MIDLOTHIAN ó The season-opener started with much promise for Southwestern Assemblies of God University after gaining a 20-7 lead.
But it ended with the Lions on the wrong side of a 35-20 defeat at the hands of Bethany College.
The Lions delivered a number of big plays and big hits in the opening 18 minutes.
Senior quarterback Reid Golson directed a crisp 13-play, 69-yard march after taking the opening kickoff. Troy Griffin blasted across the goal from a yard out for a 7-0 lead.
A 20-yard run by James Hopkins, of Ferris, and a 19-yard pass to tight end Caleb Shelly were key plays.
After Tevis Linnebur knotted the score with a 21-yard dash, SAGU linebacker Jeremiah Maat recovered a fumbled exchange by Bethany.
On third and five from the 12-yard line, Golson connected with senior wideout Trevor McKinley in the end zone for a touchdown. Golson feathered a fade pass that McKinley spun and caught over his left shoulder.
During the hot start, the Lionsí defense was delivering devastating hits.
A long pass to an open Kelton Evans went incomplete when freshman safety Dylan Snyder, from Ennis, separated him from the ball and almost his senses.
The heralded return to the game for Bethanyís 29-year old senior quarterback Justin Bain didnít last long. He was sandwiched between linebackers Kendal Evers and Kirk White, injuring his right shoulder.
Bainís replacement, freshman Bo Savage, got off to a rough start, fumbling a snap and throwing an interception that SAGU returned for a touchdown. Savageís screen pass to Jarrot Bell early in the second quarter was swiped by freshman Ethan Eastwood, of Maypearl. The linebacker rumbled 30 yards, stiff-arming Savage on his way to the end zone.†
SAGU led 20-7 with 11:57 to go in the first half.
The Lions, sporting new helmets and donned white pants, had built a solid lead. There was a lot to like. But it couldíve been even better.†
They could have broken the game wide-open had the offense cash in on three great opportunities.
Leading 7-0, the Lions forced a three-and-out. A short punt set the table for the Lions on the BC 45. But a fumble on the next play squandered the scoring chance.†
The Swedes responded by moving 52 yards for the tying touchdown.
A shanked punt set up shop for Golson and the offense at the BC 31. A great catch by Jeremy McDonald was ruled out of bounds then a penalty and a dropped pass resulted in a second spoiled chance to make the Swedes pay.
The defense of Ike Caston, who had nine tackles, Maat, eight tackles, and D.J. Johnson, who registered seven tackles, had the Swedes under wraps.
Bethany needed a break. They got it on the ensuing SAGU punt. A 50-yarder with the wind sailed beyond the coverage, giving Evans a head start with the return. He bolted past the first wave of would-be tacklers, and then zoomed down the right sideline for an 84-yard touchdown with 8:45 left in the half.
The Swedes had life at halftime, but SAGU still led 20-14.†
Bethany took the second half kickoff and went 52 yards on 12 plays, 11 of them runs. Dhaniel Bly scurried the last three yards to finish a drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock. BC led 21-20.
A three-and-out for SAGU led to the Swedes going 69 yards in eight rushing plays to score another touchdown with 14:54 to go in the game.
They added a late score after SAGU fumbled on their own four yard line.
Bethanyís defense had applied the clamps to the Lions running game and took advantage of a number of penalties against the SAGU offense. Four of them came on first down. Two others wiped out big gains on receptions in the first half.
After halftime SAGU gained 26 yards and picked up just one first down. They ran 16 plays in the second half. After taking the 20-7 lead, they were restricted to 61 yards on 30 plays with three first downs.
Bethany churned for 214 yards on 39 plays in the second half. Linnebur earned 151 yards rushing on 25 carries.
Golson led SAGU by running for 47 yards and completed 10 of 24 passes for 70 yards. McKinley led the receivers with five receptions.†
SAGU (0-1) returns to the field Saturday, when it welcomes Howard Payne University (0-1) to Lumpkins Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
The Yellow Jackets dropped a 47-29 home decision to Trinity University on Saturday night.