, though it was in the late 1990’s during the Lions first three seasons of existence.
The game will be played on artificial turf at Anderson Stadium (capacity 2,500) and is expected to be an offensive display by both teams.
Fans may follow the game by watching it live via video streaming or hear the audio version on radio station 101.7 FM out of Salina, Kansas. For details, visit www.bethanyswedes.com or see the Eye On Lions article under football on this website.
SAGU (2-8 in 2010) and Bethany (4-6) had opposite strengths last fall. The Lions’ defense ranked #47 nationally, while the Swedes offense scored 34 points per game while rating #11 in yards per game. Critical turnovers prevented both from successful seasons.
About the Bethany Swedes
"Bethany has experience at offense," pointed out Lions head coach Jesse Godding. "They have four seniors on the offensive line, a talented quarterback and a VSN (Victory Sports Network) 'Super Six' running back in Junior Allen."
"Their return game and kicking game are solid," he continued. "Their senior kicker is solid, plus, Allen handles kicks as a return specialist. On defense, they have six seniors. That demonstrates their overall depth and experience."
The Lions must focus on junior running back Theron “Junior” Allen, who gained 1,432 yards on the ground in 2010. The 5-foot-8, 195-pounder from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla averaged nearly six yards on every carry and reached the end zone 16 times. He is a pre-season, first-team All-American after leading the NAIA in all-purpose yards as a sophomore. Allen runs a 4.3 forty and resembles mercury zipping across a tilted table.
Their quarterback, (6’2, 210) senior Darby House, averaged 228 yards of total offense per outing. Along with fellow senior QB Zachary Waggoner, the Swedes will target junior WR Brandon Martino, who snared 32 passes a year ago.
As a team they gained 442 yards per contest; 267 passing and 175 running.
Defensively, however, the Swedes surrendered 450 yards per game, 189 of it on the ground. It translated into opponents rolling to the tune of 38 points per game.
Veteran Head Coach Jamie Cruce is entering his fifth season. He must shore up his defensive troops for Bethany to have just their second winning season in the past eight years. They are 24-45 over their last seven campaigns.
Southwestern Lions Offense
Southwestern has focused the off-season on its’ offense, which averaged 20 ppg and 321 yards per outing. Now beginning his 10th year as Offensive Coordinator, CoachGoddingwill put the ball in the trusted hands of senior QB Jason Rice (Katy, Tx / Texas State Univ) and in a deeper, more explosive set of performers at the skill positions.
Rice is a proven runner (over 800 yards as a freshman) in the team’s spread-option offense. He enters this season following a very productive spring and summer of training to strengthen his aerial game. The early signs are very promising.
Transfer QB Reid Golson (Howard Payne Univ) is effective as both an elusive runner as well as a scrambling passer. To say he is 'swift afoot' is an understatement.
Godding has a fast cast of tall receivers. Watching 7-on-7 practice drills at breakneck speed prompts a common, Kramer-like response: “Giddy up!”
David Howard (Dayton, Tx / Dayton HS), a 6’3 senior with a linebacker’s mentality, returns as the go-to guy. He caught 65 balls as a junior though he missed last season. Howard has excellent hands and is a challenge to bring down.
Waxahachie High School grad, Malcolm “Max” Whitfield, has big play potential, personality and will be hard to keep off the field.
Expect to see Rice spread the wealth to Howard, Whitfield, Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Juan Seguin HS), Jeremy McDonald (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian), Nathaniel Pruitt (Ft. Worth, Tx / Western Hills HS), Anthony Morris (Houston, Tx / Alief Hastings HS) and Micah Burditt (Midland, Tx / Midland Lee HS). They can all stretch the field.
Pruitt (85) and Morris (87) are pictured above following a TD last season.
Former Waxahachie standout, freshman Venique Benton, is one of the wide receiving arrows in a quiver that is full. A rotation of ends could cause match-up problems for opposing Defensive Coordinators.
Burditt has great hands, and along with McDonald, has experienced a great summer camp. McKinley has moved from cornerback to wideout where gaining yards after the catch is his forte.
While the return of halfback Eddie Bailey (950 yards as a freshman) remains up in the air, SAGU is not lacking in players who can tote the rock. Junior Sean Haynes(Katy, Tx / Katy HS), at 5’9, 195, is the speed while Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS), 5’8, 190, is the power and heart in the backfield. Freshman Devon Thomas (Franklin, La / Franklin HS), 6’0, 190, is a blend of both.
The offensive line will have three new starters to go with senior center Jacob Anderson (Tulsa, Ok / Union HS), 6’3, 300, and sophomore tackle Paul Sielski (North Richland Hills, Tx / Richland HS), 6’1, 320. Michael Hendon (Abilene, Tx / Abilene Christian), 6’0, 280, a junior guard, is more than capable inside.
Lions Special Teams
The kicking game appears solid, with former Waxahachie placekicker James Gish now in his second season. A fierce battle for the opening position at punter may have gone to Howard. Probable return men are Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Univ of North Texas, Wakeland HS) on punts, with Haynes and Marcus Lester (Austin, Tx / Reagan HS) lining-up to receive kickoffs.
The defensive front is anchored by three-time, all-conference tackle Jon Hulett (Corrigan, Tx / Corrigan HS). Surprisingly quick at 6’2, 330-lbs, he wreaks havoc even when double-teamed. Nicknamed “Jon-zilla” for his ferocious rush, he is a force to be reckoned with.
Look for Tyler Severio (Livingston, La / Bastrop HS), Therian Lewis (Corpus, Christi, Tx /Mary Carroll HS) and Richard Adewola (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) on the defensive line.
Linebacking is becoming an annual show of strength. Graduated is NAIA All-American LB Jared Hudgins, but taking over inside is the tandem of Donte Embry (Paris, Tx / Paris HS) and Quentin “Tank” Holloman (Garland, Tx / Sachse HS). They are part of a bevy of ‘backers that promise to see a lot of action!
That includes 6’4 senior Patrick Smith (Bluffton, SC / Hilton Head Christian), Nathan Kallal (Brighton, Ill / Southwestern HS) and freshman catalyst Rockie Davis (Sante Fe, Tx / Santa Fe HS).
In a stocked secondary, watch former All-American Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / B.F. Terry HS) return to his ballhawking ways after knee surgery. He led the nation in pass break-ups as a freshman. Lester is a speed-merchant at cornerback, while Heathcock, Frank Agbemaple (Euless, Tx / Euless Trinity HS), and Eric Smith (Euless, Tx / Euless Trinity HS) have enjoyed a fall camp of big plays as defensive backs.
Waxahachie’s O’Shae Cofer is in the mix at DB, battling for opportunities on the field. Meanwhile Joey Vinson (Patterson, La / Patterson HS), a 6’1 senior safety with vision, closing speed and moxie, has been on the mend from a rib injury.
On Deck for SAGU: Sept. 10
The Lions will play at home next week, Sept. 10, in a 6:00pm dual against Howard Payne University. It will be broadcast over the internet in high definition by SAGU SPORTS Live. The livestream video is free to the general public.
Clay Scarborough returns as the Play-by-Play announcer while Southwestern student, Tim Roberts, is the expected new Color Analyst.
For more information on Southwestern sports visit www.SAGU.edu/Athletics.