Greetings, Lion fans, and before we begin this week’s edition of the Notebook, I’d like to give a shout out to an assistant coach who I think deserves mention and congratulations. The Blue Gang was on the field last week for 82 plays, and almost 40 minutes. That’s just shy of three quarters. They were still effective and held Eastern to 170 yards below their season average. That’s due to the hard work and preparation by Strength and Conditioning Coach Joey Caldwell. All that hard work in the heat and humidity of northeast Texas is paying dividends. And it will continue to. Well done, Coach.
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lion Defensive Front Six-6’0″ 259 lbs.
TWolves Offensive Line-6’3″ 294 lbs.
In what is becoming a familiar refrain, the Lions are again out sized up front. The Pueblo offensive line is headed up by sophomore left tackle Sean Johnson, 6’7″ 328 lbs. This is the same group, for the most part, that came into Commerce in 2018 and ground the Lion defense down in the second half, allowing the TWolves to dominate the ground game and time of possession.
The Lions have used somewhat of a revolving door in the front six, and it has allowed them to remain fresh and able to give their best effort. Sophomore Ronathan Elmore, 6’5″ 255 lbs. , has more than filled the shoes of the graduated Michael Onohoa, and is developing into a feared pass rusher. Peyton Searcy, 6’2″ 275 lbs. redshirt senior, made a welcome return last week, recovering a fumble that set up a Lion score. Pierre Leonard, 5’10” 300 lbs. , senior, continues to plug up the interior of the line, denying opposing runners lanes in which to work. Redshirt senior linebacker Neema Behbahani, continues to pile up tackles, and always seems to be around the ball.
They are sure to be put to the test this week. The Thunderwolves, coming off the loss last week, still remember how they pushed the Lions around in 2018, and are looking for more of the same.
BACK LINE/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Lion Back Line-5’10” 182 lbs.
TWolves Movers and Shakers-6’1″ 207 lbs.
The Thunderwolves are led in rushing by a tandem of junior DJ Penick, 5’10” 184 lbs, and senior Austin Micci, 5’9″ 191 lbs. Penick has 30 rushes for 205 yards, three touchdowns, with a long of 46. Micci has 27 carries for 132 yards, and three touchdowns, with a long of 43.
Their attack is directed by sophomore Jordan Kitna, 6’2″ 213 lbs. If that name sounds somewhat familiar to you, it should. Kitna is the son of former NFL quarterback and current Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna. The younger Kitna is 40-65 for 638 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Kitna averages almost 16 yards per completion. He takes care of the ball, and is very accurate with his throws.
The Pueblo receiving corps is led by senior Dionte Sykes, 6’3″ 205 lbs. His size and speed make him a dangerous target. He has 7 catches for 225 yards, with a long of 70 yards.
Sykes is not alone, sophomore Nick Williams, 6’4″ 195 lbs., presents another big target, and has 7 catches for 149 yards, with a long of 47. Sophomore H back Max Fine, 6’1″ 201 lbs, has 8 catches for 121 yards, one touchdown, and a long of 47.
The Lion secondary is led by senior Alex Shillow, who exploded for 11 tackles and a fumble recovery of a kickoff in the win over Eastern New Mexico. Red shirt junior Kader Kohou, 5’10” 190 lbs, also turned in an outstanding performance before leaving with a slight injury that he should return from this week. Dominque Ramsey, red shirt junior, 5’9″ 180 lbs., plays a lot larger than he is. Senior LA Dawson, 6’0″ 180 lbs., suffered from a bit of a penalty bug, but rallied, and did an outstanding job.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED- Dominique Ramsey finally broke out, and did what we all knew as fans that he was capable of, returning a punt 55 yards for a touchdown, and had several big kick returns. Kader Kohou, not to be outdone, has returned 2 kicks for 64 yards.
Redshirt freshman Justin Dwinell handles the punting for the Thunderwolves, with 12 kicks for a 43.3 yard average, with a long of 63. Junior Mitchell Carter is 4 for 6 on field goal attempts, with a long of 36 yards.
WHAT’S GOING DOWN/THE VERDICT-The Lions begin the meat grinder of their season this week. Colorado State Pueblo is still hurting from last week’s loss, and going into the Rockies will not be an easy task. There are opportunities to win this game. The indications are all there. The Lions, though, will have to prove it.
We’re almost there. Game Day. Stay tuned to The Wire for quarterly updated and in game analysis.