Greetings, Lion fans, and in this week’s edition of The Notebook, we’ll break down what we all already know. The toughest opponent the Lions have faced all year, and one that they have not had much luck against.
The Lions approach this game on the heels of their best defensive performance in recent memory, a 17-3 domination of Angelo State. Just how dominating? The Rams were averaging 37 points and over 400 yards per game coming in . The Blue Gang held them to 161 yards on 64 plays for a 2.5 yards per play average. That is total offense, not just run or pass. 2.5 yards per play for an entire game is almost unheard of in today’s wide open game. Senior defensive tackle Chris Williams, 6’1″ 285 lbs., led the way with 6 tackles (3 solo), and red shirt junior Jaylon Hodge, 6’0″ 275 lbs., had three tackles for loss and two critical sacks to thwart a Rams scoring drive. The kind of game that would the long time Lions defensive wizard, the late Bobby Fox, smile.
The Texans started out hot this season, and have stayed that way. Senior quarterback Ben Holmes, 6’0″ 200 lbs., threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns, and senior wide out Zimari Manning, 6’2″ 200 lbs., was the recipient of three of them, and had a total of 196 yards receiving.
This game is starting to take on the appearance of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Let’s take a closer look:
UP FRONT/TALE OF THE TAPE-
Texans Offensive Line-6’3″ 300 lbs.
Lions Front Six(D Line & Linebackers)-6’0″ 259 lbs.
Make no mistake about it. The boys from Stephenville are big, strong, and have a nasty streak. They like to bludgeon defenses up front into submission. They are led by senior J.P. Pierre, 6’4″ 310 lbs., sophomore Kendall Dearth, 6’2″ 305 lbs., and red shirt senior Cody Hayes, 6’5″ 300 lbs. They have been the fuel for one of the top offenses in all of Division 2.
The Lions front six have quietly put together a very good year. They are led up front by the aforementioned Chris Williams and Jaylon Hodge, along with red shirt junior Elijah Earls, 6’0″ 240 lbs., and the ever present seniors Pierre Leonard 5’10” 300 lbs., and Peyton Searcy, 6’2″ 275 lbs., which have provided Coach Xavier Adibi and his staff plenty of talent to be able to rotate players out to keep them fresh, as well as to adapt to injuries.
Senior linebackers Terrell Collins, 6’0″ 245 lbs., and Neema Behbahani, 6’1″ 230 lbs. range from sideline to sideline making plays. Collins leads the Blue Gang with 66 tackles (28 solo), and Behbahani, despite missing time due to injury, has 39 stops (14 solo).
MOVERS AND SHAKERS/THE BACK LINE-Where do you start? The Texans have really lit up the scoreboard offensively, and can hurt a defense in multiple ways. Senior running back Daniel McCants, 5’8″ 175 lbs., plays much bigger, totaling 1,489 yards on 164 carries, with 15 touchdowns, and a long of 99 yards, while junior Kahlil Banks has 607 yards on 99 carries, 9 touchdowns, and a long of 72 yards.
Zimari Manning, who we’ve mentioned earlier, has 1,375 yards receiving on 63 catches, with 22 touchdowns, and a long of 77 yards. Junior J.F. Thomas has 712 yards on just 33 receptions, with 6 touchdowns, and a long of 65 yards.
Senior Ben Holmes is the engineer of the offense, and is 175-289 for an average of 278.5 yards per game, with an impressive 33 touchdowns, just 3 interceptions, and a long of 77 yards.
The Lions back line has been banged up, but was still outstanding last week. They look to welcome back red shirt junior Alex Shillow, 5’10” 185 lbs., from injury. Senior corner LA Dawson, 6’0″ 180 lbs., red shirt junior Kader Kohou, 5’11” 190 lbs., and red shirt senior Jaylon Edwards-Cooper, 5’11” 175 lbs., have continued to hold down the fort, while senior defensive back Sammy Gray, 5’11” 180 lbs., has filled in very nicely. It is still unknown at this time whether red shirt junior Dominique Ramsey, 5’9″ 180 lbs., who has been a true triple threat for the Lions, will be available to play.
This looks to be a real chess match. Do the Lions double Manning, take their chances with Thomas, and hope the front six hold? or do they cheat a safety to help slow down McCants in the run game, and scheme the secondary to control the pass? It’s a sure bet that the coaching staff will have the coffee pot going, putting in long hours to come up with a plan.
VERY SPECIAL, INDEED-Sophomore J.R. Fullen is the Texans punter, averaging a very good 40.5 yards on 31 punts, with a long of 55 yards. He has had one punt blocked this season. Sophomore Christian Hernandez is 9 of 11 on field goal attempts, with a long of 31 yards.
With Ramsey’s status still in doubt, Kader Kohou has done a wonderful job filling in on punt returns, and true freshman Eric Hebert, all 5’4″ 145 lbs. of him, has provided much needed help in the kick return game.
BY THE NUMBERS-
Points- 47.6 ppg
Rushing- 265.5 ypg
Passing- 284.5 ypg
Total- 550.0 ypg
Points- 20.4 ppg
Rushing- 118.4 ypg
Passing- 192.8 ypg
Total- 311.2 ypg
Turnovers- 17 (+5 total)
WHAT’S GOING DOWN/THE VERDICT-Well, here we are again, Lion fans. The Lions have played these guys so often, it’s almost like two a day practices.
This time, the stakes are much higher. First round of the playoffs, and the Texans are sure to be a little riled up over what they perceive as a slight in the playoff seeding, being ranked #3 at the end of the regular season, but behind Minnesota State-Mankato in the region. Yes, it is a fact that the Lions have lost three straight to the Texans.
Now, though, things are different. One game. One last chance. The Lions have been in this situation before. Lightly regarded by opponents, despite winning nine games, and returning to the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year. That suits David Bailiff and his staff just fine.
It comes down to some football basics…1. Do not allow the explosive Tarleton offense any big plays. 2. Do not turn the ball over. 3. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize-The Texans are a good football team, and they like to remind their opponents of it. They will trash talk, taunt, and the occasional shove or elbow is not out of the question. The Lions must maintain their cool, and get the last laugh-a win.
It is the consensus of the Wire Staff that the Texans are overlooking the Lions. At 11-0, Tarleton is surely looking forward to hosting multiple playoff games, and having won the Lone Star Conference two years in a row with an undefeated conference record, they are sure to be coming into the game as Billy Minor would say, “fat and happy”.
Now is the time, Lion fans. Time to make the trek to Erath County, and show the boys in purple that the Lions are coming to town. And they’re hungry for a win.
See You Saturday.