The Lions got their first win of the season against Lincoln University on Sept. 12. The Lions outscored the Blue Tigers 38-14, giving head coach Jeff Sims the first win of his career at Southern.
“I want them to see what they are doing is paying off,” said Sims. “There has to be a trust built and trust is built through time and every day we are getting closer that is getting the players to buying and trusting in what we are doing”.
The Lions’ top performers against the Blue Tigers were senior Jacob Park, who led the Lions in passing. Park threw 12 completions on 21 attempts, which got him 200 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Another big performance this week was junior Charles West, who rushed over a 100 yards. West was not the leading rusher for the team, though as backup quarterback, Sean Kelly came in the second half and rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Kelly averaged a near 25.2 yards a carry without throwing a pass, which would seal the game for the Lions.
“It’s exciting it’s something we can build off of,” said Kelly on the Lions win. “I came here for a reason, and came here for a job, and I never wanted to quit on that job. I never wanted to leave something I started. I wanted to come here and wanted to do something to help this program.”
“What happened this last game was something pretty cool to be apart of as a head coach. I’ve said this multiple times. Sean Kelly was the quarterback last year and the season didn’t go they wanted or expected. I brought in a quarterback immediately, there were rumors that I was bringing in Jacob Park, and I signed two high school quarterbacks. It would have been very easy for Sean [Kelly] to come in and say, ‘hey obviously I’m not apart of the future,’” said Sims. “Sean Kelly not one single time knocked on the door and said, ‘coach can I talk to you about my future?’ He just went out and worked every day, which is a trait of a successful person. You go out there and grind and work and you prepare for your opponent. It was really awesome to witness that happen. Sean Kelly put in the work and his opportunity came in unexpectedly, and he was ready when it happened.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions were led by junior Malachi Broadnax and freshman Colton Winder, who each had tackles. Winder would get defensive player of the game this year as a freshman.
“Colton Winer is an all in guy. He doesn’t ask a lot of questions, but once you tell him he goes 100 miles per hour to what you’re asking him to do” said Sims.
“I want to be more consistent. If this is just one a time thing it doesn’t mean anything,” said Winer on being the Lions’ defensive player of the week. “I got that because of my teammates and the defensive line. I wasn’t blocked a lot so that helped.”
The Lions also learned on Wednesday that they lead all Divison II teams in red zone offense, while being eighth in kick off returns, 10th in tackles for loss, 13 in passing and rushing yards allowed and 16th in passing yards per completion. The Lions also were 11th in fewest penalties per game and 13 fewest penalties total. This was something that Sims was happy about during his press conference last Wednesday.
“You can see the steps that the guys are taking. You can see a little more buy in and a little more understanding,” said Sims.
The Lions’ next game will be against the No. 7 ranked team in the nation against the Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats. The Bearcats come into Joplin undefeated, beating Washburn University last week. In the game against the Ichabods, the Bearcats starting quarterback, Braden Wright, had 278 yards passing and three touchdowns, which gave him the MIAA player of the week. Wright will be something that Sims and the defense will keep an eye out on as they prepare for tomorrow’s game.
“It’s exciting to play a great program like Northwest Missouri State ,because when I look at them I see program and it gives us an example to show our players what we are working towards and what we can be one day,” said Sims.
A win for the Lions this week would be the first win against the Bearcats in the last 25 tries. It would also be the Lions’ first win against a ranked team since 2013 when they defeated the No. 6 Pittsburg State.
The Lions will be taking on the Bearcats at six p.m. on Sept. 21. The game will be at Fred G Hughes Stadium here in Joplin.