HAMMOND, La. – After a 447-day hiatus, the No. 18 Southeastern Louisiana football team will return to competition on Saturday, opening its six-game Southland Conference spring schedule with a 6 p.m. game at Sam Houston in Bowers Stadium.
Saturday’s game will be televised on ESPN+ and can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9 FM, Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM). Fans can also listen live at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Lions Game Day Experience and TuneIn Radio apps.
Nearly 15 months have passed since the Lions walked off the field after a second-round loss to Montana in the 2019 NCAA FCS playoffs. Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo, the reigning Southland Conference Coach of the Year, has his team ready to play.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to get back on the field and compete,” Scelfo said. “We don’t practice just to practice; we practice to compete. We’re looking forward to seeing how we measure up against an opponent.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Southeastern returns many of the key pieces that contributed to one of the most prolific offenses in the nation in 2019. Cole Kelley, who led SLU with 10 rushing touchdowns and threw for 10 scores in his debut season in Hammond, and newcomer Cephus Johnson III will be the leaders under center for the Lion offense.
Southeastern was the lone school in FCS to have five players with 50-plus catches and 500-plus receiving yards in 2019 and three members of that quintet return for the spring 2021 campaign. CJ Turner, Austin Mitchell and Javon Conner lead a deep group of pass-catching options for SLU, which also returns preseason All-Southland tight end Matt DeBlaiso.
Taron Jones and Marcus Cooper are the top returners in the backfield for Southeastern. A stalwart Lion offensive line is led by senior returning starters Drew Jones and Rendon Miles-Character.
Chris Lachney is in his first season as the SLU defensive coordinator after serving as the linebackers coach in 2018 and 2019. All-American cornerback Ferlando Jordan, All-Southland linebacker Alexis Ramos and safety Donniel Ward-Magee are the returning starters on the Lion defense, which will be fortified by the return of linebacker Mike Mason and safety Matt Wright from injury.
Austin Dunlap will return to handle the punting duties, while junior newcomer Mateo Rengifo is expected to take over as the place kicker this spring. Mitchell gives the Lions a dangerous weapon in the return game.
Sam Houston is coming off a 7-5 finish in 2019, though the Bearkats’ five losses came by a combined 22 points. Scelfo knows SHSU poses a particularly tough challenge in the spring 2021 opener.
“We’ll definitely have a good indication of how we measure up after this opening game,” Scelfo said. “Sam Houston has the second most wins in all of FCS over the last decade and we have a ton of respect for its program. They return one of the top defenses in the nation and an offense led by a veteran quarterback with plenty of talent at the skill positions. We’re facing a great team on Saturday.”
Eric Schmid leads a Sam Houston offense that also returns All-Southland running back Donovan Williams. Consensus preseason All-American defensive lineman Trace Mascorro leads a stacked Bearkat defense that returns all-conference performers in Jaylen Thomas, Zyon McCollum, Jevon Leon and Joseph Wallace. All-American punter and Ray Guy Award candidate Matt McRobert highlights the SHSU special teams.
Sam Houston leads the all-time series, 13-6, over Southeastern. The two teams last met in 2018 with the Bearkats holding off a late SLU rally for a 28-25 victory.
The Lions host McNeese at 6 p.m. on March 6 at Strawberry Stadium to open their home slate. The SLU home opener will be will be televised on ESPN+ and can be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9 FM, Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM). Fans can also listen live at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Lions Game Day Experience and TuneIn Radio apps.
For ticket information, please contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net/tickets. Southeastern is implementing mobile ticketing as the primary source for securing tickets for the 2020-21 season. All tickets will be available via e-mail or text message in a PDF format for fans to download on their phone or print at home. Tickets can also be downloaded to Apple Wallet. SLU is scheduled to host McNeese (March 6), Northwestern State (March 13) and Lamar (April 3) this coming spring. Current state and local health and safety regulations limit capacity at Strawberry Stadium to 2,518.
INSIDE SOUTHEASTERN FOOTBALL WITH FRANK SCELFO
Inside Southeastern Football With Frank Scelfo, presented by Louisiana’s First Choice Auto Auction, will air every Monday through the end of the season at 7 p.m. on the patio at Pour House Pizza and Beer Garden (505 West Thomas Street) in downtown Hammond. Hosted by Scelfo, the reigning Southland Conference Coach of the Year, and Allen Waddell, the hour-long show will air on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU-FM (90.9), Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM WFPR). Fans can also listen live at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Lions Game Day and TuneIn Radio apps.