A Week-by-Week Rundown of the Lions’ 2019 Football Season

By Matthew Richards

Week 4:  Lions Defeat Mustangs 35-34 in Overtime Thriller to Kick Off Homecoming Weekend

The Lions Varsity Football Team entered Homecoming weekend anticipating a fierce, competitive game against the local rival Eleanor McMain Mustangs in the “Battle of Nashville.” The buzz surrounding the game was electric as the school concluded Spirit Week celebrations with a fantastic pep rally that was “won”  by the seniors and a raucous, standing room crowd comprised of current students, alumni, and parents at Brees Family Field Friday night. To add to the excitement and festivities, the Homecoming Court was announced at halftime.  Seniors Kaleb Melson and Maia Stewart were selected as Homecoming King and Queen for the 2019-2020 school year. 

The game was competitive throughout, with neither team holding more than a one-possession lead. McMain led 14-7 at halftime, but the Lions stormed back in the third and fourth quarters, outscoring the Mustangs 21-14 in the second half to tie the game at 28 and send it into overtime. Running back Miles Stewart powered the ball into the endzone for his fourth touchdown of the game, breaking the school’s single-season touchdown record with 13. Junior quarterback Arnold Little, led the offensive charge in the second half and added 47 yards passing and 10 yards rushing.

The Lion’ ground game was firing on all cylinders all night long, totaling 186 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns. The offense was also highly efficient, scoring those 35 points with a time of possession of only seven minutes. Senior running back Miles Stewart once again led the offense with 26 carries for 182 yards, four touchdowns, and 228 all-purpose yards in the game. Senior quarterback Christopher Haylock, who started the entire first half, added a passing touchdown to senior receiver Seth Hunter. 

The story of the game, however, was the Lions’ defense. They forced a lofty four turnovers, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles to go along with three tackles for a loss for 18 yards. Freshman outside linebacker Shane Payton led the team with an astonishing 17 tackles and a fumble recovery. Senior safety Jeremiah Brown added the second fumble recovery for the Lions. Junior safety Jonathan Gillard also had a monster game, recording 14 tackles, including the game-sealing tackle in overtime, and a crucial blocked extra point attempt, his second of the year. Senior safety Sterling McKeithen and junior corner Jared Albert added the 2 interceptions, with Albert returning his 45 yards deep into Mustang territory.  

The special teams for the Lions also performed well, with sophomore kicker Noah Glasco crucially converting on all five of his extra points and junior punter/defensive end Myles Chambers with an average punt distance of 41 yards and a long of 67 yards. 

Week 3:  Lusher vs. West St. John

The Lions varsity football team went into their home opener for the 2019-2020 season against the West St. John Rams riding the momentum from a 40-25 victory the previous week over the L. W. Higgins Hurricanes. School spirit was also high going into the game, as the school hosted a tailgate, coordinated by Student Life, in the quad in preparation for the highly anticipated matchup.  

The Lions boasted a high-powered offense coming in, as senior running back Miles Stewart was ranked 9th in the state in rushing yards (227), and junior quarterback Arnold Little was ranked 13th in passing yards (364). Unfortunately, the offense struggled to gain their footing against the strong Rams defense and suffered a defeat in the game 52-20. Stewart said in response to the loss, “We need to have better first quarters, convert 3rd downs, and just put the ball in the end zone.”

Stewart led the charge for the Lions offensively with 17 carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns. The passing game, however, struggled all night, and the Lions were only able to muster 137 yards (69 from Little, 68 from Haylock) and a combined completion percentage of 36% against the Rams secondary. Senior receiver Seth Hunter led the team in receptions with three for 37 yards and a touchdown.

Junior safety Jonathan Gillard led the team on the defensive side of the ball and tallied 11 total tackles. Freshman linebacker Shane Payton was second on the team with six tackles and caught an interception in the second quarter. The defense also registered three total tackles for loss in the game.

The first Lusher touchdown was scored in the third quarter on a 38-yard run by Miles Stewart, and they scored again on the very next drive by way of a 23-yard carry by Stewart.  “As an offense we started off slow, missed a lot of plays that were open that we should have capitalized on, and we were not at our best by far.” Stewart said. The Lions would also score on the last drive of the game when senior quarterback Christopher Haylock found Seth Hunter for a five-yard touchdown pass to score what would be the final points of the game.

 Week 2:  Lions Dominate Hurricanes 40-25, Stewart Tallies 275 Total Yards in the Win

The Lions walked into their matchup with the L. W. Higgins Hurricanes at Harold “Hoss” Memtsas Stadium ready for a battle. They fought for all four quarters and came out with a 40-25 victory. Senior running back Miles Stewart led the charge with 275 all-purpose yards (111 rushing, 32 receiving, 132 return) and four total touchdowns. Quarterback Arnold Little added 256 yards passing and two touchdowns with a 58% completion rate. 

The game was tight throughout, with the Lions holding on to a narrow 20-19 lead entering the fourth quarter and then exploding for three scores in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Junior defensive tackle Trent Johnson led the team in tackles with seven and recorded a sack as well. 

“Coming back from a hard week of practice after the Newman game, I felt that my performance was really good,” Johnson said.  “I was applying pressure and filling gaps.  Overall, it was a good game for me, and I was able to get a couple of highlights. But like all football teams, we still have room for improvement, especially on finishing tackles and not dropping picks.” 

Sophomore cornerback Amir Key also recorded a forced fumble, and junior free safety Jonathan Gillard had the first blocked kick of the year. 

The Lions dominated over the course of the game, getting 22 first downs compared to Higgins’ eight and outgained the Hurricanes 331 to 232. They also handily won the time of possession, having had the ball for 26 minutes, 25 seconds, whereas Higgins held the ball for a mere 15 minutes. 

 Week 1:  Lions Varsity Football Starts Year on a High Note

The Lusher Lions Varsity Football Team began the highly anticipated 2019-2020 season with a 13-8 victory in their jamboree game against the Kenner Discovery Owls to start the year on a high note. Head Coach Jewel Smith said about the team’s expectations for the new year, “My expectations are to compete and play hard in each contest. I believe some of our players will make plays. I expect our defense to be much improved this year at full strength.” 

This year brings new challenges for the Lions, as they move up from class 3A to class 4A. This means bigger schools and better competition, which provides the Lions with the opportunity to grow and develop against this new test. “It’s different, but the approach doesn’t change,” junior cornerback Jared Albert said.  “We just got to grind and get better everyday and see what happens.”  

The team this year will be led by seniors Miles Stewart at running back and Evan Simons at wide receiver on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Sterling McKeithen and junior Jared Albert will look to lead the defense this year. This senior class has big expectations for the team and themselves as senior running back Miles Stewart claimed, “I expect us to go deep in the playoffs to the dome this year. I feel like everyone is bought in this year judging by our scrimmage win vs. Riverdale and that fourth quarter win the guys put together in our jamboree. I feel like we have the “it” factor this year, and I think this is our year.”  

Coach Smith expressed similar feelings about the senior class, saying, “The senior class is a special one. Most of them have played a lot at Lusher. This class continues to push each other. They want to be champions in everything they do. I appreciate them and what they do for the school.”  

The game was close throughout, with the Lions trailing until the third quarter when junior quarterback Arnold Little found Evan Simons for a long touchdown pass to put Lusher ahead for good. Little would finish 8-16 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, both to Simons. Simons would also have a stellar game, catching four passes for 109 yards and the aforementioned two touchdowns. The defense, however,  performed spectacularly. After allowing the Owls to score on a short field, the defense shut them out the rest of the game in commanding fashion, stifling the offense at every turn. Freshman defensive end Joey August led the team in tackles with six, and safety Sterling McKeithen registered the team’s first interception of the year in the win.