No. 14 Lions to host No. 4 Bearkats, look to make history

HAMMOND -The No. 14 Southeastern Louisiana football team will look to make history when it hosts No. 4 Sam Houston State in Southland Conference action Saturday at 3 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium.
With a victory, the Lions (8-2, 5-0 Southland) can clinch a share of the Southland Conference title – the program’s first since winning the Gulf States Conference in 1961 – and a berth in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs with a win over the Bearkats (8-2, 4-1 Southland). Sam Houston State and McNeese State are the other teams alive for a shot at the conference title. The Bearkats have won the last two league titles and advanced to the last two FCS National Championship games.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to play in front of a packed Strawberry Stadium,” Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts said. “We have a huge challenge in front of us with a talented, extremely well-coached Sam Houston State team coming to town. Coach Willie Fritz has built one of the best programs in the nation and we’ll have to be at our best to have a chance for a victory this Saturday.”
Saturday’s game will be televised by the Southland Conference Television Network and streamed live for free on Southland TV affiliates locally included WHNO (Charter Channel 14 in the Hammond area) and WTBR in Baton Rouge. The game will also air on KSLU 90.9 FM, the flagship station of the Southeastern Sports Radio Network, as well as Northshore Broadcasting stations Kajun 107.1 FM and The Joint 104.7 FM. Fans can listen online at or on their smart phone using the TuneIn Radio app.
Saturday will be Military Appreciation and Take A Kid to the Game Day at Strawberry Stadium. Military personnel will receive a general admission ticket for $10 and a reduced price on nachos at the concessions stands by presenting their military ID. Children ages 12 and under can receive a free general admission ticket with the purchase of an adult general admission ticket at full price. Fans are encouraged to wear gold to help Gold Out Strawberry Stadium.
Southeastern was able to extend its winning streak to seven games last Saturday with a 58-31 victory at No. 24 Central Arkansas. Junior quarterback Bryan Bennett engineered a Lion offense that racked up 545 total yards and posted its highest ever point total versus a Southland Conference opponent. Bennett, who was named to the Walter Payton Award Watch List on Tuesday, claimed a myriad of national and conference honors after rushing for a season-high 142 yards and two touchdowns, while also accounting for 202 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
The Lion offense is averaging 40.5 points and 481.2 yards per contest. Bennett leads a dangerous rushing attack with 763 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns – one off the single-season school record. The sophomore running back trio of Rasheed Harrell (519 yards, 7 touchdowns), Xavier Roberson (463-5 TD) and Kody Sutton (320-5 TD) have also buoyed the Lions’ ground game.
Bennett has also been increasingly effective with his arm, throwing for 2,069 yards and 13 touchdowns. Sophomore Jeff Smiley (38 catches, 481 yards, 5 touchdowns), senior Tony McCrea (29-541-1 TD) and senior Marquis Fruge’ (21-324-1 TD) are the Granada Hills, Calif. native’s most prolific targets.
The Lions will be looking to move the ball on a tough Sam Houston State defense. The Bearkats are allowing 25.4 points and 417.8 yards per game heading into Saturday’s contest. Senior linebackers Tanner Brock and Eric Fiello lead the team with 74 and 71 tackles, respectively. Senior defensive end Andrew Weaver has a team-high six sacks, while junior Michael Wade and senior De’Antrey Loche have two interceptions apiece.
SHSU features an explosive offense that has accumulated 44.4 points and 468.7 yards per outing. Senior running back Timothy Flanders leads the team with 1,048 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, while senior quarterback Brian Bell has accounted for 30 touchdowns (23 passing, 7 rushing). Senior Torrance Williams is the top receiver with 36 catches, 822 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns.
The Lion defense has allowed a league-low 22.1 points per game and opponents are averaging 377.5 yards per contest. Junior linebacker Drew Misita and senior linebacker Cqulin Hubert are the team’s leading tacklers with 57 and 53 stops, respectively. Juniors Isiah Corbett (9.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks) and Jacob Newman (12.0 TFL / 6 sacks) lead the Southeastern pass rush, while junior Marice Sutton and sophomore Harlan Miller share the team lead with three interceptions.
Both teams feature dangerous return men and accurate kickers. Roberson leads the nation with 41.3 yards per kickoff return and three kickoff return touchdowns, while SHSU’s Williams is averaging 18.4 yards per punt return. Lion senior kicker Seth Sebastian (9-9 FG, 52-53 PAT) has been nearly flawless, while SHSU freshman Luc Swimberghe (6-9 FG, 57-59 PAT) has also been efficient.
Southeastern will close the 2013 regular season next Thursday, hosting Nicholls State at 6 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium for the River Bell Classic. The game will be televised on tape delay by WHNO (Charter Channel 14 in the Hammond area) and streamed live on ESPN3. The game will also air on KSLU 90.9 FM, the flagship station of the Southeastern Sports Radio Network, as well as Northshore Broadcasting stations Kajun 107.1 FM and The Joint 104.7 FM. Fans can listen online at or on their smart phone using the TuneIn Radio app.