Lions down Colonels to capture third Southland Conference Title in school history


Haley Dupre'

Ivan Drobocky (left) and Tanner Olsen (right) hoist River Bell Classic Trophy after SLU defeated Nicholls 40-17 on Thursday night in Thibodaux to clinch the Southland Conference Title. (Nov 17, 2022)

Southeastern defeated Nicholls Thursday night in Thibodaux 40-17 at John L. Guidry Stadium to take back the River Bell Classic Trophy.

Despite entering the contest at 3-7, the Colonels put up a fight to no surprise of the SLU faithful. 

Nicholls knocked the Lions out of the Southland Conference title race a season ago at Strawberry Stadium after a 45-42 affair in which a frantic fourth-quarter Lion comeback attempt was dashed in the final seconds as Mateo Rengifo’s field goal missed wide left.

No one can forget the heartbreak of 2019 after a late missed extra point and fumble on the Nicholls one-yard line with 15 seconds to play cost SLU the Southland in that season. 

In a game of runs, it was SLU who got the last laugh in the 2022 edition of this intense rivalry game. 

Following a pair of punts from either side, Nicholls drew first blood via running back Julien Gums’ record-setting six-yard touchdown run (Gavin Lasseigne PAT good). 

The senior put the Colonels up 7-0 early on just the fourth play of a 72-yard scoring drive which was set up by wide receiver Al’Dontre Davis’ 42-yard reception from quarterback Kohen Granier.  

It was touchdown run number 36 for Gums’ career, putting him atop the Nicholls’ record books with the most in school history. 

Sophomore standout Gage Larvadain responded via a 43-yard kickoff return with 15 yards tacked onto it after being dragged down from a horse collar tackle. 

This set up a 33-yard Riley Callaghan field goal to make it 7-3. 

SLU’s defense then came up with a huge turnover on Nicholls’ first play of their ensuing possession as Colonel receiver K.J. Franklin took a shot over the middle from linebacker Anthony Britton Jr. and coughed up the football. 

Senior safety Donniel Ward-Magee recovered the fumble gifting Southeastern possession at the Nicholls’ 27 yard line. 

Four plays later, sophomore tight end Ivan Drobocky was left all alone in the end zone for six, found by Eli Sawyer (Callaghan’s PAT was good), making it 10-7 Lions after one quarter of play.

SLU’s defense forced a three and out, and Sawyer engineered an 11-play 76-yard scoring march punctuated by senior tailback Jessie Britt’s eight-yard touchdown reception on third and goal.

Britt caught a swing pass from his quarterback and hurdled one would-be tackler before sticking the landing and trucking another into the end zone to give Southeastern a 17-7 lead. (Callaghan PAT good)

The Colonels would make a special teams play of their own as return man Jaylon Spears set up his offense at the SLU 42 following a 48-yard dash.

Granier connected with running back Marquese Albert from 11 yards out on the seventh play of the drive to make it a one score game once more, 17-14, as Lasseigne’s PAT was good.

Albert was left by himself in the end zone on a wheel route and Granier sold the initial play fake to him beautifully.

Faced with a fourth and 16 from their own 48, Southeastern ran a fake punt which did not work at all, giving Nicholls the ball in plus territory. 

The Colonels turned the good field position into three points through the foot of Lasseigne from 28 yards, tying the game at 17.

SLU answered with a 68-yard touchdown drive, capped off by Britt’s 33-yard scamper on fourth down and one. 

Nicholls tried to match the Lions’ score with under a minute to play in the second quarter, but wound up providing their opponents with another one as first-team All-American cornerback Zy Alexander jumped a route in the flat and took it 47 yards to the house.

Southeastern muffed the snap on the extra point, yet went into the locker room up 30-17, scoring twice inside the final two minutes of the first half to shellshock the Colonels. 

The Lions padded their advantage midway through the third quarter with Drobocky’s second touchdown of the contest. 

The sophomore tight end pinballed his way off two Nicholls defenders en route to find paydirt, stiffening SLU’s grip on the game, 37-17. (Callaghan PAT good)

Callaghan tacked on a field goal in the fourth to make the score 40-17 in favor of Southeastern. 

The boys in Green and Gold outgained the team from Thibodaux 423-270 and won the turnover battle 4-0. 

Sawyer finished the game an efficient 19/24 for 228 yards and threw for three passing touchdowns. 

With the win, SLU has clinched its third Southland Conference Title in school history and will be playing in the postseason for the third time in the last four seasons. 

The River Bell Classic series is now 17-16 in favor of the Lions and the trophy will be returning to Hammond, America. 

Southeastern finishes the regular season at 8-3 overall and 5-1 in SLC play, riding high on a five game winning streak.

The Green and Gold will await its seeding from the FCS selection committee on Sunday to see if they get to host a first round playoff game or not.