Greetings, Lion fans. On a bright, sunny, day at The Hawk, we got our first look at the defending Division 2 National Champion Lions, and boy, first impressions were something. Let’s get to it.
First of all, and most important, the score doesn’t matter. For the record, the Blue team defeated the Gold, 14-0. What does matter, however, is were some of the questions going in answered, or do we at least know a little more? The opinion here is a resounding yes.
The offense for both sides was somewhat sloppy, with dropped passes, pre snap penalties, and missed assignments. Understandably so, as position units were split. The timing seemed to be off on several plays, but all this will undoubtedly improve with time, whole position groups working together. Defenses are always ahead of offenses at this stage, but that aside, the Blue Gang has the talent to be referred to, as the late Paul W. Bryant said, “agile, mobile, and hostile.” Big hits were the order of the day. Brucks Saathoff and Neema Behbahani were particular standouts. Danny Huckaby took an interception back for what would have been a touchdown in a normal game. JC transfer Felipe Chambers stood out well in run support, and is a tremendous hitter from the safety position. Have confidence, Lion fans. Despite not having a defensive coordinator, the Blue Gang appears to be in good shape heading into the fall.
On the offensive side of the ball, one of the things that stood out was depth at the running back position. No longer does it appear that the load will be handled by Carandale Hale and E.J. Thompson alone. Ovie Urevbu, Antonio Lealiiee, and Nate Davis, all had some good runs. Hale popped loose for an 18 yard run up the middle to set up his short touchdown run for the first score.
Despite Vincent Hobbs not playing the receiving corps looked to be in fine shape. Darrion Landry, and Marquise Wimberly had some fine grabs. Kelan Smith, who filled in so admirably for the injured Buck Wilson played very well. Corey Smallwood had a good catch over the middle. There were some drops, but again, position groups were split, and it’s still extremely early in the process.
Now for the biggest question, one that has been asked probably since that glorious night in Kansas City last December. Who will replace Luis Perez? Preston Wheeler was impressive in his efforts today. He was able to move and buy time in the pocket, made good decisions, and threw some good passes. Colby Carthel has somehow managed to clone Gabe Rodriguez in the form of Gunnar Palacios, who played well, and appears to be a natural fit for the short yardage “truck” package. Chase Pemberton had some bright spots and is making good progress. Kane Wilson, the junior college transfer, is still in the process of learning the Lion offense, but had some very bright spots, including a very nice fade route to Deonta Adams for the game’s final score. He also had a very nice deep ball to Wimberly for a big gain. He has good speed, can extend plays while keeping his focus downfield, and makes good decisions. There were some foul ups on timing, and some apparent misreads, but that will improve with time and learning more of the offense as he goes along.
All in all, Lion fans, it was a beautiful day for a game in Commerce, America. There’s a lot of promise in the Lion team this year, and the opportunity is there for another playoff run. Now, let’s see…..when is Opening Day again?
(Author’s Note: Thanks to Coach Carthel, AD Tim McMurray, and everyone involved in putting on a good show today. It was a welcome relief from a very sad week in the McLean house. We lost our beloved 12-year-old chocolate lab, Hershey, to hip dysplasia and arthritis. You guys were a welcome relief. Thank You.)