Southern defense saves the show


Kenneth Armant/The Chart

Junior running back Terrance Allen sprints down field during the Lions’ 21-14 victory over Central Missouri on Oct. 5.

The Lions (4-1, 4-1 MIAA) migrate north to unfamiliar territory this weekend for a contest against a team they beat handily a year ago in a 47- 20 victory that saw Southern compile 421 rushing yards on a day when they only attempted a total of four passes.  This rushing statistic would impress most, but with the prowess of this year’s pride on display, as they lead the MIAA and rank third nationally in rushing, it seems that the sky could be the limit for this weekend’s game.

Yet, what is in the past sometimes is there for a reason, and as Southern makes its way to O’Hara Stadium to face the Hardrockers of South Dakota Mines (4-1), this time around, they know this team is an entirely different animal.

“They’re a much improved football team from last year so it’s gonna be a heck of a game,” said Head Coach Daryl Daye.  “It’s gonna be on their home turf with their home officials so it’s a challenge for us … We are gonna have to play our best to come out with a win.”

Boasting the same record the as the Lions, the Hardrockers show multiple signs of improvement.  Because they average 45 points and rush for over 200 yards per game, it seems almost anyone could assume this game would stack up fairly evenly.  But as Southern knows from last week against Central Missouri, that nearly no one gave them a chance in, football games are not played on paper.

“It’s gonna be tough ya know.  This team is pretty good, way better than last year,” said senior cornerback Elihah Swen.  “We are gonna go up there and do what we have to do, hopefully come home with a W.”

That “W” would mean a lot to a team set to face a virtual murder’s row to finish the season.  But with upperclassmen at multiple positions on the field, the Lions know the approach they need to keep in mind.

“One game at a time,” said senior running back JJ Jones.  “The next one is the only one that matters, one game at a time.”

The Lions look to continue to build momentum following a victory over the Mules last Saturday, a team Southern had not bested since 2002.  With a first half that was driven by a run game that scored three times, once by Jay McDowell and two by Jones, the Lions were able to keep control.

Still, after controlling the Mules defensively throughout the day, the Lions defense was put in a difficult position following a fourth quarter interception by McDowell with Southern leading 21-14, but with yet another stop, Southern would regain possession and eventually run out the clock.

The defense was led yet again by the play of senior linebacker Gatlin Ridgway as he compiled an impressive stat line with eight tackles, a sack, a pass break up, and three quarterback hurries.  

Southern and South Dakota Mines get set to hit the gridiron at 2 p.m. on Saturday, and with the 20th anniversary of the Lions 1993 MIAA Championship game coming next weekend, Southern would like nothing more than to move to 5-1.