Greetings, Lion fans, and first, I would like to say that it has been way too long since we’ve been able to talk football. This Saturday, however, that finally comes to an end with the 2020 Fall Game.
The staff here at The Wire would like to thank AD Tim McMurray, Head Coach David Bailiff, and everyone associated with the football program for giving us all a peek at what might have been this season. For us, the hashtag #2020NationalChampions comes to mind. There will always remain a tinge of disappointment at the reminder that this would have been a season in which the Lions were in the thick of the chase for a National Championship.
So, just what do we as fans have to look forward to? Offensively, it begins with what was the most dynamic player in all of Division 2 last season, and despite what the media pundits outside of Lion Nation thought, the best quarterback in the Lone Star Conference in 2019, Miklo Smalls. Smalls returns firmly entrenched as QB1, with more than enough experience in offensive coordinator Billy Riebock’s system. Veteran running backs Carandale Hale and E.J. Thompson return, along with receivers Matt Childers, Jeremiah Bridges, Chance Cooper, and incoming freshman Michael Phoenix provide Smalls with a wide array of weaponry in which to attack opposing defenses. The offensive line, anchored by All Conference tackle Amon Simon, returns virtually intact. Simon is joined by Richard West, Travis Dafft, Christian Hernandez, and Dixon Siuele. It is a big and talented group that should power one of the top Division 2 offenses in the country when full play resumes in 2021.
Defensively, the Blue Gang has had another year to adapt to defensive coordinator Xavier Adibi’s 4-2-5 alignment, and continue to improve. At the end of the 2019 season, they were arguably one of the best in the country, posting 10 sacks against Colorado School of Mines in the playoffs, and quite literally shutting down bitter rival Tarleton State in the first round, with 5 sacks, and limiting the Texans to one touchdown. In a three game stretch that included the regular season finale against Angelo State, the Blue Gang of the Lions allowed one touchdown. ONE. In 12 quarters of play.
The strength of the defense lies in the secondary, where the talent and experience run deep. Alex Shillow, Kader Kohou, and superstar Dominque Ramsey headline a group that is both adept in pass coverage, yet not afraid to get in the trenches and help stop the run. The defensive line is anchored by stalwarts Elijah Earls, Devon Beamon, Jaylon Hodge, Ronathon Elmore, and Mark Brown. Dayne Douglass, Xavier Morris, and Jay Bias return to lead and up and coming linebacker corps. All in all, the defense is in good hands.
In the special teams department, Jake Viquez returns to a group that more often than not, has broken a game open for the Lions. In the game against Midwestern State in 2019, Viquez’s uncanny ability to pooch kick kickoff plays pried open what was a tight game to begin, and earned the Lions some easy points in addition to limiting opponent’s field position.
In the return game, quite simply, the Lions have two of the best in the country. Dominique Ramsey is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. In 2019, opponents at times absolutely refused to kick the ball anywhere near him.
Not to be outdone, Kader Kohou filled in for an injured Ramsey during the playoff game with Tarleton in 2019, and more than held his own with several crucial returns, often picking up a punt on the bounce, then breaking a big return. When paired with Ramsey on kickoff returns, it provides the Lions a huge threat.
There is so much more that we as fans have yet to see. How will the new transfers and what would have been incoming freshmen this fall fit in? Who will step to the forefront?
This Saturday, we’ll get a glimpse.
See You At The Hawk