durantdemocrat.com

Savage Storm to lift curtain on more than just a new season

By Zach Maxwell Sports Reporter

September 4, 2013

One thing is making September 5 one of the most anticipated Thursday nights in Southeastern football history.


A Savage Storm mascot is being unveiled.


After an on-campus introduction earlier in the day, the “storm is coming” to Tailgate Alley on University Blvd., which opens at 3 p.m. Thursday.


A True Blue Barbecue Cook-off at 4:30 p.m. will precede the community-wide unveiling of the new mascot at 5:30 p.m. Campus officials promise the new mascot will embody “Pride, resilience and strength” – the new motto of Southeastern athletics.


Finally, at 6 p.m., the real show begins: Kick-off of game one of the 2013 Great American Conference football campaign between the Savage Storm and rival Muleriders of Southern Arkansas University.


The Riders took a 31-24 win a year ago at last season’s SE home opener at Paul Laird Field. Savage Storm Football Coach Ray Richards is looking to turn it around with a seasoned defense and a new-look offense.


“Every year is a new year,” he said. “Last year we lost some games we felt like we should have won.” Southern Arkansas was one of those games, and Thursday offers a chance for some new fans to come experience Savage Storm football.


“It’s that time of year where people want to watch college football,” Richards said. “This is an opportunity for a bigger crowd, especially this early in the year. It’s just fun for everybody.”


What can fans expect out of sophomore quarterback Nick Sioson and a talented offense?


“Our quarterback is more of a passer than a runner. So we’re adapting to what we have,” coach said. “Will we still run the ball? Yes. But how much? I couldn’t tell you until we get into the game.”


Sherman native Greg Jackson will return to the lineup after missing 2012 with an injury. But this time he will be at free safety instead of cornerback.


“Offensively we have pretty good depth, we feel good about that,” Richards said. “And obviously, when we get into the red zone, we want touchdowns and not field goals.”


Good field position will be partially determined by the Savage Storm defense.


“We’ve got seven starters returning, a lot of guys who played last year,” coach said. “So our strength is experience even if our depth is not great.”


Richards said the team has a few minor injuries which could keep a handful of key players from performing at 100 percent on Thursday on both sides of the ball. Still, he has an idea of what to expect from the Mulerider offense, who return a stellar quarterback and running back tandem.


“Offensively, they have some weapons in the right places,” he said. “We’ve got to get on the field and contain that running back. We’ve got to get some turnovers and not give up big plays. A big first down (stand) is crucial, because you have a chance to get them third and long.”


The Savage Storm have endured three straight losing seasons, improving from 2-8 in 2011 to 4-6 last year. Injuries have played a significant role in impacting Richards’ lineups in each of those campaigns.