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Southeastern nationally-ranked in final polls

Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 | Views: 2678

Southeastern nationally-ranked in final polls


SLU Ranked in Final FCS Polls, Looks to Build on 2019 Success

HAMMOND, La. – The 2019 season saw the Southeastern Louisiana football team return to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and finish ranked nationally in both the final AFCA Coaches and Stats Perform FCS polls, which were released on Monday.

The polls were finalized after North Dakota State edged James Madison, 28-20, on Saturday to win its third straight national championship. Southeastern was ranked 18th in the coaches poll, while finishing 19th in the Stats Perform Top 25.

The Lions returned to the FCS playoffs for the third time in program history and first time since 2014 under second-year head coach Frank Scelfo, the 2019 Southland Conference Coach of the Year. Southeastern finished 8-5 overall and was one of the last 16 teams remaining in the playoff bracket.

SLU earned convincing wins over nationally-ranked Jacksonville State (34-14) and Central Arkansas (34-0). Both teams were ranked No. 6 at the time they faced Southeastern.

The Lions’ success versus top 10 teams continued in the playoffs. In the first round matchup in Hammond, SLU erased a 17-point deficit on the way to a 45-44 victory over No. 8 Villanova – the program’s first postseason victory since a 30-29 win over Sam Houston State in 2013. Southeastern’s season would end in the second round at No. 6 Montana.

SLU’s success was fueled by one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. Southeastern finished among the FCS leaders in passing offense (354.4 ypg, 2nd), total offense (484.8 ypg, 2nd), first downs (322, 5th) and scoring offense (36.6 ppg, 12th).

Quarterbacks Chason Virgil (3,791 passing yards, 25 TD, 12 INT) and Cole Kelley (816 yards, 10 passing TD, 2 INT, 10 rushing TD) distributed the ball to FCS’ only receiving corps that featured five players with 500 or more receiving yards. Virgil finished in the FCS top 10 in passing yards (3rd), completion percentage (65.5, 9th), completions per game (23.92, 10th) and passing yards per game (291.6, 10th).

CJ Turner (78 catches, 963 yards, 7 TD), Devonte Williams (68-571-3 TD), Austin Mitchell (57-896-8 TD), Javon Conner (57-679-7 TD) and Bransen Schwebel (50-609-4 TD) were the top receivers for Southeastern. Williams (599 yards, 8 TD) also led SLU’s rushing attack.

AFCA FCA All-American left tackle Pat Allen and his fellow All-Southland Conference teammate Jarius Gooch anchored the Southeastern offensive line. Virgil, Williams, Mitchell and Schwebel also were All-Southland honorees.

On the defensive side, first-year defensive coordinator Lance Guidry helped the Lions finish among the national leaders in sacks (41, 8th) and tackles for loss (107, 9th). Consensus All-American Ferlando Jordan led the nation with three interceptions returned for touchdowns, while ranking fourth nationally in interceptions per game.

Jordan was one of four All-Southland defenders on the Lion roster. He was joined by Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, Alexis Ramos and Xavier Lewis.

The on-field success also translated to the classroom. A total of 39 members of the Lion roster posted a 3.0 grade point average or higher in the fall semester. Adeyemi-Berglund became the program’s first CoSIDA Academic All-American and was joined on the Southland All-Academic teams by Gooch and Taron Jones.

“Everybody – players and coaches – were ‘all-in’ and bought in to our philosophy and establishing a winning culture for our program this season,” Scelfo said. “We didn’t have that in my first year, but it started last spring and kept building throughout the season.”

Though Southeastern will be losing some key contributors from the 2019 squad to graduation, Scelfo is confident a solid foundation remains. The Lions started adding pieces for the 2020 season in December, as SLU inked 16 players during the early signing period.

“Everybody in the country lost good players at the end of the season,” Scelfo said. “But we’re confident that we have guys who are willing to step up when the opportunity is presented. When you look at the 2019 team, we had guys like CJ Turner, Javon Conner, Rendon Miles-Character and Ronald Cherry III, just to name a few, who were given bigger opportunities and made the most of those chances.”

The injury bug hit Southeastern throughout the season, but the Lions maintained a next-man up philosophy. True freshmen Dontrell Smith, Herman Christophe, Dominic Lamm, Ed Magee, Gladar Huszar, Justin Douglas and J’vonte Powers all played in double-digit games in 2019, something that benefits the program moving forward, according to Scelfo.

“Ideally, maybe we don’t want to play as many freshmen as we did this year,” Scelfo commented. “But the experience some of those new guys got this season is invaluable moving forward. To be able to play in the playoffs, compete for the conference championship, all those are experiences that these guys will be able to draw from as they become the future leaders of our program. It was special to see some of our new guys develop as the year progressed.”

The Lions had a 3-1 record versus nationally-ranked opposition and advanced to the FCS playoffs for the third time. While Scelfo was pleased with the progress made in year two, he wants the program’s growth to continue.

“We have to continue to recruit well and increase our overall talent level,” Scelfo said. “We made some good steps forward this year, but we want being in the playoffs to be the norm moving forward.

“Our success this season was because our players and coaching staff all bought in to establishing a winning culture,” Scelfo continued. “Culture is not a buzz word for our program, but a way of life. It’s about holding yourself and the other members of our program accountable. It’s about practicing hard every day. It’s about representing our program the right way on and off the field. We took the first step in establishing that culture this season and that’s why we won more than we lost.”

Up Next
Southeastern will wrap up its 2020 signing class on February 5. Plans for Signing Day festivities will be finalized and released in the coming days. Spring practice opens on March 3. The Lions will open the 2020 schedule on Thursday, September 3 at in-state foe Tulane.

Stats Perform FCS Top 25
Team (First-place votes) Record Points Prv.
1. North Dakota State (153) 16-0 3,825 1
2. James Madison 14-2 3,672 2
3. Weber State 11-4 3,490 4
4. Montana State 11-4 3,366 5
5. Northern Iowa 10-5 3,101 6
6. Montana 10-4 3,006 7
7. Illinois State 10-5 2,886 13
8. Austin Peay 11-4 2,592 18
9. Sacramento State 9-4 2,589 3
10. South Dakota State 8-5 2,312 10
11. Central Arkansas 9-4 2,125 9
12. Monmouth 11-3 2,032 14
13. Kennesaw State 11-3 1,992 15
14. Nicholls 9-5 1,708 19
15. Villanova 9-4 1,580 8
16. Wofford 8-4 1,334 11
17. Southeast Missouri 9-4 1,285 12
18. Albany 9-5 1,244 25
19. Southeastern Louisiana 8-5 1,171 NR
20. North Carolina A&T 9-3 782 23
21. Furman 8-5 770 16
22. Dartmouth 9-1 607 21
23. Central Connecticut State 11-2 606 17
24. Florida A&M 9-2 528 20
25. Yale 9-1 353 25
Others receiving votes: North Dakota 257, Southern Illinois 141, San Diego 119, Towson 104, Holy Cross 29, Alcorn State 26, Princeton 22, Eastern Washington 21, UT Martin 19, New Hampshire 9, South Carolina State 9, Maine 3.

AFCA FCS Coaches Poll
Team (First-place votes) Record Points Prv.
1. North Dakota State (25) 16-0 625 1
2. James Madison 14-2 600 2
3. Weber State 11-4 569 4
4. Montana State 11-4 551 5
5. Northern Iowa 10-5 505 6
6. Montana 10-4 495 8
7. Illinois State 10-5 451 14
8. Kennesaw State 11-3 405 9
9. Sacramento State 9-4 396 3
10. Austin Peay 11-4 394 17
11. Central Arkansas 9-4 363 7
12. South Dakota State 8-5 359 12
13. Monmouth 11-3 338 11
14. Nicholls 9-5 265 19
15. Villanova 9-4 256 10
16. Southeast Missouri State 9-4 244 13
17. Wofford 8-4 215 15
18. Southeastern Louisiana 8-5 183 24
19. Furman 8-5 154 16
20. Albany 9-5 137 NR
21. Dartmouth 9-1 125 20
22. Central Connecticut State 11-2 121 18
23. North Carolina A&T 9-3 119 22
24. Yale 9-1 79 23
25. Florida A&M 9-2 61 21
Others receiving votes: North Dakota 36, Southern Illinois 26, San Diego 14, South Carolina State 13, Towson 10, Holy Cross 9, Eastern Washington 4, UT Martin 3.

Southeastern 2019 opponents in bold italics

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