No. 23 SLU Heads to Nicholls in Search of Southland Title, River Bell

Published 12:45 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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The No. 23 Southeastern Louisiana University football team will can win its third Southland Conference championship with a win in Thursday’s 6 p.m. River Bell Classic at John L. Guidry Stadium.

The Lions (7-3, 4-1 SLC) and the host Colonels (3-7, 3-2 SLC) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the inaugural meeting in the River Bell Classic rivalry, which dates back to 1972. The contest will be televised live on ESPN+ and can be heard live on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM, The Boss 103.7 FM/1400 AM).

Southeastern is in the position to win the SLC title and earn its third postseason berth in the past four seasons after winning four straight games. The Lions outgained Northwestern State, 499-209, in a 23-7 victory last Saturday in Hammond.

Gage Larvadain (seven catches, 137 yards) and Jessie Britt (18 carries, 120 yards) were the offensive standouts in the win. Donte’ Daniels and Ian Goodly shared team-high honors with nine tackles, while Donniel Ward-Magee and Jack Henderson each intercepted passes.

Eli Sawyer (1,377 passing yards, 8 TD, 1 INT) and Cephus Johnson III (1,127 passing yards, 10 TD, 5 INT) have shared quarterbacking duties for a SLU offense that is averaging 33.2 points and 433.8 yards per contest.

Larvadain (40 catches, 563 yards, 2 TD), Maurice Massey (29-396-4 TD) and CJ Turner (22-378-4 TD) are the top receivers for SLU, while Carlos Washington Jr. has a team-high 586 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Opponents are averaging 23.1 points and 385.4 yards per contest versus the Lions. Daniels leads the team with 74 tackles, followed by Herman Christophe (68), Anthony Britton Jr. (61), Henderson (60) and Ward-Magee (52).

Christophe, Henderson and Ward-Magee have two interceptions apiece. Arlen Williams leads the team with six tackles for loss.

Riley Callaghan was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals with a long of 47 in Saturday’s win and was named Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.

Callaghan (12-14 FG, 26-27 PAT) is one of several standouts on special teams for SLU. Austin Dunlap is 11th nationally with a league-best 43.3 punting average, while Darius Lewis is 12th in FCS with 10.9 yards per punt return.

Nicholls moved above .500 in Southland Conference play with a 12-10 victory over Texas A&M-Commerce last Saturday, scoring the game’s final 12 points to overcome a double-digit deficit.

The Colonels are averaging 371.2 yards and 18.6 points per contest. Kohen Granier (1,783 yards, 13 TD, 11 INT) has engineered the offense with KJ Franklin (45 catches, 399 yards, 1 TD), Julien Gums (173 carries, 778 yards, 3 TD) and Collin Guggenheim (103 carries, 539 yards, 4 TD) among his top weapons.

The Nicholls defense is yielding 434.5 yards and 34.8 points per contest heading into Thursday’s contest. Kylin White has a team-high 69 tackles, while Tyler Morton has picked off a pair of passes.

Southeastern and Nicholls have split the 32 meetings in school history.  in the all-time series with the Colonels. Last November, Nicholls outlasted SLU, 45-42, in Hammond.

The 24-team FCS playoff field will be announced on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (Central) on ESPNU.