It was hard to tell who won Saturday at Paul Laird Field: The Lions or the zebras.
But it wasn’t the Savage Storm, who officially lost 31-29. Even the premiere of new mascot “Bolt” was upstaged - by an actual storm.
And a Homecoming comeback effort by the Southeastern football team was taken away by several blown whistles - literally - and overshadowed by a game-ending on-field brawl among players.
Officials Stan Stence, Jim Featherston, Gregg Long, Sonny Thompson, Bill Gregory, Doug Gross and David Ward huddled after benches cleared and punches were thrown among players following an on-side kick by the Storm. They decided to end the game and walk away with 46.9 seconds on the clock.
“All it takes is one guy to get it going and it’s like a spark to gasoline,” said Coach Ray Richards of Southeastern. “Most of the kids acted right. It just takes a handful and they are the ones you see acting like idiots.”
What led to the unlikely and baffling conclusion of this game was frustration boiling over from the Savage Storm. They built an early lead, took it to the locker room in a two hour, 20 minute storm delay, and promptly lost the lead once play resumed.
Down by 11 in the fourth quarter, Southeastern’s Greg Jackson took an interception to the five, setting up a short pass from Nick Sioson to Chad Laury. The two point conversion failed and the Storm still trailed 28-23 with 12 minutes left.
Texas A&M-Commerce’s Saul Martinez nailed a 23-yard field goal with 2:48 left to stretch the lead to 31-23.
Sioson was down to a minute left on a 4th-and-two when he got the ball to a Anthony Foster. This set up another connection from the Storm QB to a diving Foster on a 10-yard TD pass with 48 seconds left, score 31-29 Lions.
Yellow flags sailed just as Foster jumped up from his score to celebrate with teammates - normally a tradition among football teams in the end zone. A 15-yard penalty was assessed to the Storm for unsportsmanlike conduct, pushing the two-point conversion scrimmage line back.
Sioson appeared to connect to his receiver on a game-tying conversion, but after about a second of possession, the ball popped out and referees waived off the catch. Southeastern tried the onside kick, which was recovered by the Lions and the short scrum ensued on the Storm’s defensive tackle.
First quarter: Chris Peoples hit a 38-yard field goal and Akinwande’s four-yard run (with a Peoples PAT) put SE ahead 10-0.
Second quarter: Lions scored on a short pass from Stewart to Johnson, answered two minutes later by Devlon Wortham’s pile-on TD to end a six play, 56 yard Storm drive. K. Garrett of the Lions found pay dirt in the final minute of the half, cutting SE’s halftime lead to 17-14.
(A two hour, 20 minute weather delay started after Homecoming ceremonies at halftime. The game started at 2 p.m. with clouds and a brisk wind, then rain settled in during halftime. Lightning was spotted and the field cleared until the storm passed. Shortly after play resumed, the sun broke through the clouds and even a double rainbow was spotted hovering over the field. Skies were clear and winds calm by the conclusion of the game at 7:30 p.m.)
Third quarter: V. Johnson is the recipient of a 76-yard pass and run from Tyrik Rollison, and Dionte Taylor returned a blocked Storm punt for a score in a 14-0 run for the Lions who led 28-17.
Fourth quarter: Sioson’s pass to Laury, then a Lions field goal, followed by Farmer’s 10-yard reception from Sioson for the 31-29 final.
Stat leaders for Southeastern: Rushing: Devlon Wortham 32-139, Nelson Akinwande 6-31. Passing: Nick Sioson 31-51 (1 INT, 2 TD, 3 sack). Receiving: Kaymon Farmer 8-98, Tiquarrio Combs 5-39. Tackles: Raheem Wilson, Clay Waters and Mark Idell with seven each, Simeon Stevenson with six. Punting: Jared Heim 3-138 (46 yards per punt average; best in GAC this week).
Next week: The Savage Storm (1-4, 1-3 in GAC) will visit Southern Nazarene (0-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Bethany.