Lions roar into the win column


Sierra Gray | The Chart

Stephan Randall goes in for a tackle during the Hall of Fame Game against Nebraska-Kearney at Fred G. Hughes stadium on Sept. 18, 2015. The Lions won the game 24-14 for their first win of the season.

The Missouri Southern football team got in the win column this weekend against Nebraska-Kearney in the Hall of Fame Game inside Fred G. Hughes stadium. The Lions and Lopers met with a record of 0-2 for the second consecutive year. The Lions won last season’s meeting 34-17 on the road.

“We were excited to be back home,” said head coach Denver Johnson. “We’re anxious and ready to get back on the field.”

Before the game, Johnson said, “A win would go a long way in bolstering our spirits. I think our kids’ attitude have remained pretty good. A win would be a big shot in the arm, I think, for several different reasons. I don’t think we can overstate how much this [win] would mean to us.”

“I feel like it would a big confidence booster for everybody,” said quarterback TJ Fleeton before the game. “It would allow us to relax.”

The Lions got the party underway in the first quarter when the defense opened the game by forcing the Lopers to punt on their opening drive. In their own opening drive, the Lions marched downfield for a 10-play drive of 62 yards that took 3:52. Fleeton capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The Lopers’ second possession ended as fast it started. Safety Johnquavious McBride intercepted a pass on the second play of the possession. However, the Lions wouldn’t capitalize with points. The Lopers would get on the board as the first quarter ended with an eight-yard score.

The Lions took a 14-7 lead into half after another touchdown run by Fleeton.

After the Lions opened the third quarter with a three-and-out, the Lopers would tie the ballgame with a 33-yard touchdown run by Romero Cotton in their opening drive. Answering right back, the Lions put up three points after a Brock Renken field goal.

The biggest play of the night came from Fleeton and wide receiver Chad Nolan in the third quarter. Nolan put the nail in the coffin with a 73-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the Lions’ last third quarter drive. That would be the last score of the game, and the Lions won their first game of the season, 24-14.

“I had a rough game. But coach trusted me on that screen play,” said Nolan. “I saw daylight and I wasn’t coming back.”

Leading the roar for the Lions on defense was McBride. The MIAA Defensive Payer of the Week had a game-high 14 tackles with an interception and two pass breakups. Justin Tomlinson had seven tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss (TFLs) of 14 yards and a pass breakup. Chris Williams had two sacks for a loss of 20 yards, while David Smith and Laynce Sanders had a sack each. As a defense, the Lions had 12 TFLs, 13 pass breakups and five sacks. The Lions were 4/4 on fourth down stands.

“This victory meant a lot. It has boosted us. It has us thinking we can win many more. We are going to win many more,” said McBride. “It felt good.”

Offensively, Southern eclipsed 100 yards both rushing and passing the ball. Fleeton averaged 14.9 yards per completion.

The Lions will face off against Washburn University tomorrow on the road. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.