The Southeastern Louisiana football team is excited for the start of the season.
Yes, it’s Week 4, but after two tough nonconference road losses, the Lions will take anything they can get.
So, as Southeastern opens its Southland Conference and home schedule when it hosts Northwestern State at 6 p.m. Saturday, the Lions are choosing to look at this week as the start of a new season.
The mindset of opening a second season as conference play arrives isn’t novel — especially for Football Championship Subdivision teams that play up in competition during nonconference action — but it does come in handy for a team trying to keep its struggles in the past.
A fresh start couldn’t come at a better time. It has been a long year in Hammond, with the Lions going almost that long since their last win.
By Saturday, it will be 336 days since Southeastern won a football game, tying the record for the longest stretch between wins since the sport returned to campus in 2003.
The Lions haven’t won since Oct. 24 of last season, stretching back six games — easily the longest slide of the coach Ron Roberts era. But Southeastern is choosing to look at its predicament in a more optimistic light.
“We’re 0-0 (in Southland play), and that’s the best feeling in the world,” senior linebacker Caleb Young said. “We’re looking forward to this weekend, going to be 1-0. If we run through the conference, nobody is ever going to remember we started out 0-2. It’s behind us. It doesn’t even matter.”
But what Southeastern can’t forget is that Northwestern is one of its closest rivals, with the series 30-29 in favor of the Lions. Roberts has not dropped a game to the Demons in his four years with the program, but two of those four wins were one-score games.
With in-state bragging rights on the line, a win means more than just a boost in the standings.
“These are huge in recruiting, because the next 12 months you’re going to be battling them on the recruiting trail,” Roberts said. “There’s bragging rights and opportunities to say, ‘Hey, this is what we’ve done.’ This is pretty huge.”
Southeastern quarterback Justin Alo will make his first start in Strawberry Stadium after taking the starting job from D’Shaie Landor before the Southern Utah game two weeks ago. Alo said this weekend should be easier after getting first-game jitters out of the way. He threw for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 28-23 road loss to Southern Utah, which came a week after Landor struggled during a 61-7 defeat at Oklahoma State.
“I don’t feel any different,” Alo said. “I just know I have to do everything I can to keep my job. If things don’t go right, you know what’s going to happen. I just feel like I have to keep executing and moving the ball with the offense and putting points on the board.”