Lions ready to face Pitt State


Lions ready to face Pitt State at home 2014

Ian Taylor, Sports Writer

And so it begins—the countdown to the game circled on the schedule so many times by the Lions that Sharpie should send free green and gold samples. It is the phenomenon known as Pittsburg State week. And as Southern prepares for one of the biggest challenges of the season, the magnitude of the situation is not lost in translation.

“As far as D-II, I’m sure it is as good as it gets,” said Head Coach Daryl Daye. “From day one when they [players] get here, ya know, they see the license plates, they hear the media that say we don’t care if you win a game, just as long as you beat Pitt.”

The Lions (6-3, 4-3 MIAA) will look to do so as they travel to Carnie Smith Stadium on Saturday for the annual contest against the Gorillas (9-1, 7-1 MIAA), a team Southern has lost to for 19 straight years. But after securing the sixth victory and the second straight winning season, for the first time since 95-96, the Lions look to cement this season’s legacy with a win over their biggest rival.

“A win over Pitt would mean so much,” said junior defensive back Breon Matlock.  “We haven’t beat Pitt in years and that would be a great accomplishment for the senior class.”

A victory in this contest would involve more than luck for the Lions, as Pitt State ranks in the top 10 of nearly every conference statistical category including total offense (second) and defense (second).  Sporting players who excel at positions all over the field and putting up lofty numbers, the Gorillas continue to set the MIAA standard a season after winning a national title.

Still, this year, much like the last few, sees two teams ready to battle for 60 minutes as the Lions walk into Pittsburg with the ingredients they believe are keys to success—the third-ranked rushing attack in the nation with 368 yards per game, and the second-ranked time of possession rating in the nation at just over 35 minutes per game.

“The best way to stop their offense is to keep them on the bench,” said Daye. “So if we can get the game shortened and get in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win, then anything can happen.”

And a chance is exactly what the Lions will have on Saturday—a chance to avenge 19 years of frustration, to defeat the Gorillas in Pittsburg for the first time since 1983, and a chance to send the seniors who have played through tough years, only to show they are tougher, with a victory in Southern’s biggest rival’s backyard.

“They [Pitt] have kids that believe and expect to win,” said Daye. “That’s kind of been the process, we felt we came here and they felt they didn’t believe. Well, now our kids are believing and the next phase is to expect to win … that’s where we’re headed.”   

Last week saw the Lions emerge victorious over outmatched Lindenwood-Belleville, shutting out the Lynx on the way to a 55-0 victory that included the Lions breaking two single-season school records, one for rushing touchdowns at 38, and another for single-season rushing yards at 3,498, knocking off the record set last year.  

On a day when Southern had three goals in mind—securing a second winning season, the seniors in their last home game and honoring the memory of Coach Derek Moore—the Lions accomplished them with flying colors. The team started the game on fire, scoring 20 points in the first quarter and 34 by halftime, all while Southern’s defense slammed the proverbial door shut—a complete team victory on a day when the team was the most important thing.

The Lions’ quest for Gorilla domination gets underway with a 2 p.m. kickoff in Pittsburg.