Southerns turn to celebrate


Mike Gullet

Southern players celebrate with Coach Daryl Daye, giving him a Gatorade shower following the 35-21 victory over Pitt State on Nov. 16.

Ian Taylor, Sports Writer

Last Saturday will live in infamy for the Pittsburg State Gorillas, but will be a shining beacon for the Missouri Southern (7-3, 5-3 MIAA) football family. It was the day the Lions secured a 35-21 victory over the Gorillas (9-2, 7-2 MIAA) giving the Lions their first seven-win season since 1993, and the Sonic Miners Bowl Trophy for the first time in 20 years.

The win broke several streaks, in fact, as Southern led the game Southern from start to finish after scoring on the their first possession and was able to escape from the stranglehold Pitt State had on the series between the schools.

“We were able to make history,” said senior linebacker Gatlin Ridgway.  “It being their senior day made it that much better.  And yeah, his (Coach Moore) memory pushed us a lot.  We played for him for.”

The Lions used a simple game plan, referenced last week by Head Coach Daryl Daye, that aimed to keep the high-powered Gorillas offense off the field. That feat was made easier for Southern because they entered the game boasting the top rated rushing attack in the conference with an average of 368 yards per game. That rushing dominance combined with the time of possession (35:14), also ranked at the top of the MIAA, gave Southern and Daye the recipe to success.  

Still, even with one side of the ball secure, the Lions knew that to beat Pitt, every facet of the team would need to stand its ground. And with a defense ranking third in the conference in both passing defense (205 per game) and rushing defense (120 per game), the Lions felt like this game was going to be different.

“When we get going on both sides of the ball we are hard to stop,” said Ridgway.  

Early on Southern was able to set the tone, starting with the coin toss. The Lions won the toss and deferred it to the second half. Then they proceeded to force five stops on the Gorillas’ first five possessions. Those stops gave the Southern offense a short field on multiple occasions, and led to Lion points on the scoreboard.

Southern started the scoring by capping off their opening drive with a five-yard touchdown from junior Terrence Allen before sophomore Jay McDowell hooked up with fellow sophomore Michael Nelson just before the half for his fifth passing touchdown of the year.

With under a minute left on the clock, the Gorillas, now trailing 14-0, finally got something together. They drove the length of the field to score on a pass from Anthony Abenoja to Marquise Cushon, closing the gap to seven at the half.

The teams came out in the second half and exchanged hard-fought scores, but as the third quarter came toward its close, the Lions used a bit of trickery on a reverse that freshman Jocqui Davis took 52 yards to the house, essentially breaking the game open for the Lions with the score at 28-14.

Pitt would attempt to battle back but would come up short following a fourth quarter score by McDowell that put Southern ahead by 21, leading to the eventual final of 35-21.

McDowell led Southern in rushing (119). The Lions ran for 372 yards as part of 415 yards of total offense to go along with the 37 minutes to 23 minutes advantage in time of possession.  

“Our kids turned tragedy into victory, and that is something that nobody can ever take away from them,” said Daye following the unprecedented win.

In the end, it seemed Coach Daye’s recipe proved to be just too spicy for the Pitt State Gorillas.