Southern looks to make early season statement


Sierra Gray | The Chart

Football players practice at the MSSU Fred G. Hughes Stadium on Friday, August 21, 2015.

Mark your calendars Lions. Six days lie between now and a packed Fred G. Hughes stadium on Sept. 3 when your Lions open up the 2015-2016 season up against conference opponent Emporia State.

Football is back! No other sport can quite match the excitement, eagerness, and atmosphere, opening kickoff has to offer. Sure, Opening Day in baseball has been considered America’s pastime over the last century but opening kickoff in football is just unmatched in today’s sporting world.

If you think I’m excited, talk to Jacqui Davis, third year wide receiver out of Lewisville, Texas looking to make a huge impact for the Lions this season.

“I’m just ready to hit on somebody else besides my teammates,” said Davis. “I’m ready to come in as a team and do some work.”

Stepping out on the field will be a new look Lions team with new head coach Denver Johnson now at the helm. Johnson is the 13th head coach in Missouri Southern history and comes to Southern with over 30+ years of coaching experience including 12 total years of head coaching experience.

“We want to develop a program that will consistently produce competitive teams. I really want to change the culture of our program and I do think the kids that are here by enlarge are embracing that,” said Johnson.

Johnson, with the exception of Rashad Watson the defensive back coach, also has brought an entirely new coaching staff in.

The Lions were picked to finish 10th by the media and 11th by the coaches as the MIAA announced its Preseason Poll on Aug. 4 at Media Day. The Lions are coming off a 4-7 2014 season after posting back-to-back winning seasons in 2012-2013. The Lions understand why they were chosen to finish in the bottom half of the conference and look to prove their doubters wrong come.

“It’s motivation because we got the talent. We feel like we’re better than that,” said junior cornerback Ricky Green. “It’s just motivation, that’s it.”

The Lions are returning 13 starters (five offense, four defense, five specialists) from last season’s team. Shouldering the load on offense will be third-team All-MIAA senior running back Giresse Forchu. On the defensive side, third-team All-MIAA selection safety Johnquavious McBride will help lead a hungry Lions defense.

“Maybe the most talented spot on our football team right now is in the defensive secondary. We got some real talent back there,” said Johnson. “We got some backs (running backs) that can also go, led by Forchu.”

The Lions are looking to build off their strengths from last season as they ranked in the top five in the conference in scoring offense, total offense, interceptions, time of possession, third down conversions, and red zone offense.

With this new season comes new additions to the Lions field and swagger. The Lions will be sporting new uniforms sponsored by Nike. Their new, state-of-the-art turf sponsored by Mercy Hospital Joplin. Last, the north end of the track will feature the new fieldhouse. These new additions are certainly to add some flare and style to 2016 Southern football season.

Emporia State has owned the Lions over the past three matchups going 3-0 including last season’s stomping, 53-28.

Come out and support your Lions in the season opener next Thursday night in Fred G. Hughes Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. Bring your loudest roar.