Southland Spring Football Season Begins Saturday

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FRISCO, Texas – The Southland Conference spring football campaign kicks off Saturday when McNeese visits Tarleton at 6 p.m. CT Saturday, the Texans’ first game since moving up to Division I.

Seven Southland institutions have opted in for the spring season in UIW, Lamar, McNeese, Nicholls, Northwestern State, Sam Houston and Southeastern Louisiana. The revised six-game round-robin schedule opens on Feb. 20 and runs through April 10. The 2021 FCS Playoffs begin April 23-25, culminating with the championship game on May 16.

 
The conference is coming off a third-consecutive three-bid year in the FCS playoffs in 2019, the first time that the league had three teams playing in the second round. The Southland aims for its 10th-straight season with multiple postseason berths and has not failed to secure an at-large bid since 2010.
 
Nicholls Colonels – Preseason Ranking: 1st – 2019 Record/Place: 9-5 (7-2 SLC), t-1st

The Colonels claimed a share of the league crown for the second-straight season, defeating North Dakota at home in the opening round of the FCS playoffs before falling in the second round to eventual national champion North Dakota State. Nicholls enters the spring with seven preseason all-league picks, including four first-team offense honorees. Whoever wins the Colonels’ job under center will have plenty of help around them with running back Julien Gums, wide receiver Dai’Jean Dixon and offensive linemen P.J. Burkhalter and Jair Joseph. Burkhalter garnered STATS FCS First-Team All-America honors, and Gums landed on the third team.
 
Opening Game: Fri., Feb. 19 vs. Lincoln (Mo.) – 6 p.m.

Sam Houston Bearkats – Preseason Ranking: 2nd – 2019 Record/Place: 7-5 (6-3 SLC), t-3rd
After back-to-back five-loss campaigns, the Bearkats are seeking a return to the postseason and paces the spring season participants with nine preseason All-Southland selections. Sam Houston’s stalwart defensive line, which led all FCS institutions in rushing defense (69.9 YPG), boasts three returning all-conference student-athletes. Reigning Southland Newcomer of the Year Trace Mascorro, who was tabbed first-team preseason all-America by STATS, tallied 15.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks and registered at least two TFL in five games. The Bearkats welcome the return of backfield duo of Eric Schmid and running back Donovan Williams, one of the team’s five First-Team All-Southland picks.
 
Opening Game: Sat., Feb. 20 at UIW – 2 p.m.


Southeastern Louisiana Lions – Preseason Ranking: 3rd – 2019 Record/Place: 8-5 (6-3 SLC), t-3rd
Under the direction of Southland Conference Coach of the Year Frank Scelfo, the Lions (8-5, 6-3 SLC) returned to the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2014, topping Villanova in the first round but losing to Montana in the second round. Averaging the nation’s second-most passing yards a game (354.4) in 2019, Southeastern Louisiana returns three wide receivers in Austin Mitchell, Javon Carter and CJ Turner. Each grabbed at least 50 catches for more than 650 yards. On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions placed three on the preseason all-league squads, including first-team preseason all-America defensive back Ferlando Jordan. The junior recorded a conference-record three pick-sixes in 2019.
 
Opening Game: Sat., Feb. 27 at Sam Houston – 6 p.m.

McNeese Cowboys – Preseason Ranking: 4th – 2019 Record/Place: 7-5 (5-4 SLC), 5th
The owners of the fourth-longest streak of winning seasons (15) at the FCS level, the Cowboys enter the spring campaign under new leadership in Frank Wilson. Although Wilson brought with him a bevy of transfers, McNeese brings back some familiar faces such as quarterback Cody Orgeron and starting defensive backs Andre Sam and Cory McCoy – a Second-Team All-Southland selection. Since his arrival, Wilson has welcomed seven FBS transfers and signed an additional five on the move in his 2021 signing class. The Cowboys will be the first FCS team in action this spring when they pay a visit to Tarleton State on Feb. 13.
 
Opening Game: Sat., Feb. 13 at Tarleton State – 6 p.m.
 
UIW Cardinals – Preseason Ranking: 5th– 2019 Record/Place: 4-5 (5-7 SLC), t-6th
Two years removed from their first Southland Conference title and FCS Playoff appearance, the Cardinals and coach Eric Morris look to right the ship this spring. UIW returns the team’s leading rusher in senior Kevin Brown as well as recievers CJ Hardy and Kamden Perry, who both racked up more than 350 receiving yards each in their freshman campaigns. On defense, preseason all-conference second-team selection Kelechi Anyalebechi is in position to lead the unit after pacing the Cardinals in tackles for loss (11.5), sacks (5.0) and quarterback hurries (3). Joining Anyalebechi in the linebacker corps is Jerick Pitre, who tied for the team lead with three interceptions in league play in 2019.
 
Opening Game: Sat., Feb. 20 vs. Sam Houston – 2 p.m.

Northwestern State Demons – Preseason Ranking: 6th – 2019 Record/Place: 3-9 (3-6 SLC), t-8th
The “Purple Swarm” defense returns seven starters from the 2019 squad, including first-team preseason All-Southland linebacker Ja’Quay Pough and second-team defensive back Shemar Bartholomew. Pough finished fourth in the conference with 9.7 tackles per game in league play, including a 22-stop performance in a 44-41 overtime win over UIW. Bartholomew tied for the Southland lead with four interceptions in Southland contests, returning one for 96 yards – the second-longest in program history. 
 
Opening Game: Sat., Feb. 20 at Lamar – 3 p.m.

Lamar Cardinals – Preseason Ranking: 7th – 2019 Record/Place: 4-8 (2-7 SLC), 11th
Cardinals head coach Blane Morgan was hired on Dec. 12, 2019, and finally gets to take the field with his team 14 months later. Morgan will have his hands full in his first season as Lamar fields one of the youngest teams in the nation made up of 51 true and redshirt freshmen and just 11 seniors. Sophomore Chaz Ward, the team’s leading returning ground threat, toted the ball 80 times for 308 yards in his rookie campaign and led Big Red with six carries for 29 yards in the team’s first scrimmage. As a team, Lamar totaled 33 carries in the 60-play scrimmage.
 
Opening Game: Sat., Feb. 20 vs. Northwestern State – 3 p.m.

{Courtesy: Press Release from the Southland Conference}

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