The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

Southeastern rides third-quarter surge against Northwestern State to nab elusive first win

Haley Dupre’
Former Lions Anthony Spurlock and Carlos Washington Jr. celebrate a touchdown in the end zone at Strawberry Stadium during SLU’s 23-7 victory over NSU last season. (Nov. 12, 2022 – Hammond)

Southeastern football (1-7, 1-3 SLC) at last earned its first victory of a disappointing 2023 season over Northwestern State (0-6, 0-2 SLC) in Natchitoches last night, 37-20. 

The Green and Gold finally found themselves on the winning side of things after opening the campaign on a seven-game losing skid. 

It was an emotional contest for both sides, but particularly for Northwestern State. Demon player Ronnie Caldwell was shot and killed last Thursday, shortly after midnight outside of his off-campus apartment in Natchitoches, according to local police. 

Caldwell was just 21 years of age and had been operating as a de facto defensive assistant coach for NSU this season due to being sidelined himself because of an injury. He was known as a vocal leader within the Northwestern State locker room and a highly regarded individual. 

Former Demon and current Lion quarterback Zachary Clement made a touching gesture for his fallen friend and old teammate. Choreographed ahead of time by both head coaches, Southeastern received the ball first and Clement took the snap before kneeling down beside Caldwell’s jersey, which had been laid down after the opening kickoff at the 35-yard line.

All 22 players on the field formed a circle around Caldwell’s jersey and were joined in a 23-second moment of silence by everyone inside Turpin Stadium; Caldwell wore number 23.

After coaches, players and fans alike had paid their respects to the late player, the game resumed. 

Southeastern found paydirt later on its first possession through redshirt sophomore tight end Bauer Sharp’s one-yard touchdown plunge as the Lions took a 7-0 lead (Riley Callaghan PAT). 

The Dothan, Alabama native has continued to be deployed in the ‘Wild Lion’ formation this season in short yardage and goal line situations where the 6’5 245 pound unit takes the direct snap and plows ahead behind a wall of blockers. 

Northwestern State responded immediately with a nine-play 75-yard drive, capped off by Tyler Vander Waal’s two-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper to tie the game at 7-7 (Brett Money PAT). 

SLU’s offense picked up right where they left off, finding the end zone again after redshirt sophomore wide receiver Da’shun Hugley scampered 22 yards for the score on an end-around.

Hugley’s first career touchdown in a Green and Gold uniform restored the Lions’ seven-point advantage, 14-7 (Callaghan PAT).

Southeastern’s defense forced an NSU three-and-out and the proceeding drive can only be described as a microcosm of the season up to this point for the Lions. 

Clement connected with redshirt junior wideout Darius Lewis for 42 yards down to the NSU 23 yard line. The Broussard native then found his tight end Sharp over the middle, who rumbled down to the Demon 11 before coughing up the football. 

Northwestern State’s senior linebacker Jaeden Ward recovered the fumble forced by teammate Cadillac Rhone, which resulted in an all too familiar redzone turnover for SLU.

NSU made good use of the takeaway, totaling 68 yards on eight plays, highlighted by freshman wide receiver TJ Johnson’s 43-yard reception from Vander Waal. 

However, the Demons promising drive stalled out at the Lions’ 21, as placekicker Brett Money’s field goal from 38 yards out split the uprights, making the score 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. 

Southeastern’s ensuing possession did not go to plan as Coach Scelfo decided to roll the dice and go for a fourth and one at his own 36, to no avail. The Northwestern State defense stood tall, stonewalling Sharp three yards behind the line of scrimmage, forcing the big tight end to lose the ball once more. 

This time, the ‘Wild Lion’ backfired as Rhone collected his second forced fumble of the first half and sophomore defensive tackle Johnny Mitchell was Johnny on the spot, recovering the loose ball at the SLU 33-yard line. 

It would take NSU only three plays to take its first lead of the contest after ex-Rutgers receiver Stanley King corralled a Sportscenter Top 10 worthy one-handed grab in the back corner of the end zone for six. 

Vander Waal did well to elude the initial rush from Hammond’s own Tyrik Mitchell and slung a seed on the run to King for the score, who showed exceptional body control, reaching back with his left arm to secure the catch over a helpless Markell Linzer. 

SLU’s junior corner was in pretty good coverage; however, it was just a better throw and catch by the Demons quarterback/wide receiver tandem. 

Money tacked on the extra point and Northwestern State went on top 17-14. 

Southeastern’s special teams made the next impact play of the game through freshman kickoff returner Tristan Goodly, who set up the Lion’s offense at its 49-yard line near midfield after a 48-yard return. 

Clement and co. capitalized off of the favorable field position and the signal caller took it in himself from four yards out on third and goal to give the Green and Gold the lead back against his former club, 21-17 (Callaghan PAT). 

Following an NSU punt, the Green and Gold embarked on a 48-yard drive that ultimately ended at their opponent’s 28. 

Offensive coordinator Greg Stevens dialed up a clever play call on fourth and one out of the ‘Wild Lion’ as Sharp took two hard steps towards the line of scrimmage to sell the run before throwing it to fellow tight end and former Demon Jacob Logan. 

Sharp, who played quarterback in high school, perhaps got a little too excited at the opportunity as he overthrew Logan, who was wide open for a certain first down and quite possibly a touchdown. 

The failed conversion cost SLU’s offense points but its defense held its ground, forcing an NSU punt. 

Heading into the locker room, the score remained 21-17 and represented the Lion’s first halftime lead all season, as well as the most points produced in a first half this year. 

Southeastern safety Victor Tademy made what was perhaps the play of the game on the opening possession of the second half, picking off Vander Waal and returning it 58 yards to the house, pushing SLU’s advantage to double digits, 28-17 (Callaghan PAT). 

The Harvard transfer jumped the route across the middle and cruised into the end zone untouched for the Lion’s first defensive/special teams touchdown of 2023. 

Northwestern State got inside the Southeastern 10 on its next possession before turning the ball over on downs. 

The interior of SLU’s defensive line got penetration and wrestled down NSU running back Chance Newman to the turf a yard short of the line to gain on fourth and two from the eight. 

Lion defensive tackle duo Javen Sanchez and Mitchell shot their run gaps and were joined in tackling the ball carrier by senior linebacker Herman Cristophe IV. 

It only took the Green and Gold four plays to cover 93 yards, with the final 81 coming on the legs of freshman running back Deantre Jackson. 

The Edna Karr product showed off his impressive wheels, outracing everyone to the end zone and blowing the game open for Southeastern, 34-17 (Callaghan PAT missed). 

After a dominant 13-0 edge in the third period of play, both sides traded field goals in the fourth quarter for a final score of 37-20 as SLU found itself in the win column for the first time since defeating Idaho in the opening round of the FCS playoffs in Strawberry Stadium back in late November of 2022. 

Southeastern outgained its opponent for the fourth consecutive week, and this time, the effort finally culminated in a victory. 

The Lions totaled a season-high 539 yards of offense to 396 for the Demons and operated like a well-oiled machine. SLU displayed a balanced attack, throwing for 320 yards through the air and 219 on the ground while adding four rushing touchdowns.

Clement accounted for 245 yards (192 passing, 53 rushing) against his former team with one score and one interception that was to no fault of his own as the ball ricocheted up in the air after hitting his intended target square in the chest. 

Jackson led all rushers with 107 yards on just six carries and produced SLU’s first individual 100-yard rushing game of the season. 

Lewis also eclipsed the century mark, hauling in six receptions to the tune of 109 receiving yards. Fellow wideout Maurice Massey was a welcome sight for Lions fans.

The former Missouri Tiger caught three passes for 85 yards and looked explosive while doing it. Massey was expected to be Southeastern’s go-to wide receiver this season but an ankle injury suffered in fall camp held him out for the team’s first six contests. 

The playmaker appeared sparingly last week vs. Lamar, finishing with two receptions for nine yards but looked much healthier last night against Northwestern State. 

On defense, SLU’s defensive back trio of Ian Conerly-Goodly, Tyrone Legette and Tademy each recorded 10 tackles, with Tademy adding his timely interception return touchdown to his impressive stat line. 

Linzer also tallied an interception, compensating for being on the wrong end of a highlight reel touchdown grab earlier in the ball game.

Southeastern moves to 1-7 (1-3 SLC) while Northwestern State falls to 0-6 (0-2 SLC). The Lions can now enjoy a much-needed 15-day break courtesy of their bye week.

For further coverage of SLU football, stay tuned to The Lion’s Roar

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About the Contributors
Chase Gispert
Chase Gispert, Sports Editor
Chase Gispert is a communication major with a concentration in sports communication. He joined The Lion’s Roar in March of 2021 and now serves as sports editor. Chase is a native of Madisonville. He has a strong passion for sports and is excited about where the future may take him.
Haley Dupre’
Haley Dupre’, Photography Editor
Haley Dupre' is a sports communication major from Donaldsonville. She joined our team in Oct. 2021 as a reporter. In addition to her contributions to Student Publications, Haley actively participates in managing SLU Track and Field's social media channels. With her passion for capturing photos, she aspires to build a career in sports photography.
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  • J

    Joey GrazianoOct 21, 2023 at 1:50 am

    Article well done… captured the solemness of the event with the relief of Southeastern’s first win