Lions scrap for win at Truman

Jacob W. Brower

Head coach John Ware was able to give Missouri Southern something it has never had: a gridiron victory in Kirksville.

Despite a game that saw the Lions out-gained by the winless Truman State University Bulldogs in offensive yards, first downs and time of possessions, Southern pulled out a 30-20 win over the Bulldogs on Oct. 2.

The Lions are now 3-1 in the conference and 4-2 overall. They are in sole possession of third place in the MIAA behind two nationally ranked teams, No. 2 Pittsburg State and No. 5 Northwest Missouri State University.

The Lions led 23-20 with 1:49 remaining in the game with the Bulldogs threatening on the Southern 1-yard line when defensive tackle Adrian Williams forced a fumble by Truman’s Jerard Leverson, which was returned 100 yards by cornerback Robert Spinks to preserve the victory. Spinks was named MIAA defensive player of the week for his performance, which included six unassisted tackles.

“It was a situation where I was hoping we could hold them to a field goal and come back in the end,” Ware said. “Robert has been an opportunistic guy this entire season, and it was a huge football play for him.”

Ware, who coached at TSU for 19 years before coming to Southern, said he was encouraged by the perseverance shown by his team.

“One of the things I’m pleased about is that the kids are finding a way to win,” Ware said. “We were in a place where Missouri Southern has never won before, and it was a tough game. I’m just glad we were able to come away with a victory.”

While he was pleased with the win, Ware said his journey back to his stomping grounds was bittersweet.

He posted a 54-44 overall record (49-32 in the MIAA) during his nine years on the TSU sideline and had seven winning seasons before coming to Southern.

He is currently the 12th winningest coach in MIAA history.

“It was very difficult, very strange for me,” Ware said. “It was weird being on the visitors’ sideline and in the visitors’ locker room. I had only been in there a few times before, but I also got to see a lot of people who are very important to me. It was a different experience but one you can grow from and learn from.”

The Bulldog defense held the Lions to only 286 offensive yards, more than 200 yards less than their season average, while TSU recorded 399 yards of total offense. TSU recorded 24 first downs to the Lions’ 23, and controlled the ball for 32:05 to the Lions 27:55.

Freshman quarterback Nathan Emert completed over 63 percent of his passes for 217 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while sophomore running back Wentric Williams led the team in rushing with 103 yards and a score and added three catches for 28 yards.

Senior wideout DeMarcus Mathes led the team in receiving with nine snags for 103 yards and a touchdown, while receiver Dustin Bromley recorded three catches for 33 yards.  

Other Lions who recorded receptions include wideout Tedaryl Mason (three catches for 15 yards and a score), receiver Colin Bado (two catches for 11 yards), tight end Cody Hilburn (one 15-yard-catch) and wide receiver Tyson Basore (one 14-yard catch).

Junior safety Blake Martin led the team with 13 tackles and linebacker Joe Bettasso led the Lions with two tackles for losses.

Safety Jordan Chapman and defensive tackle Jake Long each recorded an interception, while Bettasso, cornerback Nic Proctor and defensive ends Elbert Johnson and Lucas Williamson had one sack each.

The next game will be at home on at 6 p.m. Saturday against NWMSU.