HAMMOND, La. – Back on its home field for the first time this fall, the No. 11 Southeastern Louisiana University football team rolled to a 61-24 Homecoming victory over HBU Saturday evening in Strawberry Stadium.
The Lions (5-1, 3-0 Southland) extended its win streak to four games thanks to their highest single-game point and yardage (634) totals of the season. Off to a 3-0 start to Southland Conference play for the first time since 2014, Southeastern held HBU (0-6, 0-3 Southland) to 295 total yards and forced three turnovers.
“It was emotional for our players to be back playing in Strawberry Stadium and to see Friendship Circle full after being on the road so long,” Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo said. “So we had a little bit of a rough start until we calmed everyone down. We were able to score 61 points and didn’t punt today, so while this was by no means a clean game, we were able to do some special things out there today. This is a fun team to watch and I’m so proud of our effort.”
Senior quarterback and reigning Walter Payton Award winner Cole Kelley tied his career-high set in last Saturday’s 58-48 win at No. 25 Nicholls with five passing touchdowns, completing 31-of-38 passes for 396 yards and engineering a Lion offense that finished with a season-high 34 first downs.
Kelley completed passes to 13 different receivers in the victory. Austin Mitchell hauled in a pair of scoring tosses, moving past SLU Athletics Hall of Famer Felton Huggins for second place on the Southeastern career receiving touchdown list with 23. CJ Turner, Nick Kovacs and Gage Larvadain also hauled in scoring tosses from Kelley.
Southeastern also rushed for a season-high 238 yards. Cephus Johnson III led the Lions with 87 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while Jahmon McClendon also found the end zone for the first time as a Lion.
The Lion defense limited HBU to just 56 yards rushing in the win, while Husky freshman quarterback Orion Olivas completed 23-of-42 passes for 239 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Jack Henderson and Brandon Barbee each recorded interceptions for SLU, while Josh Randall pounced on a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Alexis Ramos led the Lions with five tackles, as he, Chinedu Ogbonna, Rodney Sopsher, Bryce Cage and Garrett Crawford all recorded tackles for loss for Southeastern.
After forcing HBU into a three-and-out, Southeastern got on the board first. Turner took a short pass from Kelley and burst in from 15 yards out to close out a six-play, 58-yard scoring drive and put the Lions on top, 7-0, under four minutes into the game.
After the Lion defense forced another punt situation, the Huskies reached into their bag of tricks and Josh Alfaro got free for a 37-yard run on a fake punt. Five plays later, Olivas connected with Charles King from four yards out to knot the score at 7-7 with 6:53 remaining in the opening period.
Southeastern came right back to retake the lead for good with an eight-play, 75-yard scoring march. Kelley found Kovacs on a nine-yard touchdown pass to cap the drive. Vejon Wallis blocked Mateo Rengifo’s PAT to keep the Lion advantage at 13-7 with just over four minutes left in the first quarter.
HBU pulled closer on its final drive of the first quarter, as Gino Garcia took advantage of a stiff north wind at his back and drilled a 59-yard field goal to cut the SLU lead in half in the final minute of the opening period.
SLU took the lead back to double digits on the ensuing drive, as McClendon scooted in from six yards out to put the Lions on top, 20-10, with 10:53 remaining in the first half.
The Huskies answered right back with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Olivas found Ismael Fuller for an eight-yard touchdown pass to pull the visitors within, 20-17, with 8:04 left in the second quarter.
The momentum shifted in the Lions’ favor for good in the latter part of the first half. SLU was well on its way to its fourth straight touchdown to start the game, before Kovacs coughed up a fumble in the red zone. However, on the ensuing play, a bad snap eluded Olivas and Randall fell on the loose ball in the end zone to give Southeastern a 27-17 lead with just over two minutes left in the half.
On the next HBU drive, Barbee stepped in front on an Olivas pass for an interception. Kelley took advantage of the short field, finding Mitchell with a perfect 35-yard scoring toss that sent SLU into the break with a comfortable 34-17 lead.
Any hope of a HBU comeback was quelled by Southeastern early in the third quarter. Mitchell dove inside the pylon on a short four-yard scoring toss from Kelley to give the Lions a 41-17 lead with 11:10 left in the third quarter. After forcing a punt, SLU added to its advantage when Rengifo connected on a 26-yard field goal to extend the lead to 44-17 with 6:14 left in the third quarter.
HBU closed out its scoring on the ensuing possession, as Tyson Thompson got free for a 51-yard touchdown pass from Olivas to cut the lead to 44-24 with 4:11 left in the third quarter.
The Huskies would get no closer, as Southeastern outscored the visitors, 17-0, in the final quarter. Kelley found Larvadain for a five-yard touchdown pass, Rengifo connected on a 29-yard field goal and Johnson III closed out the scoring with a 14-yard scoring run as the Lions topped 60 points for the first time since a 62-52 Homecoming win over the Huskies in 2018.
Southeastern will be back on the road next Saturday, traveling to Northwestern State for a 3 p.m. Southland Conference contest in Natchitoches. The game will be televised on ESPN+, while also being heard in the Hammond area on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM, as well as online at www.kajun107.net.
HBU – 10 7 7 0 – 24 (0-6, 0-3 SLC)
SLU – 13 21 10 17 – 61 (5-1, 3-0 SLC)
SLU – Turner 15 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 11:23
HBU – King 4 pass from Olivas (Garcia kick), 6:53
SLU – Kovacs 9 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick failed), 4:15
HBU – Garcia 59 FG, 1:00
SLU – McClendon 6 run (Rengifo kick), 10:53
HBU – Fuller 8 pass from Olivas (Garcia kick), 8:04
SLU – Randall 0 fumble recovery (Rengifo kick), 2:04
SLU – Mitchell 35 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 0:57
SLU – Mitchell 4 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 11:10
SLU – Rengifo 26 FG, 6:14
HBU – Thompson 51 pass from Olivas (Garcia kick), 4:11
SLU – Larvadain 5 pass from Kelley (Rengifo kick), 9:30
SLU – Rengifo 29 FG, 6:35
SLU – Johnson III 14 run (Bishop kick), 5:02
FIRST DOWNS 15 34
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 22-56 42-238
PASSING YDS (NET) 239 396
Passes Att-Comp-Int 42-23-2 40-31-0
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS 64-295 82-634
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 0-0
Kickoff Returns-Yards 5-139 2-40
Punt Returns-Yards 0-0 1-22
Interception Returns-Yards 0-0 2-58
Punts (Number-Avg) 5-35.8 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 5-42 8-75
Possession Time. 24:24 35:36
Third-Down Conversions 6-of-14 8-of-12
Fourth-Down Conversions 2-of-2 2-of-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-2 8-10
RUSHING: HBU – Alfaro 1-37, Minnieweather 11-14, Beek 2-11, Walker 1-3, Ford 2-2, Olivas 4-1, Team 1-(-12). Totals 22-56. SLU – Johnson III 3-87, Kelley 11-42, Britt 6-34, McClendon 8-33, T. Jones 5-23, Larvadain 2-12, Wilson Jr. 1-6, Mitchell 2-4, Dingle 2-(-1), Team 2-(-2). Totals 42-238.
PASSING: HBU – Olivas 23-42-2-239-3. Totals 23-42-2-239-3. SLU – Kelley 31-38-0-396-5, Johnson III 0-2-0-0-0. Totals 31-40-0-396-5.
RECEIVING: HBU – Walker 5-54, Thompson 4-70, King 4-35, Fuller 3-26, Botkin 1-12, Ford 1-12, Johnson 1-11, Harrell 1-9, Coleman 1-7, Minnieweather 1-3, Beek 1-0. Totals 23-239. SLU – Mitchell 5-62, Givan 5-56, Turner 4-72, Kovacs 3-30, Britt 2-38, Larvadain 2-35, Spurlock 2-23, Dawson 2-12, Wilson Jr. 2-11, Magee 1-42, Dingle 1-6, Carter 1-4, McClendon 1-4. Totals 31-396.
A – 7,389.
For ticket information, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net. Southeastern will continue offering mobile ticketing as the primary source for securing tickets for the 2021-22 season. All tickets will be available via e-mail or text message in a PDF format for fans to download on their phone or print at home. Tickets can also be downloaded to Apple Wallet.