November 7, 2012

Louisiana College looking for elusive eighth win

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Linebacker Peter "Phil" Ford is one of the lynchpins of the Louisiana College defense. "We are all just flying around and having fun; we're always running to the ball," he said.
Louisiana College athletics photo

Who doesn't like the number seven? It's the number of international super agent James Bond, 7-Up is a tasty lemon-lime beverage, the No. 7 has been worn by some of our greatest athletes like Mickey Mantle and John Elway, and it's just plain lucky. However, the Louisiana College football program may have a different view of the number as it has kept them from the playoffs for the past four seasons.

The Wildcats collected the infamous win No. 7 for the fifth straight season Saturday in a 72-14 massacre of Mississippi College, leaving one opportunity for the Wildcats to finally get over the hump against Hardin-Simmons on their home field Saturday.

A victory would mean not only the best record in the school's history at 8-2 but could propel the American Southwest Conference school into the NCAA national playoffs for the first time.

Standing in the way of those achievements and threatening the possibility of a fifth consecutive 7-3 season for the Wildcats is Hardin-Simmons. HSU boasts the No. 2 offense in the nation at 556.6 yards per contest, and the Cowboys are gunning for a 7-3 record.

However, Louisiana College is determined to climb beyond the plateau, and in the meantime get a little revenge. Last season, after a late loss to McMurry, Louisiana College still had a chance to go 8-2 and get an at-large bid, but HSU defeated the Wildcats in Abilene, 41-27.

This season, seventh-year coach Dennis Dunn has challenged the largest group of seniors he's had since taking over to make history.

"Certainly we feel like we're poised and put ourselves in the position to have the opportunity. Now it's before us and for a lot of people from the outside looking in, the jury is still out on whether our guys can respond in a big game," Dunn said. "I've challenged our seniors that this is their team and their opportunity. What legacy will they leave that's been different than the one left for you? And, the question can only be answered Saturday."

The past Wildcats teams had been defined by their offenses, especially when Ben McLaughlin was at the helm at quarterback. However, Dunn said that the defense has exceeded expectations this season, allowing the team to become more balanced and a better ground team offensively.

"Our defense has been lights out for most of the year," he said. "We've struggled in years past, but we've been extremely consistent this year, and [it] has been a real strength for our team, where in 2010 we were simply having to outscore people."

The Wildcat defense has forced 15 fumbles this season, recovered 14, picked off 14 passes, broke up 56 passes, and scored three defensive touchdowns while holding opponents to just 312.8 yards per contest.

Junior linebacker Peter "Phil" Ford leads LC with nine tackles for a loss, six sacks and three forced fumbles. Ford's take on the defensive improvement is the unit's collective mentality.

"We are all just flying around and having fun; we're always running to the ball," Ford said. "That's the one thing our coaches preach to us is to fly around and fly to get to the football; we need to have 11 hats to the ball running at full speed."

Ford said the defense's big-play ability goes back to a drill called "White Shirt Pride," but that the drill is more than just a practice routine, it's a mindset.

"We wear white shirts on defense in practice. The white shirt is the tie that binds us together," said Ford. "We look at each other, and we don't do it for ourselves. We do it for the brothers beside us, and we know that the other players are doing it for the brothers at their side. We will go 100 percent every time because we know our brother will do anything for us on the field."

Ford doesn't take for granted Saturday's implications of an eighth win. In fact, he said he takes Dunn's challenge to the seniors personally while paralleling the Wildcats' legacy to "White Shirt Pride."

"We know what our vision is, what we've wanted when we first started. We have to go out Saturday," Ford said. "We want to be the only team in history to do this, but it's not for us, it's for the people and the players before us that laid the foundation."

Louisiana College will get a chance to make the No. 8 lucky in Pineville, La., on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Huntingdon has one more hurdle

The Hawks debuted No. 5 in the South Region rankings, which allows them to control their own destiny to the playoffs. Huntingdon will have a formidable opponent in Adrian from the North Region. Adrian enters Saturday's contest with the Hawks No. 8 in its regional rankings with a 7-1 record. The game will be in Montgomery, Ala., at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Millsaps and Birmingham-Southern tangle for SAA title

Millsaps is guaranteed a share of the first SAA title with a 3-0 conference record, however the Panthers could keep the Majors from winning it outright Saturday. BSC has lost three of its past four. Millsaps will try to cap off a solid season after a disappointing loss to Trinity, which could have set up Saturday to be a game to see if the Majors could have been playoff eligible.

Sul Ross looks to end roller-coaster season at top

The Lobos have been nothing if not exciting. An upset of Trinity and mind-boggling shootouts with Mississippi College, Texas Lutheran and Hardin-Simmons leave Sul Ross with a chance at a .500 season for the first time since 2007. Seniors Dominique Carson and A.J. Springer will try to ensure a 5-5 mark and keep the Lobos at the top of the NCAA in yards per contest entering Saturday's ETBU game at an eye-popping 583.4 yards per contest.

Humorous Tweet of the Week

"Al long as video game prices don't go up .. I'm good" -- @Jamie Bunting -- Louisiana College quarterback after the presidential election results

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Justin Goldberg

Justin Goldberg is a newspaper copy editor and freelance writer in southwest Virginia. Originally from New York, he played Division III basketball in that colder region of the country, but moved to Virginia in 2008 to earn his M.F.A. in creative writing. He has written for multiple publications, including C-VILLE Weekly and The Roanoke Times. He is happy to join for his first season as the Around the South columnist.
2013 columnist: Andee Djuric
2012 columnist: Kyle Robarts
2008-11 columnist: Jason Bowen

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