Off to their best start in their young history, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University football team will have to go a long way to move to 3-1 this season.
Over 500 miles, in fact. The Lions will be in Lawrence, Kan. for a 2 p.m. game against Haskell Indian Nations Institute.
Haskell, with an enrollment of 1,000, is off to a slow 0-4 start during a new coaching regime. SAGU, 2-1, owns a 4-3 edge in the series. The Lions have won the last three meetings, including 29-15 last year.
HINU is 18-55 over their last seven seasons, with a pair of 4-7 campaigns as their high-water marks. This seasonís rebuilding squad is led by senior quarterback, Ryan Alden. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound veteran from Walla Walla, Wash., is no stranger to SAGU.
Aldenís second-best passing performance in 2010 was against Southwestern, when he threw for nearly 250 yards. He racked up 1,500 yards through the air last season, producing nine touchdowns.
Southwestern is coming off a 35-13 triumph in Sherman versus Austin College. The Lions had lost four of five against the Kangaroos.
SAGUís defense has been very steady in the opening weeks of the season. They have yielded only five touchdowns in three games, which theyíve almost made up for by scoring four themselves.
Ranked No. 19 in the nation in total defense, the Lions have surrendered an average of 263 yards per outing, not once allowing an opponent to gain 300.
Jonathan Hulett leads a front four that includes former Waxahachie High School player, Brishad Richardson. The linebacking unit in the Lions 3-4 scheme has proven to be quick, aggressive and unrelenting so far.
Seniors Donte Embry and Quentin Holloman anchor the inside, while 6-foot-4 Patrick Smith is a playmaker on the edge. Freshman Rockie Davis is making an impact on the opposite side of Smith.
The defensive backs are getting stronger with the return of former NAIA All-American Nick Ekanem and senior Joey Vinson, who have been out with injuries. They are finding the younger starters are not all too willing to give them their position. Cornerbacks Marcus Lester and Brad Heathcock are excelling in their man-to-man coverage.
While the defense at SAGU has been a rock, the offense broke out last week. Senior quarterback Jason Rice earned the CSFL Offensive Player of the Week honor after an 18-26 for 238 yards and two touchdown performance. Both of his scoring strikes were snared by junior Micah Burditt.
His go-to receiver remains 6-foot-3 senior David Howard, who leads the team with 14 catches. Max Whitfield, another former WHS player, caught three balls last week, and is one of a talented crew of wideouts.