NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The Southeastern Louisiana football team nearly rallied back from two scores down, but Stephen F. Austin stopped Southeastern on the potential tying drive to grab a 28-20 victory in Southland Conference football action Saturday night at Homer Bryce Stadium.
The Lions (2-8, 0-6 Southland) moved the ball inside the SFA 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter. However, Stephen F. Austin (5-4, 4-2 Southland) turned up the pressure to force Southeastern junior quarterback Brian Young into three straight incomplete passes to earn its fourth straight win.
“I thought our guys played really hard and didn’t quit after falling behind early,” Southeastern coach Mike Lucas said. “Our defense made some plays tonight against a very good offense and gave us a chance to win the ball game. But we weren’t able to get our offense going until the fourth quarter.”
Stephen F. Austin limited the Lions to 292 total yards.
Frank Bryant, Tyler Stoddard, Marice Sutton and Robert Alford all had interceptions for Southeastern, which finished the game with a plus-two turnover margin after coming in to the contest minus-18 in takeaways for the season.
SFA quarterback Brady Attaway countered his four interceptions with 312 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-52 passing.
Young connected on 32-for-41 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. Senior Simmie Yarborough led the Lions with nine catches for 56 yards, while Dean Johnson grabbed a career-high eight catches for 52 yards. Senior Kory Theodore also added six catches for a team-high 68 yards and a touchdown.
Zeke Jones returned for the first time in over a month to lead the Lion rushing attack with 13 carries for 79 yards and a score.
The Lions had Stephen F. Austin backed up with a third-and-20, but a defensive holding call gave the Jacks an automatic first down. SFA took advantage with a 10-play, 90-yard scoring drive that Marquis Mosely capped by catching a 2-yard scoring toss from Attaway with 5:25 left in the opening quarter
Another Southeastern three-and-out resulted in a punt that Crawford returned 51 yards to the Lions 12-yard line. Two plays later, Gus Johnson rushed in untouched for a 12-yard score and a 14-0 SFA lead with 3:13 left in the opening quarter.
Weary gave the ball back to SFA on the next offensive trip, as he fumbled at the Lion 40-yard line. Defensive lineman Gordon Booker II pounced on it to set the Lumberjacks in Southeastern territory.
However, Southeastern turned the tables, as Bryant intercepted Attaway and returned it 78 yards to the SFA 1-yard line. On the next play, Jones bulled in to cut the lead to 14-7 with 29 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the final play of the first quarter, Stoddard picked off Attaway.
The Westlake native’s first career interception gave the Lions the ball at their own 44 to start the second quarter.
Stephen F. Austin stiffened to force a Lion punt, and SFA was as well.
On the first play of the next drive, senior Brandon Collins caught a pass well behind the line of scrimmage. Theodore was wide open down the sideline, but Collins overthrew Theodore on a sure touchdown.
After the teams traded empty possessions, a bad snap by Bryan West on a Stephen F. Austin punt gave the Lions the ball deep inside Lumberjack territory.
SFA’s held to set up Seth Sebastian’s 33-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-10 with 3:51 remaining in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Crawford set up SFA at midfield with a 44-yard kickoff return. A 31-yard pass from Attaway to Cordell Roberson highlighted a six-play, 50-yard scoring drive. Crawford snagged a throw from Attaway to cap the drive and put the Lumberjacks up, 21-10, heading into the halftime break.
The two teams traded punts on the first two possessions of the third quarter. On Stephen F. Austin’s second drive of the half, a personal foul on junior T’Darryl Grays allowed SFA to move to the Lion 29-yard line. But on fourth-and-nine, Sutton picked up his first interception as a Lion to give Southeastern the ball back deep in their own territory.
A 23-yard pass from Young to Theodore highlighted an 11-play, 76-yard scoring march. Sebastian pulled the Lions within one score at 21-13 with 5:18 left in the third quarter.
The two teams traded empty possessions until early in the fourth quarter. Attaway found Hammond native and former St. Thomas Aquinas standout Ryan Gamble for a 45-yard touchdown to push the SFA lead to 28-13 with 13:52 left.
On the next play, Caleb Nelson seemingly put the game away with a jumping interception of a Young pass near midfield. Nelson ran the interception all the way back to the Lion three-yard line. However, Alford picked off Attaway in the end zone to give the Lions the ball back.
On the drive, Southeastern marched 80 yards in nine plays to pull within eight points. Young kept the drive alive with an 18-yard scramble on fourth-and-one near midfield. On the next play, Young found Theodore in the back of the end zone on a 29-yard scoring throw to cut the lead to 28-20 with 10:35 left in regulation.
SFA marched right back down the field, as a 25-yard run by Johnson highlighted a drive that moved the Lumberjacks into field goal range. However, Wiggs’ 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right to keep Southeastern within one score.
The teams traded three-and-outs, allowing Southeastern to take over at its own 13-yard line with 5:53 left. A 26-yard pass to Yarborough and a 30-yard run by Zeke Jones set Southeastern up with first and goal on the 10-yard line. However, SFA stiffened and Southeastern turned it over on downs after Willie Jefferson hit Young as he threw on fourth-and-goal, causing the Lion junior’s pass to fall incomplete.
SFA took over with just over two minutes to play. Jeremy Barnes rolled off two first down runs to allow the Lumberjacks to kill the clock and secure the victory.