The SLU Lions and the NWST Demons squared off last night in Natchitoches, with both teams looking for their first victory of the season. This game was the Demon’s first since Ronnie Caldwell, a junior safety, was killed, so the team came into this matchup with heavy hearts. The game started out with both offenses looking hot, but after SLU took a 21-17 lead into halftime, NWST was not able to muster much and was outscored 16-3 in the second half, leading to a 37-20 victory. The Lions improve to 1-7, 1-3 in Southland Conference play. The Demons fell to 0-6, 0-2 in Conference.
The Lions received the opening kickoff, and after a 6-play, 75 yard drive, Bauer Sharp was able to squeeze into the endzone for a 1-yard touchdown carry after a 33-yard catch from Maurice Massey that set the Lions up at the goalline. The drive started out with a tribute to Ronnie Caldwell, with Zachary Clement, a former NWST quarterback, trotted upfield for 10-yards and took a knee next to Caldwell’s jersey. The Demons only fielded 10 players for this play, leaving one of the safety positions open, just as the Redskins did in honor of Sean Taylor in 2007.
NWST responded to Sharp’s touchdown with one of their own, with quarterback Tyler Vander Waal rushing for a 2-yard score. NWST was able to pin the Lions back on their own 18 on the kickoff, but field position didn’t matter as SLU was able to respond quickly, driving down the field for 82 yards on 7 plays, capped off by a 22-yard Da’Shun Hugley jet sweep in which he found the endzone on. This play came after back to back catches for 23 yards, from Massey, and 27 yards from Sharp. The first quarter ended after a Brett Money field goal from 38 yards out, with was set up by a Bauer Sharp fumble. The score after the first quarter was 14-10, SLU.
The second quarter scoring opened with a three-play, 33-yard drive, set up by yet another Bauer Sharp fumble. Vander Waal was able to find Stanley King for an impressive 29-yard touchdown, and NWST took the lead.
SLU responded with a short drive, from just 51 yards out. After eight plays, which included another long catch by Massey for 29 yards, Zachary Clement was able to run in for a 4-yard touchdown. After trading several punts, and an SLU turnover-on-downs, it was halftime, with a score of 21-17, Lions.
NWST started with possession in the second half. Just a minute and half into the drive, however, Vander Waal threw a costly interception, to Victor Tademy, who was able to return the ball 58 yards for a defensive touchdown.
After an 11-play drive for the Demons which resulted in a turnover-on-downs, the Lions were able to score again, and quickly. Just four plays into the drive, Deantre Jackson took a handoff to the house, for 81 yards. The PAT was missed, and SLU took a 34-17 lead.
The teams traded punts and interceptions, with Markell Linzer intercepting Vander Waal, and Jaeden Ward intercepting Clement. After trading more punts, and a field goal apiece, mixed in with some turnover-on-downs, the game ended, and SLU took their first victory of 2023.
Eli Sawyer and Zachary Clement split time, as usual, with Clement seeing more action, as Sawyer was perhaps still somewhat injured after last Saturday’s game against Lamar. Sawyer completed 6/10 passes for 128 yards, and Clement completed 12/18 for 192 yards and an interception, alongside 53 rushing yards and a score on the ground. Deantre Jackson led the Lions, by far, in rushing, with 119 yards on just 6 carries, including that 81-yard touchdown. Rodeo Graham Jr saw 9 carries for 24 yards, and Harlan Dixon gained just 9 yards on 7 carries, but saw work in the passing game, with 2 catches for 47 yards. Darius Lewis caught a season-high six passes for 109 yards, and Maurice Massey made his name known with 3 catches for 85 yards, in just his second game back from injury. Bauer Sharp led the tight end group, with 5 catches for 67 yards.
For the Demons, Vander Waal completed 27/43 passes for 249 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. The backup, J.T. Fayard, went 4/4 for 50 yards. Kolbe Burrell led the way with carries and rushing yards, with 11 for 49. T.J. Johnson and Zach Patterson went over 50 yards each, on 3 and 5 catches, respectively. For the Demon defense, Cadillac Rhone led the squad with 9 tackles. Donovan Green recorded a sack, and Nasir Sy and Chancellor Owens both collaborated on another.
The Lions take their Bye week next weekend. The Demons face McNeese State, another winless program, and the Lions face McNeese at home the weekend after.