Lions vs. Bearcats: Win, four all

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Willie Brown, The Chart

Senior placekicker Dallas Herndon kicks off to the Northeastern State Riverhawks after a Lion score two weeks ago in Joplin. This week, the undefeated Lions will go for their fourth win in MIAA play, a feat the team hasn’t accomplished since the 1996 season.

Nathan Mills, Sports Editor

Excitement for Missouri Southern football continues to grow both on campus and off as the Lions continue to sit atop the MIAA standings.

The Lions, currently unbeaten after three games, bring their unblemished record back to Joplin tomorrow night when they’ll do battle with the Southwest Baptist University Bearcats.

The Bearcats, winless this season, will present a set of unique challenges for the Lions, but first-year Head Coach Daryl Daye is confident his team will overcome and find a way to win the same way they have the last five times the two teams have met.

“We’re nobody to take anybody lightly,” he said.

“We’re very happy to be 3-0. We’re, again, three plays away from being 0-3, so we’ve just got to go out there and do what we do.”

Each of the team’s first three games came down to the wire with opportunities for the Lions’ opponents to steal a win in the final seconds.

Those late scares have created some skepticism among fans about this team.

Still, Daye says that excitement is motivation for the team and should be for fans as well.

“I’ll say this: If you want to come see a good show and get every bit of your money’s worth for your ticket, come out and see us play,” he said.

“It’ll come down to the end.”

The Lions plan to hang with any opponent late in the game with a ball control focused triple-option offense, one that’s been incredibly effective to this point.

SBU hasn’t shown much ability to stop the run, allowing over 125 yards per game so far this season.

Southern, on the other hand, has the ninth ranked rushing attack in all of Division-II, led by senior quarterback Kellen Cox, who is averaging 110 yards per game in the first three contests.

Before the season, injuries to the offensive line led some to believe that aspect of the team would be a concern in a run-first offense.

Beau Bounous, sophomore right tackle, and the rest of the offensive line have been a large piece of the running game’s success, aside from holding opposing teams to just one sack in 2012.

“It’s like [line] coach [Kevin] Carey says, every step, we’re going downhill, and that’s the mentality that we have,” Bounous said. “It’s never backward, always forward. If we’re not coming off the ball and hitting somebody in the mouth, somebody’s going to be yelling at us, so that’s what we really focus on.”

Bounous and the Lions will try to hit the Bearcats in the mouth at 6 p.m. tomorrow night at Fred G. Hughes Stadium.