POSTED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 7:30pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 7:34pm
HAMMOND, LA — The highly-anticipated 2013 Southeastern Louisiana football season officially opens on Thursday, with the Lions hosting Southeast Missouri at 7 p.m. in Strawberry Stadium.
The Lions are coming off a best-ever 5-2 finish in Southland Conference play last season and expectations for the coming year are high. Southeastern returns 16 starters and have added immediate impact performers junior quarterback Bryan Bennett and sophomore running back Kody Sutton, among others. Southeast Missouri, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, comes to Hammond to open the season after finishing with a 3-8 overall record last season. For ticket information, contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-LION (5466) or visit LionSports.net.
The game will be broadcast on KSLU 90.9 FM, the flagship station of the Southeastern Sports Radio Network, as well as Northshore Broadcasting stations Kajun 107.1 FM and The Joint 104.7 FM. Fans can listen online at www.LionSports.net  or on their smart phone using the TuneIn Radio app.
Live streaming video of the game is available on LionVision, Southeastern's subscription-based service. Links to live stats, audio and video can be found on the football schedule page at LionSports.net. The Southeastern Channel (Charter Channel 18) will also air the game on tape delay.
Southeastern will also celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the return of football after an 18-year absence. Members of the 2003 Lions will be honored at halftime of Thursday’s game. One lucky fan will also have the opportunity to win $10,000 in the football throw contest sponsored by the Southeastern Campus Activities Board. Thursday’s festivities will begin with a 12 p.m. Hammond Chamber Pep Rally Luncheon in Twelve Oaks.
“We had a great camp and our players did a good job of meeting the challenges we put forth in the offseason,” Southeastern head coach Ron Roberts commented. “Now we’re excited to get on the field to measure how effective we can be in game one against a good Southeast Missouri team.”
Bennett, who sits on the CFPA FCS National Performer of the Year and Quarterback Award preseason watch lists after transferring from Oregon, will make his first start under center for a Lion offense that will feature its deepest rushing attack since the program’s return. The sophomore running back stable will feature the top two rushers from a season ago in Xavier Roberson (488 yards, four touchdowns) and Rasheed Harrell (387 yards, three TD).
Roberson and Harrell will be bolstered by the additions of Sutton and Darius Guy.
2012 All-Southland selection Tony McCrea returns after leading the team with 28 catches and 401 yards a season ago. McCrea, senior Marquis Fruge’, junior Chris Malott and sophomore Jeff Smiley will give Bennett a variety of skilled options. Two-time All-Southland senior tackle Gasten Gabriel highlights a veteran offensive line that also features senior guard Geremy Wilson and senior center Marshall Paris.
On the defensive side, Southeastern boasts a pair of All-Southland performers in the secondary in Senior Bowl watch list member Todd Washington and junior Tyler Stoddard. Butkus Award and Senior Bowl candidate Cqulin Hubert, junior Kaleb Muse (team-high 80 tackles) and junior Drew Misita return at linebacker, while junior newcomer Isiah Corbett is poised to make an immediate impact. Junior Jacob Newman joins returning starters Greg Triay and Jeremy Williams to form a formidable defensive line.
On special teams, senior placek kicker Seth Sebastian and senior punter Matt McCormick provide the Lions with veteran stability. Roberson, a CFPA FCS Kick Returner of the Year candidate, Sutton and sophomore Harlan Miller are the Lions’ top return threats. Southeast Missouri has ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing in each of the past three seasons. Junior quarterback Kyle Snyder will make his first start on Thursday, while juniors Lennies McFerren and Ron Coleman should provide the Redhawks with a powerful run combination.
Senior free safety Ben Kargbo leads the way on defense for Southeast Missouri. The Redhawks will feature six new starters on that side of the ball.
Southeastern and Southeast Missouri will meet for the first time on Thursday. The Lions are 37-23-3 all-time in season openers and have posted a 9-1 record in home openers since the program’s return.
After Thursday’s opener, Southeastern will play its next three games away from home. The swing starts with an 11 a.m. game on Saturday, Sept. 7 at nationally-ranked TCU. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest and air on the Southeastern Radio Network.