HAMMOND, La. – Southeastern Louisiana rolled up 445 total yards on the way to a 31-19 Senior Day victory over Abilene Christian in Southland Conference action Saturday night in Strawberry Stadium.
The Lion football team (6-4, 6-2 Southland) sent out its 18 seniors with a win in their final regular season home game Saturday night. The victory over the visiting Wildcats (2-9, 2-7 Southland) clinched the Lions’ third winning season in the past four years and was also Southeastern’s fifth in its last six games.
“This was a hard-fought ball game,” Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts said. “We had some chances to pull away but left some points on the board. Give credit to Abilene Christian for not allowing us to break it open, but I’m glad our guys were able to do what they needed to do to get a W.”
Back in the starting lineup after missing last week’s game, SLU senior quarterback Justin Alo threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-36 passing. Alo’s top targets were senior Brandon Acker (five catches, 103 yards, 1 TD), junior Juwan Dickey (5-89) and senior Juwaan Rogers (3-65-1 TD).
Acker’s touchdown grab was his seventh of the season – tied for the sixth-highest single-season total in school history. Despite missing two games, Alo has 14 passing touchdowns on the year, which is tied for the 10th-highest season total in school history. Rogers scored for the second straight week, further cementing him as one of the nation’s premier fullbacks.
For the second straight week, sophomore Julius Maracalin handled the majority of the rushing burden for the Lions. The Plaquemine native rushed 22 times for 123 yards and a touchdown, topping 100 yards on the ground for the second straight week.
The Lion defense limited ACU to 29 yards rushing, forced two key turnovers and recorded four sacks. Junior Javon Tillman led Southeastern with eight tackles. Junior Jake Jiannoni returned a fumble forced by junior Lee Spight for a touchdown, while junior Mayori Ellison recorded his first interception as a Lion. Spight, Jiannoni, senior Miki Fangatua and freshman Kurrell Vaughn all recorded sacks for SLU.
ACU quarterback Dallas Sealey threw for 300 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 28-for-45 passing and also caught a touchdown on a halfback pass by De’Andre Brown. Josh Fink led the Wildcats with seven catches for 102 yards and a score.
After forcing an ACU punt on the opening drive, Southeastern marched down the field to take a lead it would never relinquish. Rogers made a tremendous play to cap the drive, hurtling a defender at the goal line to finish off a 30-yard touchdown pass from Alo and give SLU a 7-0 advantage with 7:32 left in the opening quarter.
ACU answered with a 10-play, 60-yard drive to get on the board. Nik Grau capped the march with a 23-yard field goal to cut the Lion lead to 7-3 with 4:11 left in the first period.
Southeastern marched down the field again on its ensuing drive. A 45-yard run by Maracalin highlighted a quick five-play, 74-yard scoring march that Alo capped with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Acker to put the Lions on top, 14-3, with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
ACU moved into Southeastern territory on its next possession, but was forced to punt right after they crossed midfield. However, Lion junior Torrance Mosley fielded the punt inside the five-yard line and was stripped at the 12-yard line by Quincy Dunn. Keith Barnett recovered the fumble and three plays later, Brown took a pitch, ran right and threw back across the field to a wide-open Sealey, cutting the Southeastern lead to 14-10 with 11:48 remaining in the first half.
After a Southeastern three-and-out, ACU moved into Lion territory again and further cut into the lead with a 43-yard field goal by Grau. Southeastern had a chance on its next drive to pad its cushion, but a bad snap forced sophomore Jonathan Tatum to shank a 42-yard field goal attempt, keeping the Southeastern lead at 14-13 with just over four minutes left in the half.
Mosley made up for his earlier fumble on the next possession. After the Lions forced the Wildcats to punt, Mosley juked his way for a 28-yard punt return to set up SLU at the ACU 42-yard line with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter.
On the second play of the drive, Dickey hauled in a 38-yard Alo bomb to give the Lions a goal-to-go opportunity from the two-yard line. Two plays later, Maracalin leapt in to the end zone to push the SLU lead to 21-13 heading into halftime.
The two teams traded punts on the first two drives of the second half. On the Lions’ next possession, Alo was intercepted by Royce Moore at the Wildcat 10-yard line. However, two plays later, Spight stripped Sealey and Jiannoni scooped the loose ball and returned it four yards for a touchdown, extending the Southeastern lead to 28-13 with 10:28 left in the third quarter.
Sealey shook off the miscue on the ensuing possession. Two plays into the drive, Fink got free on a quick slant and raced untouched 48 yards for a score. Sealey’s two-point conversion pass attempt was overthrown to keep the Lion lead at 28-19 with 9:50 left in the third quarter.
Southeastern was forced to punt on its next possession and the punt was followed by a bench-clearing brawl that delayed the game for over 10 minutes. Once the scrum settled down, Mosley, SLU junior Sione Teuhema and ACU’s Jamar Mack were all ejected.
Perhaps energized by the fight, the Wildcats methodically moved the ball down to a first-and-goal situation at the Lion three-yard line. After Jiannoni and sophomore Sean Clavelle threw Tracy James for a two-yard loss, Ellison stepped in front of a short second down pass for an interception by Sealey to end the ACU scoring threat.
A 44-yard pass from Alo to Acker highlighted a 10-play, 83-yard drive for Southeastern following Ellison’s pick. Tatum padded the Lions’ lead with a 23-yard field to send the Lions into the final period with a 31-19 lead.
The two teams traded punts on the next four possessions with Abilene Christian taking over with just under three minutes left. ACU moved into the SLU red zone, but a sack by Fangatua and three incompletions allowed Southeastern to take over on downs with less than a minute remaining and hold on for the 31-19 victory.
Prior to the game, Southeastern honored the senior class of Acker, Alo, Rogers, Fangatua, Rasheed Harrell, Kaelyn Henderson, Da’Quan Smith, D’Shaie Landor, Will Hines, Tre’ Bennett, Caleb Young, Anthony Murphy Jr., Solomon Parker, Justin Barksdale, Taylor Gadbois, Jon Taylor, Trent Williams and Javari Nichols. Roberts was pleased to see his senior class close out its regular season home schedule with a win on its home field.
“We had some seniors play really well tonight,” Roberts commented. “We’re appreciative of everything our seniors have done for our program and for Southeastern Athletics as a whole. We want to get one more win for them next week.”
The Lions will close out the regular season with the River Bell Classic at Nicholls on Thursday at 6 p.m. The contest will be televised on American Sports Network. Cox Sports Television and WHNO will be ASN local affiliates in the Hammond area and the game will also be streamed live at www.southland.org/live.
Thursday’s game at Nicholls will also be heard on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9 FM, Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, WFPR 1400 AM), online at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Tune In Radio app.
ACU – 3 10 6 0 – 19 (2-9, 2-7 SLC)
SLU – 14 7 10 0 – 31 (6-4, 6-2 SLC)
SLU – Rogers 30 pass from Alo (Tatum kick), 7:32
ACU – Grau 30 FG, 4:11
SLU – Acker 13 pass from Alo (Tatum kick), 2:20
ACU – Sealey 3 pass from Brown (Grau kick), 11:48
ACU – Grau 43 FG, 7:25
SLU – Maracalin 2 run (Tatum kick), 0:38
SLU – Jiannoni 4 fumble return (Tatum kick), 10:28
ACU – Fink 48 pass from Sealey (Sealey pass failed), 9:50
SLU – Tatum 23 FG, 0:44
FIRST DOWNS 23 22
RUSHES-YARDS (NET) 31-29 31-152
PASSING YDS (NET) 303 293
Passes Att-Comp-Int 46-29-1 36-19-1
TOTAL OFFENSE PLAYS-YARDS. 77-332 67-445
Fumble Returns-Yards 0-0 1-4
Kickoff Returns-Yards 4-95 4-66
Punt Returns-Yards 1-0 3-35
Interception Returns-Yards 1-0 1-7
Punts (Number-Avg) 6-34.0 5-34.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-60 9-98
Possession Time. 29:28 30:32
Third-Down Conversions 5-of-15 6-of-13
Fourth-Down Conversions 1-of-2 0-of-0
Red Zone Scores-Chances 2-4 3-3
RUSHING: ACU – Brown 6-18, James 5-8, Qualls 2-8, Duncan 4-8, Sealey 12-1, Team 1-(-5), Fuller – 1-(-9). Totals 31-29. SLU – Maracalin 22-123, Durall 2-17, Henderson 3-15, Conner 1-5, Alo 2-(-4), Team 1-(-4). Totals 31-152.
PASSING: ACU – Sealey 28-45-1-300-1, Brown 1-1-0-3-1. Totals 29-46-1-303-2. SLU – Alo 19-36-1-293-2. Totals 19-36-1-293-2.
RECEIVING: ACU – Fink 7-102, Duncan 5-25, Fuller 4-72, Sadler 3-18, Haynes 2-28, Qualls 2-20, James 2-9, Brown 1-12, Ennis 1-10, Crain 1-4, Sealey 1-3. Totals 29-303. SLU – Acker 5-103, Dickey 5-89, Conner 5-31, Rogers 3-65, Maracalin 1-5. Totals 19-293.
A – 4,331.