Blue Gang Notebook: Lion Defense vs. Southeastern Offense

Greetings, Lion fans, and in this week’s edition of the Notebook, we’ll take a look at the first official matchup of the Southland Conference era with a trip to Hammond to face another pride of Lions from Southeastern Louisiana.

Brian and I have been repeating the mantra of the defense for a while now. The Blue Gang. No, we didn’t originate it. That began sometime back in 1972. We’ve just been reminding everyone of what has always been there. The Blue Gang. There are quite a few football programs that have traditional names for their defensive units. Some of the more familiar ones are the Wrecking Crew of the 80’s and 90’s at Texas A&M College Station. That high pressure defense, with the sea of 12th Man towels waving, made Kyle Field one tough place to play. Lincoln, Nebraska is just as tough when it’s packed (it often is), but when the defense known as the Black Shirts (for the jersey color they wear in practice) high gear, Memorial Stadium takes on a life of its own. A new entrant in the game is the defensive unit of the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina (that’s one of the coolest mascots out there), the Black Swarm can take over a game.

Then there’s that little non-descript school about an hour northeast of Dallas. We as fans, know. Good defense isn’t just expected, it’s demanded. Year after year. What began with such stars as Dwight White, Harvey Martin, Autry Beamon, Tim Collier and continued with such names as Danny Kirk, Curtis Ray, Jimmy Buster, Brian Barnes, Kevin Rush, and Chris Flynn stretched into the 80’s and 90’s with such names as Terry Bagsby, Fred Woods, Eric Turner, Kevin Mathis, Antonio Wilson, Curtis Buckley (you ask Brian Mitchell of the Redskins just how much of a hitter Curtis Buckley was), to the present day with names like Alex Shillow, Brucks Saathoff, Garret Blubaugh, Dominque Ramsey, Pierre Leonard, Kieston Carter, Peyton Searcy, Dominique Ramsey, and so many more.

It is more than a name. It is more than the sum of its parts. IT’S A MENTALITY. It’s an understanding that when a player puts on that blue and gold jersey, and plays defense, there’s a certain way he goes about it. A mentality. Two weeks ago, even the ESPN broadcast recognized it. They discussed the “Blue Gang Mentality.”

Not bad for our little corner of the state. Now let’s dive right in to take a look at Southeastern Louisiana.


Southeastern Offense:

Points: 35.0 ppg

Rush: 173.2 ypg

Pass: 241.8 ypg.

Total: 414.6 ypg

Turnovers: 3

Blue Gang Defense:

Points: 20.0 ppg

Rush: 175.3 ypg

Pass: 146.6 ypg

Total: 322.0 ypg

Turnovers: 8

Southeastern is primarily a run first offense but do have a mobile quarterback with a strong arm, and a pair of very good receivers. They like to run a lot of counter plays, designed to draw the defense in one direction, then the offensive line just pushes them that way, allowing the back plenty of room to cut back. The Blue Gang should be at full strength this week, so they will certainly be tested.


Southeastern Offensive Line: 6’2″ 298 lbs.

Blue Gang Front Six: 6’1″ 247 lbs.

The Tale of the Tape is a bit misleading. This includes both linebackers, and the linebacker position of today calls for a smaller and more mobile player with the spread offenses and heavy emphasis on the passing game. The Southeastern group is a good blend of youth and experience, led by John Allen (6’1″ 310 lbs., Jr.), junior Javin Turner (6’2″ 280 lbs.), and Brendan Lacios (6’7″ 300 lbs.). They have only given up 7 sacks so far this season.

The Blue Gang is led up front by the foursome of Celestin Haba (6’2″ 250 lbs., Sr.), Ben Hutch (6’4: 293 lbs.), Bryson Stewart (6’0″ 269 lbs., Soph.), who have been able to create pressure on the passer, and allow senior linebacker Dee Walker (6’2″ 224 lbs., 22 tackles, 8 solo) and senior Michael Noble (6’0″ 216 lbs., Sr.) to roam free and make plays.


Southeastern Movers and Shakers: 6’1″ 170 lbs.

Blue Gang Back Line: 5’10” 174 lbs.

Southeastern plays two quarterbacks, redshirt freshman Eli Sawyer (6’2″ 215 lbs.) who is 45-71-1 for a 168.5-yard average, 5 touchdowns, and a long of 71 yards. The primary quarterback is Sr. Cephas Johnson III (6’5″ 220 lbs.) who is 49-79-1 for a 106.6-yard average,4 touchdowns, and a long of 70 yards. Johnson is very fast, and an elusive runner. He also has 35 rushing attempts for 216 yards, a touchdown, and a long of 22 yards.

Southeastern is also a big believer in the running back by committee motto, as evidenced by a trio of senior Carlos Washington (5’10” 220 lbs.), senior Jesse Britt (5’10” 195 lbs.) and freshman Rodeo Graham (6’0″ 215 lbs.) Washington has 57 attempts for 320 yards, 5 touchdowns, and a long of 26. Britt has 24 attempts for 131 yars, 3 touchdowns, and a long of 35. Graham has 123 yards on 27 attempts, a touchdown, and a long of 20 yards. They are very quick and have a nice mix of power running to complement that speed.

The receiving corps is led by sophomore Gage Larvadain (5’10” 160 lbs.) who has 260 yards on 17 catches, a touchdown, and a long of 57 yards. Redshirt senior C.J. Turner (6’2″ 180 lbs.) has 15 receptions for 250 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a long of 59 yards. Red shirt junior Anthony Spurlock (6’1″ 170 lbs.) is the big play man, with four receptions for 128 yards, a touchdown, and a long of 70 yards.

The Blue Gang back line, like the rest of the roster, is very, very young, but have more than held their own this season, led by senior Darius Williams (5’10” 189 lbs.) who has 28 tackles (8 solo). Junior Dariyon Taylor (5’10” 158 lbs.) has 23 tackles (13 solo). A trio of sophomores round out the back line, Jordan Polk (5’11” 177 lbs.), Maxwell Epps (5’11” 189 lbs.), and Kendall Paul (5’8″ 157 lbs.). They have come a long way in a very short amount of time, they play well together, and are a group of ferocious hitters.

VERY SPECIAL, INDEED: The Southeastern punter is Junior Austin Dunlap (6’1″ 180 lbs.) who averages 45.0 yards on 24 punts, with a long of 64 yards. Freshman Riley Callaghan (6’3″ 190 lbs.) is 4-4 on field goals with a long of 43 yards. Both are very solid kickers.

The Lion return game has had some flashes of greatness but are still seeking that one explosive return. They certainly have the personnel to make it happen. Senior J.T. Smith (6’0″ 178 lbs.) has world class speed (two touchdowns on four touches two weeks ago) and has 3 returns for a 26.0-yard average, with a long of 43 yards. Senior B.J. Busbee (5’7″ 149 lbs.) has 3 punt returns for a 7.33-yard average and has always just seem to be a block or two away from a big return.

(Note: There was an oversight in the Pre Snap Read earlier this week. Kickers and punters arguably have the most mentally demanding job in football. Granted, the physical demands are nowhere near those of, let’s say a back or lineman, but far more often than not, that punter is called upon to bail an offense out of bad field position. The kicker is called on to win or lose a game with one swing of his leg. That being said, freshman transfer Aiden Martin has been outstanding on kickoffs this season, often putting his kicks through the end zone. I neglected to mention his fine work this season. It won’t happen again.)

THE LIONS WIN THIS MATCHUP IF: How’s this for a start to conference play? Go on the road to the preseason conference favorite. Southeastern is a very good football team, and it will demand the Lions best effort if they are to pull this off. Pre snap and silly penalties have to be eliminated. The offensive line has to keep Eric Rodriguez upright, and offensive coordinator Billy Reibock will need to be patient with a running game that could be tough going against a defense that likes to bring pressure. That pressure will certainly leave opportunities in the passing game, and the Lion offense has one of the best in the country. Combine this with an emphasis on ball security, and the offense should be fine.

The Blue Gang needs to continue their stellar effort they have had all season. If they are able to keep Johnson in the pocket, and make good, sure tackles, they can keep the Lions in this one.

Commerce comes into this game as the Homecoming opponent for Southeastern. If that doesn’t get this team ready to play, then I don’t know what does. One thing is for sure. David Bailiff is a master at getting a team ready when the odds are against them. This one is going to be fun. Take heart, Lion fans. This is one they certainly can win.

See You Saturday.

Roar Back Here.....

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