There is promising news in the air for the Southwestern Assemblies of God University football team. The Weather Channel mentions no rain in its weekend forecast.
The past two years the Lions have played Howard Payne University during huge rainstorms, each time suffering a setback. They fell in 2009 in Waxahachie, 23-17, when SAGU dropped the winning touchdown pass in the rain.
Lightning interrupted the game for nearly three hours last fall. Leading 7-0 when officials sent teams and fans for cover, the Lions’ mojo was doused in a 32-7 defeat.
When they meet again at 6 p.m. Saturday, clear skies should prohibit weather from being a factor this time. Both teams opened the season with losses. SAGU came up short in Kansas to Bethany College, 29-21. Tied at the half, 7-7, Howard Payne dropped a 24-7 decision to Trinity University.
Southwestern’s home opener will take place at Midlothian Stadium.
Southwestern hurt itself with some sloppy play in its first-game with dropped passes, high center snaps and not scoring after driving inside the Swedes’ 30-yard line three times. Two field goal attempts by former Waxahachie High School kicker James Gish were blocked.
Starting quarterback Jason Rice and his backup, Reid Golson, were very effective running the ball in the Lions’ version of the spread-option. Golson finished with 90 yards on the ground. Halfback Sean Haynes rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries.
Passing was another story, as the two combined to complete 11-of-34 with two interceptions. High winds did have an impact on both teams’ aerial plans. The lone bright spot was senior wideout David Howard, who snared seven catches for 98 yards, including a 30-yard TD.
Head coach and offensive coordinator Jesse Godding hopes the passing game begins to click this week. SAGU still managed to run 84 plays compared to just 64 for Bethany.
“(SAGU) is a young but talented group,” Godding said. “They understood how close they were last week. Understanding that those things which cost us an opportunity to win are all fixable physically and mentally has provided motivation to get better at the little things this week. Also, this group of athletes here are, in the early stages, appearing to be very unified and capable of great synergy.”
Malcolm Whitfield, another former player from Waxahachie High School, enjoyed a lot of action at wide receiver. The team failed to connect with him on one deep pass.
Freshman defensive back O’Shae Cofer, a 2009 Waxahachie graduate, is expected to earn the start against the Yellow Jackets after intercepting a pass and returning it 26 yards against Bethany.
Two injured starters in the secondary could return this week. Former NAIA All-American Nick Ekanem and senior safety Joey Vinson, both injured by teammates during fall camp scrimmages, are nearing medical clearance by the sports medicine staff.
Howard Payne, which is in the NCAA’s Division III, switched to the triple-option attack on offense this year. Thomas Head is replacing a record-setting passer, Zach Hubbard, who graduated. He is an option threat. Jhonoven Pati, a 6-foot-1, 240-pound battering ram, is a key figure as the Jackets’ fullback.
Godding praised the Jackets as “a well-coached team, year in and year out, and this year is no exception. Coach (Steve) Fanara and his staff do a tremendous job preparing their team and getting them to execute.
“They are a new look this year offensively and defensively, running the flex-bone on offense and a 3-3 on defense,” said Godding, who’s quick to point out how strong the Jackets’ special teams play. “Their kicking game is always solid and this year is no exception with a senior kicker and two great return men.”
After hosting Howard Payne, the SAGU Lions will take the field again Sept. 17 in Sherman against Austin College. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m.