/Greetings, Lion fans, it has been a very long time since we’ve had a game like yesterday. Ordinarily, we’d be watching the D2 Football playoff selection show, and hoping for a home game, or at least a favorable seeding. Unfortunately, 2021 was not to be, and the Lions found themselves playing out the regular season, trying to salvage a little personal pride. There’s a lot to discuss about the 2021 season, and a lot of information to break down, and we’ll be diving into it later this week. For now, there are some game balls to hand out for a very nice 30-10 win over a better than anticipated Eastern New Mexico Greyhound team. Let’s get to it.
BLUE GANG DEFENSE- There are so many outstanding efforts on that side of the football, this one goes out to every defensive player and members of the defensive coaching staff. In an eight game stretch, beginning with the Texas A&M-Kingsville game, the Lion defense, in 32 regulation quarters of play, allowed FOUR OFFENSIVE TOUCHDOWNS. As of yesterday, despite the struggles against Midwestern, West Florida, and Angelo State, they were ranked #4 in total defense in the entire country. At a school with a tradition for great defensive football, what Defensive Coordinator Xavier Adibi, his staff, and a group of very talented athletes did was on another level. A championship one.
MITCHELL MCGARRY-The redshirt freshman from Australia has made himself a home in Commerce, and is in command of the punting position. Despite a very pesky wind that always seems to make itself a force as the days get shorter and colder at The Hawk, McGarry still averaged 37 yards on 3 punts, and changed field position in the Lions favor every time.
ERIC RODRIGUEZ-It was a coming out party for the freshman from the Houston area. Rodriguez was firmly in command of the Lions offense, was 7of 14 passing for 165 yards, connected with J.T. Smith on a 53 yard touchdown strike, had a long pass completion of 60 yards, and ran for another touchdowns. In a season filled with inconsistent and indecisive quarterback play, Rodriguez brought a swagger and confidence sorely missing this season. Even his mistakes, an interception and a sack, were made in the attempt of making something good happen. He’s a certain challenger to be QB1 in 2022.
THE 2021 SENIOR CLASS-Despite a disappointing season in which they expected to compete for a national championship, the seniors maintained their focus, picked themselves up and dusted themselves off, and kept on going. In a situation like yesterday in which they could very easily have just gone through the motions, and not shown up, they did. The 2021 Seniors leave Commerce like they came in. Winners. Champions.
JAKE VIQUEZ-Yes, he was 1 of 3 on field goals yesterday. Yes, he has had an up and down year. As far as Brian and I are concerned though, any discussion of great kickers in Lion football history must begin with three people…..Billy Watkins, Kristov Martinez, and Jake Viquez. Viquez won the opener in Pueblo, and kept the Lions in several games. In 2019, he broke the backs of a Tarleton State team with a pair of long field goals. What earns Jake this last game ball, however, is something I noticed as the clock was running down yesterday. He had just missed a field goal, the clock was being run out, and instead of looking out onto the field, perhaps thinking of a career….instead, he was settting up balls and kicking into the net, still working, still striving for perfection. THAT COUNTS, SIR.
And so, we close out a 7-4 2021 regular season, that in some eras, would be cause for enjoyment and celebration. However, these days in Commerce, America, it’s a cause for disappointment and self reflection.
Then it’s time to get back to work. Recruiting 2022 and Division I FCS await. Plus, we’ll have a post mortem analysis of the 2021 season, an overview of the 2021 D2 playoffs, and something different. a look at a typical week behind the scenes at The Wire.
See You Soon