Lindenwood football qualifies for NCAA DII Playoffs


Photo by Kayla Drake

Erik Henneman, (right) catches a pass during a game against the Midwestern State University Texas on Sep. 14 at Harlen C. Hunter Stadium.

Merlina San Nicolás Leyva, Sports Editor

On Sunday night, the football team gathered at the Student-Athlete Center expecting good news – a playoff spot. More than 50 players sat in the film room, leaning forward, some Snapchatting the moment, to see if their season was over. Once the bracket was announced, the players jumped out of their seats and cheered.

“What was special to me was just looking at the seniors, the guys that have been with us since the whole time we’ve been here over the last three years that haven’t had a winning record, haven’t had anything to play for,” head coach Jed Stugart said on an interview with Dominic Hoscher. “To see those guys, the exuberance to just finally be able to have a shot at a conference championship and winning one, it’s hard to put into words, but it just means a lot.”

The Lions nabbed the seventh seed Sunday, earning them an NCAA DII playoff game against Ouachita Baptist University on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. The Ouachita Baptist Tigers qualified as the second seed. The Lions’ playoff qualification came a day after they defeated Southwest Baptist University, 42-10, on Saturday to win the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship outright.

After a shaky start to the season, the Lions won all seven GLVC matches and capped off the season with an 8-3 overall record. This is the first year the Lions are in the GLVC. The last time the Lions had won a conference title was in 2009 at the Heart of America Athletic Conference. This will be the first time the Lions compete in the postseason since 2012 when they lost to Winona State University in the Mineral Water Bowl.

“They’ve become a very mentally tough football team and learned that good practices translate to good days on Saturday’s,” Stugart said.

Twenty-eight schools from different conferences – GLVC, MIAA, GLIAC, GAC – qualified for the playoffs. Click here to see the bracket.

On Monday, the GLVC announced that Nash Sutherlin and Tayvian Weary had earned Players of the Week honors.

According to the Lindenwood Athletics website, Sutherlin broke the 200-yard mark for the first time in his career, and ninth in program history. He also scored three times for another career-high. Weary tallied three sacks, five tackles and compiled four tackles for loss. Weary also forced two fumbles, one which was recovered by the Lions.

“It was cool to get it, but I’m not too excited because I think one of us on our team should get that every week because we have the best offense,” Sutherlin said. “But I felt confident, unfazed and in the zone and got great sleep!.”

Top 5 things you need to know:

  • The Ouachita Tigers (pronounced WASH-a-taw) finished the regular season with a clean 11-0 record, claiming the 2019 Great American Conference Championships. Running back and defensive leader for the Tigers, Brockton Brown, accumulated 22 touchdowns to rank second in the nation.
  • Cade Brister threw a school record of 541 yards during the match against the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 2. Brister is ranked in the top 10 in seven different categories within the NCAA DII. The O’Fallon native has 3,301 yards through the air, 36 passing touchdowns and 445 rushing yards and six scores on the ground.
  • Erik Henneman led the Lions to their first win in 2019 against a top-25 team, Truman State. The second biggest victory came when the Lions upset UIndy, the six-time GLVC Champions. In 2018, Henneman was named as first-team All-MIAA tight end and ranked 29th in the nation with nine touchdown catches, the most by a tight end.
  • Stugart earned his 100th victory at Lindenwood this season when the Lions defeated William Jewell 28-16 on Sept. 21. In Stugart’s first season with Lindenwood, the Lions had their best season in five years by winning four games, one of them against Pittsburg State.
  •  Before this season, the Lions had not won a home game in two years – University of Nebraska at Kearny in 2017. The Lions broke that home losing streak this season when they defeated William Jewell. The only home game the Lions lost this season – by one point – was against No. 16 Midwestern State University Texas.

Correction: The team the Lions defeated on Saturday was incorrectly identified as Missouri Baptist in an earlier version of the story. The team the Lions beat was Southwest Baptist University.