Flashback: 1995 NCAA Division II Playoffs Preview: East Texas State Lions Vs. Portland State Vikings

Note: This a republication of an article written by the sports staff of the Portland Tribune. Again, every attempt has been made to ensure the original integrity of the article. This is NOT the work of The Lion Wire or anyone on it’s staff. 

Tuesday, November 14, 1995 

Portland-Portland State Viking Football Coach Tim Walsh knows he faces an opponent that is the polar opposite in every way, shape, and form from his Viking squad. The Lions of East Texas State head up to Providence Park to take on the Vikings and Walsh has only had 2 days to prepare for them, and he sees a lot that worries him.

“They are very talented and well coached. They have two quarterbacks who can both play well and have a great group of receivers and skill guys. A lot to concerned about for sure.”

The Lions finished their regular season 8-3, finishing second in the Lone Star Conference. Their losses have come to a ranked Central Arkansas squad out of the Gulf South Conference, a loss to Division I Northwestern Louisiana State and then dropping an 37-18 decision to a team Walsh is very familiar with, Texas A&M-Kingsville. “Those two squads are rivals, and we know they play hard against each other, but seeing what I have on film, it is easy to see why they are as good as they are.” The Lions 19 point loss to the Javelinas showed they fared much better than the Vikings did against Kingsville, getting blown out 44-7. The Lions run a pro set style offense that has a great set of balance between throwing and passing. Strong quarterback play seems to be the norm in Commerce, a town of about 8,000 residents tucked in between Dallas and Oklahoma in rural Northeastern Texas where East Texas State is located. The Lions previous three signal callers, Clint Dolezel, Bob Bounds, and Michael Trigg, have all started in the Arena Football League while the two signal callers before them, Kyle Mackey and Wade Wilson, both nabbed starting jobs in the National Football League. Mackey with the New York Jets, and Wilson with the New Orleans Saints.

The Lions are led by signal caller Cole Cayce on offense. When he is healthy, he is terrific. Having started all 11 games, Cayce has seen himself to the bench due to injury and Chandler Evans who has played in 8 games for the Lions, actually leads the Lion passing stats with 1,452 yards and 8 touchdown passes. Jason Smith has rushed for 1,077 yards and averages 90 yards per game on the ground. Cayce and Evans also have 4 targets that they can get the ball to in Daryl Anderson, James Epps, Greg Watson, and Trent Dagen. On Defense, the Lions are led by All-American Kevin Mathis, who could possibly be the best overall player on the team. Mathis leads the team on punt and kickoff returns in addition to snagging 6 interceptions. He is not the only Lion who has a nice collection of picks. Donnie Jones has 5 interceptions while Manuel Evans has 3. Travis Marshall leads the team in total tackles with a whopping 73 tackles, and the special teams are strong led by Mathis as the main return man while David Dell has hit on 17 of 26 field goals, including a long of 53. Punter Chris Dolan averages 42 yards per punt, including a long of 68 yards.

The Lions are coached by Eddie Vowell, who took over the program 9 years ago at the tender age of 38. His first two seasons were a rough go, but since 1988, the Lions have picked up 56 wins under Vowell and is they might say down in Texas, this is not their first rodeo. The Lions are used to success. They went to the Division II quarterfinals in 1990 and 1991 and have won at least 8 games in 5 of the past 8 seasons to go along with a Lone Star Conference title in 1990. The Lions have also won a National title 23 years ago when they were in NAIA Division I and also finished as National Semifinalists in 1980. They have also won their conference 20 times since 1931.

Vowell, who is a colorful character with the humor and wit of a Texan, was asked what to expect from his players upon landing in Portland, he quickly said “Culture Shock.” On the likelihood of facing Texas A&M-Kingsville for the second time should the Lions knock off the Vikings, Vowell says; “I am sure the players would be fired up because we don’t like them and they don’t like us, but me personally, I would rather have a root canal.”

The Vikings know that their 7-4 record might seem pedestrian but Walsh and the Vikings have the top ranked offense in the entire country, averaging 402 yards per game, but the Lions are no slouch on offense either. The average 352 yards per game.

“It might get to a point where we might just have to outscore them, and if it gets a win, that’s all that matters at this point in the season. Does not have to be pretty, just winning gets us to the next round.” says Walsh

# 11 East Texas State Lions Vs. # 9 Portland State Vikings

Saturday, November 18, 12 PM, Providence Park.

Winner Advances to face the winner of Texas A&M-Kingsville and Fort Hayes State. 


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