by Mike Miller
November 13, 2009 – The temperature is rising at Southeastern Louisiana University, and we don’t mean its
|Head Coach Mike Lucas|
cold and flu season. The Fighting Lions are set for the biggest game since football returned to the Hammond campus in 2003. Saturday, November 14, the Lions host Stephen F. Austin with a possible Southland Conference championship and a trip to the NCAA (FCS) playoffs on the line. A victory could also mark the return of Southeastern to the Top 25 polls since the football program was dropped in 1985.
“Biggest game since the first one,” said Southeastern Assistant Athletic Director Matt Sullivan, referring to the return of football after an 18 year layoff. The game is set for a 2 p.m. kickoff in Strawberry Stadium and is shaping up to be just as important for SFA, who is in a four way tie with SLU, McNeese, and Texas State for first place in the Southland Conference. SFA message boards are calling it the “biggest game in school history.”
SLU (6-3, 4-1) secured its first winning season since 2004 and their first winning record ever in Southland Conference play with a 27-0 win over Northwestern last Saturday. The Lions enter the SFA game ranked 26th in The Sports Network nation poll and 27thin the FCS Coaches’ poll.
This year’s game could be something special to Lions head coach Mike Lucas because last year’s game was almost his last game. Lucas was diagnosed with a defective heart value after last year’s 48-45 lost to SFA. The repair surgery caused him to miss the second half of the season. “I didn’t think I handled the stress very well,” said Lucas. “So many things went wrong. We turned the ball over four times in the kicking game.”
The Lions jumped out to a 28-0 lead before stumbling. “One of the worst feelings I ever felt on the football field,” said Lions quarterback Brian Babin, who entered the game having thrown 182 passes without an interception before his first led to the beginning of SFA’s remarkable rally.
Lucas does not see this year’s game as a revenge game, instead he has simply stressed the importance of it to his team. “It’s going to be a great game between two very good teams.” And his players are getting the message. “Chance to win the conference,” added Babin.
Not only the Southeastern football team, but the baseball team is also gearing up for the game. “We’re going to put up tents and sleep in Friendship Circle Friday night,” said Cody Gougler. “The Lion Walk needs to be packed. These guys are good and need all the support they can get.”
Supporters of the Lions program are hoping the expected great weather and the importance of the game will be the restart of the traditions that were lost when the program was on hiatus. “We want everybody to be loud and rowdy,” said Gougler. “We want to become football smart.”