SLU Looks to Clinch Southland Title in Thursday’s River Bell Classic


Southeastern Louisiana Lions (Photo: SLU)

HAMMOND, La. — The No. 12 Southeastern Louisiana University football team will look to clinch a share of the Southland Conference championship with a win over Nicholls in the River Bell Classic on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium.
The game between the Lions (8-2, 6-1 Southland) and the visiting Colonels (5-5, 4-3 Southland) will be televised on ESPN+ and can be heard in the Hammond area on Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM, as well as online at Southeastern can secure its third Southland Conference title and first since 2014 with a victory over its in-state rivals.
Prior to the game versus the Colonels, Southeastern will honor its senior class in a special Senior Day ceremony. The honorees include Damien DawsonBrennon DingleAustin MitchellTim Wilson Jr.Matt WrightSterrling FisherCole KelleyChinedu OgbonnaAlexis RamosMike MasonJake RotenberryRendon Miles-CharacterEthan McMullanDrew JonesNolan Givan and Tainano Gaulua.
“We’ve been in the FCS Top 25 in each of the past three years and a lot of those seniors have played a big part in that success,” Southeastern head coach Frank Scelfo said. “This group of seniors has built the foundation for current and future success. I’ll never forget what they’ve done for our program.”
The Lions kept their Southland Conference championship hopes alive with a 56-28 victory over Northwestern State last Saturday. In the win over the Demons, Kelley (19-for-22), Eli Sawyer (4-for-4) and Cephus Johnson III (2-for-2) combined to set a new single-game school record for completion percentage (89.3).
Kelley was named College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Week after throwing for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Anthony Spurlock caught a pair of scoring tosses, while Gage Larvadain and Dawson also hauled in touchdown passes.
Kelley, Taron JonesJoseph Wilson and Cephus Johnson III each scored rushing touchdowns in the win for the Lions.
Defensively on Saturday, Zy Alexander recorded an interception for the fourth straight game, while Ogbonna also picked off a pass. Ramos led Southeastern with 11 tackles, while John Graves III contributed two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.
Dingle was named Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 37.6 yards per kickoff return in Saturday’s win.
Protected by a consistently excellent offensive line, Kelley has led a Southeastern offense that leads the nation in scoring offense (48.6 ppg), third-down conversion percentage (55.0), completion percentage (73.6) and first downs (302). The Lions are averaging 574.1 yards per game on offense and have scored 50 or more points an FCS-high six times this season.
Kelley, the reigning Walter Payton Award winner, leads the nation in passing yards (3,997), total offense (439.0 ypg), points responsible for (290), pass efficiency (181.0) and completion percentage (73.9), while also serving as the lone player in the FCS to rank in the top 10 nationally in both passing (35, 2nd) and rushing (13, 8th) touchdowns.
Kelley’s top target has been Mitchell, the program’s career receiving yardage leader, who has hauled in 58 passes and ranks eighth in FCS with 950 receiving yards this fall. Mitchell, Givan (43 catches, 418 yards) and Larvadain (27-435) have been Kelley’s top targets in 2021.
Mitchell leads Southeastern with eight receiving touchdowns this fall and is one of nine Lions with multiple receiving touchdowns on the year. Larvadain and CJ Turner have five touchdowns apiece, followed by Givan, Dawson and Nick Kovacs with three each, as well as the quartet of Spurlock, Johnson III, Ivan Drobocky and Wilson Jr. with two apiece.
Kelley leads the team in rushing with 393 yards. Taron Jones has been the Lions’ most consistent running back with 296 yards and six scores on the ground.
Opponents are averaging 30.7 points and 424.9 yards per game versus the Lions. Ramos leads Southeastern with 62 tackles, followed by Alphonso Taylor (45), Herman Christophe (39), Donniel Ward-Magee (36) and Jack Henderson (35).
Alexander’s Southland-high six interceptions rank him fourth in the FCS national rankings. Southeastern is currently third nationally with 16 interceptions on the season. Taylor and Justin Dumas have two apiece, while Henderson, Ogbonna, Brandon BarbeeJustin DouglasFerlando Jordan and Terrell Carter each have one pick.
On special teams, Austin Dunlap’s 45.4 punting average would be good for seventh in FCS if he had enough attempts to qualify for the NCAA rankings. Mateo Rengifo is 7-for-9 on field goals, while Larvadain is seventh nationally with a 29.6 yard per kickoff return average.
Nicholls had its conference championship and postseason hopes dashed last Saturday, dropping a close 27-23 decision to No. 17 UIW in Thibodaux.
The Colonels are averaging 32.2 points and 486.9 yards per game. Lindsey Scott Jr. (2,013 passing yards, 16 TD, 11 INT; 966 rushing yards, nine TD) has handled the majority of the work under center for Nicholls with the dynamic Dai’Jean Dixon (71 catches, 1,002 yards, 8 TD) serving as his top target. Collin Guggenheim bolsters Nicholls’ rushing attack with 664 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
The Colonels are yielding 27.2 points and 374.9 yards per game heading into Thursday’s regular season finale. Ty’Ree Evans leads Nicholls with 58 tackles, while Tyreke Boyd and Kevin Johnson have two picks apiece.
Southeastern holds a slight 16-15 lead in the all-time series with the Colonels. The Lions won the first meeting this season between the two rivals, 58-48, in Thibodaux.
For ticket information, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit Southeastern will continue offering mobile ticketing as the primary source for securing tickets for the 2021-22 season. All tickets will be available via e-mail or text message in a PDF format for fans to download on their phone or print at home. Tickets can also be downloaded to Apple Wallet.
For more information on Southeastern Football, follow @LionUpFootball and @Coach_Scelfo on Twitter, like /SLUathletics on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.
Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the football program are encouraged to join the Touchdown Club. Lion football alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letter winners.
All membership fees and donations to both the Touchdown Club and S Club (football) are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern football program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at or (985) 549-5091 or visiting
Southeastern Athletics instituted a clear bag policy for all ticketed events, effective with the start of the 2018 football season. For more information on the clear bag policy, visit


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