Lions go undefeated in SLC play

The Southeastern Lion football team went into their final game of the season as a “single heart, single mind,” said senior defensive lineman Greg Triay.
The Lions came out on top of their rivalry and are officially undefeated in Southland Conference play. The Lions (10-2, 7-0 SLC) went up against the Nicholls State Colonels (4-8, 1-6 SLC) for a tough fight, the final score being a huge feat of 52-27.
Colonel’s offense, led by sophomore quarterback Tuskani Figaro with 139 yards passing and 84 yards rushing, came out strong in the first half but big plays by the Lions caused the Colonels to fall flat.  
“It was a big win, lots of big plays,” Roberts said. “It was a hard fought battle. In a rivalry game, going in, anything can happen, and it was like that in the first half. In this conference, everybody has a lot of pride and tradition, and they want to fight and they’re going to play well, and they did tonight. [Nicholls] deserves credit for that. “
The first half was, at times, cringing to watch. Every time the Lions gained the ball, it was a fumble or false start that set the team back farther and farther from the end zone.
Senior wide receiver Tony McCrea and senior kicker Seth Sebastian kept the Lions going in the first half. Sebastian gave a 37-yard field goal at the fourth-and-6 in the first quarter, and McCrea caught a ten yard pass for the touchdown near the end of the first quarter.
Sebastian came in a second time, at the second quarter’s fourth-and-5, with a 27-yard field goal and now he is the all-time leading career scorer in Southeastern school history with a perfect 14-for-14 record of field goals this season, plus a 61-of-62 on extra points.
Junior quarterback Bryan Bennett’s passing started off shaky. He threw two fumbled passes; one to junior wide receiver Isaiah Kepley and then one to sophomore running back Xavier Roberson. Overall though, Bennett led the Lion offense by throwing 273 yards and two touchdowns. The Walter Payton Award candidate also rushed for a 120 yards as a game high, giving his 14th rushing touchdown of the season. At the end of the first half, the Lions were one point away from the lead at 13-14.
Some could say lack of focus was eating away at their brains since the team had just played a Saturday game against Sam Houston State, but Bennett had confidence the team could make a comeback and pull it all together.
“We just had to make sure we did our job and we focused, focused on the little things,” Bennett said. “Just trying to relax out there, can’t get to anxious. Can’t get too high, can’t get too low, just stay even, and I think we did a good job after that.”  After the second half, Bennett made sure to keep the football “high and tight,” he said.
Defensively and offensively, the Lions did pull it all together after the second half. The team kicked it into high gear, coming out of the locker room like a bullet. That sense of urgency missing from the first half appeared. It was the third quarter that really made the game come full circle.
“Offense was unbelievable in the third quarter, and defense made some huge stops, and special teams were big,” Roberts said. “That was a long third quarter if you ask me.”
Another good field goal kick from Sebastian at the fourth-and-9, and a 53-yard rush touchdown from junior wide receiver Devante Scott brought the fans of Strawberry Stadium to their feet. The ten point lead continued to grow when Bennett’s passing fell into place. Bennett moved the ball with three different offensive players until finally sophomore running back Kody Sutton rushed for two yards to the touchdown.
The third quarter was closed with a 54 yard rush for the touchdown by junior wide receiver Marquis Hayes. Now, the score of 20-45 was hard for the Colonels to come back from.
“When you execute 11 guys at a time, you have the opportunity to score at will,” Bennett said of the team work.
Fourth quarter saw junior quarterback Jordan Barnett play, who led the Lion offense with a 45 yard, six play scoring drive. Sophomore defensive back Harlan Miller intercepted Colonel junior quarterback Beaux Hebert’s pass returning it for 30 yards, giving the Lions the advantage.
“I was in the right spot at the right time,” Miller said of the play. “Coach put me there for a reason, and I gave him a reason why.”
Roberson scored the final touchdown giving the Lions a final score of 52-27. With a near perfect season, the Lion football program has made a complete turn-around due to a diligent coaching staff bringing back the love of football to Hammond. Scott, who scored his first ever touchdown as a Lion in the game says everyone loves what they do, so the team makes it work.
“Nobody walks around with a frown on their face,” Scott said. “They’re happy to go to play every day, the coaches are happy to coach.”
Though the regular season is over, the real work is just beginning says Roberts. Their best ball is still ahead of them and there is still room for improvement.
“Winning championships is difficult, and it’s a continuous process that does not stop,” Roberts said. “I’m blessed that right now I have a coaching staff that understands what it takes.”
Tune into ESPNU tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 24, at 10:30 a.m. to watch the NCAA FCS Football Championship Selection show live. For Charter Cable in Hammond, tune into channel 302. The Lions will find out if they get a bye week and see who their opponent will be in the playoffs.