Football — Late drive locks up Southeastern win against Northwestern State in season opener

Southeastern took the ground Thursday as the No. 19 Lions won the opener 34-20 at Northwestern State.

Two Southeastern rushers topped the 100-yard mark with junior quarterback D’Shaie Landor leading the way with 125 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Redshirt freshman Julius Maracalin added 120 yards on 12 carries, while Xavier Roberson tallied 90 yards on 15 carries.

The Lions (1-0) totaled 438 yards on 61 carries while just throwing for 15 yards.

“Southeastern is a good team, but we’re very disappointed in the game,” said Northwestern State senior defensive lineman Leroy Armstrong, who logged a team-high 10 tackles along with senior linebacker Jacob Merriman. “We hadn’t beaten Southeastern since I’ve been here, but we have to let it go and come back next week (against UL Lafayette).

“Southeastern played basic football in that ran it down the middle on us. The defensive line has to get it together.”

With the score tied 6-6 in the middle of the second quarter, the Lions rattled off three straight touchdowns to grab a 26-6 lead with 6:03 left in the third quarter.

A Jeff Smiley 12-yard touchdown run, a Kody Sutton 2-yard touchdown run and a Landor 81-yard dash put the points on the board. All five of Southeastern’s touchdown drives went at least 69 yards including a pair of 80-plus yard drives.

NSU’s defense didn’t get much help from its offense until the middle of the third quarter, and head coach Jay Thomas said that’s part of the reason the defense was gashed on the ground.

“We will get the Xs and Os straight, but there are other things we need to get straight, too,” Thomas said after a ‘White Out’ crowd of 10,621 cheered on the Demons. “Southeastern was physical on both lines, and their defense kept our offense bottled up.”

Northwestern State (0-1) attempted a comeback with third-string quarterback Joel Blumenthal after starter Stephen Rivers and backup Daniel Hazelwood were pulled.

Blumenthal, a sophomore who entered the game with six minutes left in the third quarter, led an 87- and 64-yard touchdown drives to cut the Southeastern lead to 26-20. Senior running back Daniel Taylor scored on a 27-yard run before Blumenthal connected with junior Shakeir Ryan hauling in a 44-yard touchdown pass.

“You never know, but we’ll go in and research it,” Thomas said when asked if Blumenthal will be the starting quarterback after a prolonged quarterback competition in which a starter wasn’t named before Thursday’s game. “We planned on getting Joel in the game, and he sparked us.

“He ran around and was creative.”

Blumenthal said he was ready for his opportunity, but he doesn’t know what the quarterback future holds.

“I was ready, and I hoped I would get a shot,” said Blumenthal, who finished with 103 passing yards on 5-of-7 with an interception on the game’s last play. “I was excited to get out there … and when defenses try to blitz and be aggressive, I can run around and make plays.

“I’m not expecting anything next week. We can all throw the ball.”

Southeastern and its ground game embarked on a 16-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 7:52 off the clock to ice the game in the fourth quarter to increase its lead to 34-20. The clincher was a fourth-and-one conversion at the NSU 37-yard line with a Sutton 1-yard plunge before Sutton eventually scored with 1:01 on the clock.

Southeastern won its fourth straight game against NSU despite passing for just 15 yards and committing three turnovers.

The Lions defense held stout for the most part, keeping the Demons to 259 total yards and forcing three turnovers. NSU gained just 35 yards in the first quarter and 64 at halftime.

In the first half, Southeastern capitalized on a smothering defense to grab a 13-6 edge.

A Darius Poullard strip sack of Landor set up a Chris Moore 37-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

After a Roberson 1-yard touchdown run capped an 80-yard Southeastern scoring drive, NSU tied the game at 6-6 with a Moore 46-yard field goal on the Demons lone sustained drive of the first half (48 yards).

Blumenthal was the leading passer with 103 yards with Hazelwood (4-of-8 for 26 yards) and Rivers (4-of-6 passing with 24 yards and an interception also logging time. Southeastern combined for six quarterback sacks.

Junior running back De’Mard Llorens contributed 45 rushing yards on nine attempts with senior Daniel Taylor adding 34 yards on 10 carries.

Ryan (41 receiving yards) and senior receiver Ed Eagan (28 yards) each caught a team high three passes. Eagan needs five more receptions to set the program’s all-time career record.

Photos: Kevin Shannahan

Photos: Kevin Shannahan