What to expect for the Lions’ first football playoff in DII

Caleb Riordan, Reporter

After six straight losing seasons, a new head coach, a change in conference, a change in culture and a 1-3 start to the 2019 season, the Lions will jump on a bus and travel 423 miles to Arkadelphia, Arkansas to take on Ouachita Baptist University in the Division II football playoffs. 

This bus ride will contain a lot of accomplished individuals. One being sophomore quarterback Cade Brister. The sophomore’s numbers speak for themselves. He racked up 3,746 yards, a school record, and scored 42 total touchdowns. He took home offensive player of the year in the Great Lakes Valley Conference as he led the conference’s best passing offense. 

Another one of those individuals is junior linebacker Drew Seers. Seers made 154 tackles this season, 12.5 for a loss, with the next closest player being 34 tackles behind. He took home the GLVC defensive player of the year and proved to be one of the best linebackers in all of Division II. 

Others include first team All-GLVC members like sophomore receiver Payton Rose who collected over 1,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns, senior Erik Henneman who had over 500 yards and 8 touchdowns and junior Grady Daniels who chased down 96 tackles. They are mixed in with 10 other Lions who also received All-GLVC honors. 

That does not include the Great Lakes Valley Conference coach of the year Jed Stugart who led his team to a conference championship and a playoff berth in just his third season, which was part of Stugart’s personal guarantee when he took the job. Before a single minute of football was played this season, Stugart said the Lions should consider themselves conference contenders. No matter the conference, the goal was always to get to the final 28. 

Here’s a timeline of the Lion’s season:

If you’re on mobile either swipe or zoom into the timeline.

But individual success is hardly the focus of this team. Brister referred to them as brothers. It is a hard sentiment to argue. 

This is a team that has come together to collect four come-from-behind wins, a perfect 7-0 conference record, two wins over ranked opponents and a seven game win streak to end the regular season that ultimately vaulted the team into its first playoff appearance since joining Division II. 

However, this will be the Lions’ toughest test yet in No. 5 ranked Ouachita Baptist. The Tigers are 11-0 and won the Great American Conference. This is the third time the Tigers have gone undefeated under head coach Todd Knight.  Senior running back Brockton Brown has ran for over 900 yards and scored 22 touchdowns. Like the Lions, the Tigers are led by a sophomore quarterback, Brayden Brazeal. He leads Division II in completion percentage and has only thrown two interceptions all season. Senior receiver Allie Freeman caught 86 passes for 869 yards and 7 touchdowns. 16 Tigers were recognized with All-Conference honors which led all GAC teams.

The battle between the Lions and Tigers begins Saturday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. 

You can watch the game here, listen here or tune into 89.1 FM The Wood if you’re in St. Charles.