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August 30, 2019

SAGU 2019 Football Seniors

Waxahachie, TX – Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) Lions football begins the 2019 season on Saturday night at 7:00 PM taking on the Tabor College Bluejays from Hillsboro, KS. The 2019 season will be the 22 nd second season of varsity football for SAGU. During the first 21 years SAGU has gone from a perennial struggling program with sub .500 records to a respected NAIA program with a Central States Football League conference title, multiple runner-up conference finishes, and two trips to the NCCAA Victory Bowl including one victory in the 2015 bowl game.

At the helm for the Lions, in his second year as head coach, is alumnus Ryan Smith. Smith’s inaugural squad saw a 5-5 finish in 2018. With a year under his belt in the program, the anticipation of a better finish runs high among coaches and players. Smith was a member of those struggling teams as a quarterback in 2001-2004 and has seen a variety of changes to the facilities, campus, and overall talent level for SAGU.

SAGU was picked 5 th in the 2019 Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) Coaches’ Preseason Poll. Don’t blame the coaches in the conference for expecting SAGU to drop in their competitive level from the past 4-5 years. After all, it isn’t every NAIA program that has their quarterback sign as a free-agent with an NFL team. Replacing that quarterback, CJ Collins, will be a major factor in SAGU’s success this year. Along with Collins, the Lions will offensively have to replace two First-Team All-Conference wide receivers in Samuel Northey and Jeremy Carr. Gone also is runningback Stephan Free and four-year offensive line stalwart Dayne Maclin. The bottom line is most of the offensive production from 2018 has moved on and Smith will have to rebuild the potent Lion offense.

To do so the Lions will lean on an offensive line trio of returners in Hayden Evans (JR, Santa Fe, TX) , Luke McBride (SO, Flower Mound, TX) and Evan Greathouse (SO, Katy, TX) . They will open holes for returning runningback Michael Bledsoe (SO, Tyler, TX) . At the other skill positions the return of seniors Justin Allen (SR, Maypearl, TX) and Bryan Dotson (SR, Grand Prairie, TX) will give a new quarterback talented options to create offense.

Defensively, the Lions are hoping to improve an abysmal run defense that saw the 2018 SAGU team rank 82 nd out of 89 teams in the NAIA. A number of bright spots in that defense return for the Lions to help with that improvement. Keandre Belcher (SO, Katy, TX) , returning defensive tackle, is one of those bright spots. Belcher was a SAC First Team All-Conference selection as a freshman finishing with 77 tackles on the year. Another bright spot is middle linebacker Landon Jones (SR, Waco, TX) who was announced as the SAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year at SAC Media Day in July. These two are joined by a returning trio of defensive backs including Coby Roach (SR, Siloam Springs, AR) , Christian Cross (SO, Houston, TX) , and Bryce Bailey (SO, Arlington, TX) .

Special teams specialist Tluang Hmung (JR, Lewisville, TX) , will once again handle the placekicking duties for the Lions. In 2018, TH, as Hmung is called by everyone on SAGU’s campus, hit 42 of 45 PAT attempts and 9 of 12 field goals with a long of 44 yards.

Smith Says

  • On the state of the program : “The entire 2018 season was spent developing an identity as organization. Everything from spiritual formation to overall program development was in a season of growth. We created an identity on how we prepare each day and how we play on each Saturday. As we transition into season two we are embracing another season of growth. We have a high expectation of success on the field going into the season. However, our focus will continue on developing 3D men and being more consistent and efficient in our day to day process which we believe will lead to a championship.”
  • On the defense : “We are really excited about our defense and the experience we have returning on that side of the ball. The expectation would be a vast improvement from last year’s very young, inexperienced, defense.”
  • On SAC football : “Langston is the team that immediately comes to mind because of history. I expect the Arizona schools to be highly competitive and Texas Wesleyan is a team that will continue to get better. But overall I want our guys to focus on us. We have to live by our philosophy which is centered on controlling the controllable. We have to focus on controlling us and preparing with an expectation of results.”
  • On key incoming players : “Noah Gipson, Landon Moon, Blake Williams, Drake Rodriguez, Keontrey Jackson, and Brylen Watson are all guys we expect to make contributions on the field in their first year with the program.”

Final Thoughts

“I love this team and am excited about the juice they bring each day. In year two, players and coaches have a better understanding of our day to day processes. Everyone in the program is focused on being relationship driven and that has helped us tremendously in creating the connections we need to be successful.”

The Next Step

The Lions open their season at Lumpkins Stadium in Waxahachie, TX against the Tabor College Bluejays at 7:00 pm on Saturday, August 31 st . The gamebroadcast can be found at this link on the SAGU Sports Network or follow the stats through DakStats .

As a leading Christian university, SAGU educates and prepares individuals who want to serve Christ and others. SAGU helps students discover and develop their God-given callings in a Spirit-empowered, learning community.

We believe in affordable tuition, made possible in part through the financial support of donors who embrace the mission of SAGU and the importance of affordable, accredited programs to train Christians for leadership in ministry, business, education, and service.

Most majors are available in-person in Waxahachie, TX, and online through a wide range of associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

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