Lions have high hopes to begin the season, despite injuries and many changes

The season is underway for the Missouri Southern State football team.  The Lions’ head coach Denver Johnson and his brand new coaching staff hope to improve on last years win-less season.

The new coaching staff includes Mike Fanago, for the defensive line, Mike Knoll, for the linebackers, Demo Odems III, for the wide receivers, Paul An, for the tight ends, Bryan Anderson, for the defensive backs, and Cody Green, for the running backs.

The Lions also have a new defensive coordinator, Joe Bettasso, has replaced Kenny Evans who has taken the defensive coordinator position at Rogers High school.

Senior linebacker, Justin Legier, on his new defensive coordinator Joe Bettasso “I love him already. Young and has a high tempo”.

Joe Bettasso was formally the defensive coordinator with the McKendree University Bearcats. In his last season with McKendree his defense ranked second in the GLVC in sacks and led the league in interceptions.

The Lions have a new starting quarterback junior Sean Kelly after losing all three of their prior quarterbacks with starting experience. Kelly is a transfer from Monroe College out of New Rochelle, New York.

“We have had some real gifted guys around here at the quarterback position, Sean may not be as physically gifted as the others, but so far he has been much more coachable and much more cerebral about what we are trying to do,” said head coach Denver Johnson.

“At the same time, he is a competitor.”

In his two years at Monroe, Kelly had 19 passing touchdowns for over 1600 yards and six interceptions.

Kelly also has seven rushing touchdown for 121 yards in those two years and was named ALL-NEFC second team quarterback in his last season with the Monroe Mustangs.

“It’s kind of the same, there’s not much difference, it may be a little bigger, little faster, and the guys are a little more solid as a team together because they have played together longer, but I’m excited to play in my first NCAA game,” said junior quarterback Sean Kelly about his transition from the NEFC to the MIAA.

The Lions hope to make this season special and they believe that they have the right attitude going forward.

“Coming back we have a lot more team chemistry this season, our tempo is much higher and we have high hopes for this upcoming season.”

“We are really eager to win this first game, and then to come home and win the next one, and then the next one after that, we’re ready to shock the world,” said Legier.

The Lions had their first game of the season yesterday against the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

“We’re going up against a triple option football team, and nothing about that is advantageous for our defense, we have a great plan and the kids have embraced in the direction we are going this season,” said coach Johnson.

The Lions have won three out of the last four games against the UNK. That includes two road wins out of the three.

Injury Report

The Lions did not play junior, Roc Robbins with a hamstring pull. Robbins will return this season according to Coach Johnson.

“We will evaluate it day-to-day, but we hope to have him (Robbins) back for Lindenwood, but we won’t know until early next week,” said Johnson.

The Lions will also be without freshman wide receiver Tyrese Sisson for the season, most likely.

Sisson is a freshman from Owasso, Okla., and was emerging as one of the team’s best receivers this offseason.

He unfortunately had to have surgery on his arm after breaking it this off-season.

“The Sisson kid broke his arm out here this spring, and was really emerging as one of, if not our best receiver. We were really excited about him, we thought he might be a true freshman that played a significant role,” said Johnson.

“There is an outside chance that we get him back this year, but I would say that’s pretty doubtful.”

Sophomore defensive end Keith Armstead is out for a few weeks with a meniscus tear. Armstead had knee surgery this offseason. The Lions next game will be against Lindenwood on September 8th at 7:00 p.m. at the Fred G. Hughes stadium here in Joplin.