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Lions to introduce new helmet design

Key returners could drive team over .500

WAXAHACHIE, Texas  --  Spring is in the air. For sports fans it can mean the crack of the bat against a ball or the sound of shoulder pads crashing during spring football drills.

Opening Day in baseball triggers the thoughts of football fans to the NFL draft and the opening kickoff of the fast approaching fall season.

The Southwestern Assemblies of God University has released their 2013 schedule and it includes an 11-game itinerary for the first time since 2004.

That season was during the formative years of the program. SAGU won the first game, 56-7 over Principia College (IL) (who are members of the NCAA Division III), then dropped the next ten.

The Lions are coming off consecutive 4-6 seasons and are in solid position to make their first-ever season over .500.

Under veteran Head Coach Jesse Godding the team had perhaps their largest number of players ever during spring camp.

SAGU will open with a pair of home games on September 7 and 14 against Bethany College (Lindsborg, Ks) and Howard Payne University (Brownwood, Tx).

The Lions lost to the Swedes, 13-12, on a late touchdown last year, and defeated HPU on the road, topping the Yellow Jackets, 27-17.

The schedule has three sets of back-to-back away games:

Sept. 21 and 28 at Haskell University (Lawrence, Ks) and Texas Lutheran University (Seguin, Tx).

October 12 and 19 at Wayland Baptist University (Plainview, Tx) and Austin College (Sherman, Tx).

November 2 and 9 at Oklahoma Baptist University (Shawnee, Ok) and Texas College (Tyler, Tx).

SAGU has three home tilts following those treks out of town:

October 5 versus Bacone College (of Muskogee, Ok).
Oct. 26 against Oklahoma Panhandle State University (of Goodwell, Ok)
Nov. 16 vs. Langston University (from Langston, Ok)

Click on the Schedule tab under Football on the SAGU Athletics website for the complete schedule, in order, including game times.

The 2013 Homecoming game is set for Oct. 26 when OPSU visits Waxahachie.

A noteworthy aspect is the lack of a bye week.

The Purple Pride will face five conference games against teams from the Central States Football League; first Bacone, and then Wayland, Oklahoma Baptist, Texas College and Langston. The first and last are at home.

The Lions schedule includes seven teams who are NAIA members, one from the NCAA’s Division II (OPSU), and three in the NCAA Division III (TLU, HPU and AC).

Playing site and media broadcasts

Lumpkins Stadium, located just over a mile from campus, serves as 'home' for the Lions. It seats 10,000 and features an artificial playing surface.

Lumpkins is an excellent facility with a recently installed playing surface, locker room, concessions and a high-tech, four story press box.

One floor of the press box is dedicated for broadcasting, which houses SAGU Sports Live. They air all Lions' home games with the NAIA’s only HD broadcast.

Internet radio coverage of road games may be introduced this season.

Fresh, new look

SAGU will also be introducing a newly designed helmet. It will be adorned with the school’s new athletic brand, a lions’ profile.

Expect to see a change in the color of the helmet as well. The gold dome is going to be replaced by purple or black. Decked with the new Lions image, the switch in background color should present a more striking logo.

The team will continue wearing purple jerseys at home, but with white pants instead of purple. They still have the option of purple or gold pants. White on purple remains the plan for road games.

Offensive playmakers return

In recent seasons the team has operated a version of the spread-option offense and multiple 3-4 type defensive alignments, including a 3-3-5.

Senior quarterback Reid Golson (Grandview, Tx / Howard Payne University, Grandview HS) returns at the controls. He passed for 1,867 yards and a dozen touchdowns.

His 257 yards per game ranked No. 18 nationally in total offense. Golson’s rushing; 705 yds, 4.3 per carry, 3 TDs, placed him at No. 40.

The receiving corps will be led by the high octane duo of sophomore Jeremy McDonald (San Antonio, Tx / Cornerstone Christian) and senior flyer Trevor McKinley (Arlington, Tx / Seguin HS).

As a freshman McDonald reeled in 40 catches, three resulting in scores. He averaged over 18 yard per reception. McKinley picked up ten yards per grab while latching onto 29 balls.

The ground game produced more questions than answers during the recently completed spring scrimmage.

The top two rushers will not return; one transferred while Cade Leuschner (Waco, Tx / Robinson HS) just accepted a youth pastorate at Irving’s Calvary Church. He gained nearly 600 yards (4.6 per carry) and scored seven TD’s the past two seasons.

Styles Winston (Garland, Tx / Lakeview Centennial HS), a six-foot, 185-pound mix of speed and slash, finished with 98 yards, most of it; 68 yds, 2 TDs, in one game.

The O-line is expected to have size and experience, led by juniors Peter Akorikin (Dallas, Tx / Conrad HS) 6'3, 310 and Mitchell Grimes (McKinney, Tx / McK North HS) at 6'5, 330.

On special teams, the Lions return an All-America candidate in placekicker James Gish (Waxahachie, Tx / Waxahachie HS). His 1.5 field goals made per contest ranked No. 1 in the NAIA.

At 5’9, 195, he booted 15-of-21 tries (71.4%) as a junior, including his second 50-yarder. He made 6-of-13 and 6-of-11 in his first two years, giving him 27 of 45 (60%) in his career.

In hopes of a 'Carniverous D'

Defensively, the Lions appear very good.

The secondary could be one of the best, anchored at cornerback by sophomore Shakeem Taylor (Mesquite, Tx / Poteet HS). He was second on the team last year with six picks and one TD.

Deonte Morrison (Garland, Tx / Lakeview Centennial HS), a 6’1 sophomore, is one of several talented returners competing for the position Nick Ekanem (Richmond, Tx / Arkansas State Univ., B.F. Terry HS) held for four years.

Ekanem (EE-kon-um) graduated as the school’s all-time leader in interceptions (18) and break-ups (36).

Senior safety Brad Heathcock (Frisco, Tx / Wakeland HS) led the squad in tackles (9.3 per gm) and had a pair of thefts.

The linebacking unit boasts of three sophomores in Dalton Snyder (Ennis, Tx / Ennis HS), Jeremiah Maat (Slidell, La / Slidell HS) and Mohammed “Mo” Mansaray (Dallas, Tx / Conrad HS). They averaged 7.0, 4.9 and 4.7 stops respectively.

Kendall Evers (Danbury, Tx / Danbury HS), a steady senior, contributed four tackles per game.

Lineman Rodney D.J. Johnson Jr. (Detroit, Mich / Parkview HS), a stalwart at 6’4, 300 pounds, could be the best player on the defensive side of the ball. There are several others with experience returning up front.

Coach Godding’s coaching staff includes coordinators Frank Tristan (offense) and John Allen (defense).

The team will report to summer camp on August 12.

A complete preview of the team will be posted in late August.

Coach Godding is featured in a Q & A to be posted next. Watch for further team news and recruiting announcements throughout the summer.

Contact: Mark “Link” Warde, SAGU Sports Information Director, at or at 469-658-2847.

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