MIDLOTHIAN – Behind a fiery, big play offense, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University Lions rolled to a rout of East Texas Baptist University in a football scrimmage on Friday night.
In its final pre-season tune-up before opening at Bethany College on Sept. 3, SAGU drove to touchdowns in six of its seven possessions against the visiting Tigers.
This year’s result looked a lot stronger than last year’s meeting between the teams.
ETBU competes in the same league, the American Southwest Conference, in which Mary Hardin-Baylor has won the past six years. The 16-team ASC is in the NCAA Division III.
“We were a tad more explosive on offense than we have been,” head coach Jesse Godding said in an understatement. In describing the performance that saw three quarterbacks engineer scoring drives, what the veteran coach said was revealing.
“Our offense was ripping off chunks of yardage,” Godding said. “The number of runs of 12 yards or longer along with passing pick-ups of 16-plus yards was especially pleasing. Last year we struggled in making big plays. Our longest pass was just 39 yards and our best run was 52.”
Senior quarterback Jason Rice started things with the first of three marches to paydirt. He led a 10-play drive that was capped off with an eight-yard strike to Trevor McKinley. After a sack by senior defensive end Patrick Smith prompted a punt, the Lions paraded quickly downfield.
Waxahachie High School graduate Max Whitfield caught two passes, including a 25-yarder, and freshman running back DeVon Thomas scored on a five-yard run off right tackle.
Adam O’Banion, a freshman safety from Arizona, picked off a Tigers’ pass, the first of three turnovers forced by SAGU. On the next play, redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Harris, from California, connected with McKinley on a bubble screen. Sixty-five yards later he sailed into the end zone.
Harris returned to lead the troops into the end zone again. Thomas busted 14-yards, Josh Smith snared a 16-yard gain and senior wide receiver David Howard gathered in a 36-yard catch-and-run to the five, where Harris scored on an option run.
Cade Leuschner, who is coming off of three knee surgeries, was inspiring. He gave the Lions another score by taking a pitch and jetting in from the five.
The final scoring assault was directed by cat-quick, signal-caller Reid Golson, a transfer from Howard Payne.
The big plays were a 33-yard dart up the middle by Golson, a fingertip sideline grab by Howard and a 7-yard touchdown strike to Jeremy McDonald.
Godding added that his quarterbacks all “have strengths that help this team. Rice has great leadership, improved accuracy and command of the spread offense. Golson has athletic gifts that are difficult not to notice. And Harris has shown great resolve. He has been hurt, and has come back to play the best we’ve seen of him tonight.”