The Southern football team lost again last week, this time to Texas Southern — and with games remaining against Alabama State and Grambling, the underdog Jaguars are looking at a possible three-game losing streak to end their season.
Despite all that, good news is on the way for SU: Several key players will come off suspensions when the Jaguars (3-6, 3-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference) face the Hornets (7-2, 7-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Montgomery, Ala.
This week marks the third and final round of player suspensions stemming from an Oct. 15 postgame brawl at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Forty players (15 from SU, 25 from UAPB) were penalized, and this week, four reserve players — safety Jaleel Richardson, safety Marlon Smith, receiver Marlon Smith and linebacker Franchot West — will sit out Saturday’s game for Southern.
Of the four, West has played the most; he is the team’s 10th-leading tackler with 28 stops.
But the Jaguars will get back seven players who sat out last week’s loss to TSU in Houston.
In what should be a big boost, three of those players — linebacker Jamie Payton, cornerback LaMarkius Pettaway and return specialist Byron Williams — will return from two-game suspensions.
Payton, a senior, is the team’s leading tackler despite missing two games because of his suspension. A former Dutchtown High standout who transferred from NAIA Lambuth University, he had earned praise from coaches and teammates as a leader and hard worker.
Payton has 68 tackles, one sack, one interception and two fumble recoveries.
Pettaway had teamed with Virgil Williams to form a solid cornerback tandem; he has 21 tackles, one interception, eight pass deflections and one fumble recovery.
“That should help us on the defensive side of the ball,” SU coach Stump Mitchell said, referring to the return of Payton and Pettaway.
Byron Williams has 223 all-purpose yards, including a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown against Florida A&M.
Also, free safety Levi Jackson and leading receiver LaQuinton Evans, among others, will return after serving their one-game suspensions.
Jackson ranks third on the team with 58 tackles. Evans ranks No. 5 in the SWAC with 35 catches for 579 yards. He and Mike Berry lead Southern with six touchdowns apiece.
Defensive tackle Kenneth Hill Jr. and running back Kaelan Mayfield will also return for SU.
Douglas starter for good?
Asked Monday if J.P. Douglas will start both of Southern’s final two games against Alabama State and Grambling, Mitchell replied: “Probably.”
Douglas has started the past four games ahead of sophomore Dray Joseph. The TSU loss marked the first time Douglas played from start to finish.
Mitchell said again Monday he planned to use Joseph in the second half, but he never had the chance because Southern only held the ball for 7:22 after halftime.
Douglas, a freshman, has completed 49 percent of his passes for 956 yards, nine passes and seven interceptions.
Joseph started the first five games this season. He has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,334 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
A rundown of bus trips for the Alabama State game:
6TH MAN CLUB: The bus leaves at 4 a.m. Saturday and returns after the game. The cost is $135 per person and includes a game ticket. For information, call Anna Jones at (225) 907-7212, Freddie Green at (225) 388-9403, or Elijah Wilkinson at (225) 355-9249.
SU UNIFICATION ORGANIZATION: The bus leaves at 11:55 p.m. Friday, and the trip includes an overnight stay in Montgomery. The cost is $190 for one person; $260 for two; and $360 for three. Call Leo Williams at (225) 355-6886 or (225) 357-3833.
BLUE & GOLD CLUB: The bus leaves at 4:30 a.m. Saturday and returns after the game. The cost is $115, including a game ticket. For information, call Craig Pierre at (225) 324-7234 or Robert Square at (225) 931-4052.