Frank Scelfo era of SLU football officially opens Thursday at ULM
Southeastern Louisiana (0-0) at ULM (0-0)
Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 | 7 p.m. | Monroe, La. | Malone Stadium (30,427)
Series History: SLU leads 30-15-2
Last Meeting: ULM 21, Southeastern Louisiana 20 (Sept. 25, 2010 – Monroe, La.)
Announcers: Graham Doty and J.D. Byars
Radio: Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9, Kajun 107.1, The Highway 104.7, WFPR 1400)
Announcers: Mark Willoughby, Robbie Rhodes and Allen Waddell
HAMMOND, La. – The wait is nearly over, as the Southeastern Louisiana football program will officially embark on the Frank Scelfo Era on Thursday, when the Lions travel to face ULM at 7 p.m. in Malone Stadium.
Thursday’s contest, which will be televised on ESPN+ (subscription required) and broadcast on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network, will be the first on the Lions’ sideline for Scelfo, who was named the 16th head football coach in school history on Jan. 30, 2018. Thursday’s game will also mark the 15th anniversary of the first game back for Southeastern football after an 18-year hiatus – a 22-17 victory over Arkansas-Monticello on Aug. 30, 2003.
“We’re just excited to be able to get out there and compete,” Scelfo said heading into his debut contest. “We’ve come together as a team in the seven months we’ve been here and we’re anxious to see that growth translated on to the field. We’re facing an extremely talented opponent in ULM and Thursday will be an excellent opportunity to see where we are.”
In addition to being his coaching debut in the Green and Gold, Thursday’s game will mark Scelfo’s return to his alma mater. Scelfo starred on the baseball diamond from 1978-81 for then-Northeast Louisiana, earning the school’s Athlete of the Year as a senior.
“ULM is my alma mater and is a very special place to me,” Scelfo commented. “Monroe is where I made my start and I’ll always have very fond memories of my time at ULM.”
Scelfo took over a Southeastern program that has posted a winning season in four of the last five years. The Lions have five Southland winning campaigns in the past six years to their credit.
Southeastern returns seven of the top eight rushers from a ground attack that was third in the FCS in 2017 with 283.1 yards per game. Sophomore Marcus Cooper (647 yards, 3 TD in 2017), senior Darren Johnson (571-4 TD) and senior Julius Maracalin (328-7 TD) give the Lions a veteran nucleus in the backfield.
The Lion rushing attack will also have some new faces helping to carry the load. Junior Devonte Williams, junior JoMari Becnel and freshman Taron Jones each could make an immediate impact in a deep running back corps.
The battle for the starting nod under center will come down to a game-time decision on Thursday. Junior Lorenzo Nunez is the incumbent starter and was the Southland Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2017. Nunez has been pushed by junior Chason Virgil, who transferred in prior to spring practice after spending two seasons at Fresno State. Sophomore Byron Walker, who threw seven touchdowns on just 36 passes as a freshman, is also back for the Lions.
Whoever winds up taking the majority of snaps at quarterback will have plenty of options in the passing game. Sophomore Austin Mitchell, junior Juwan-Petit Frere, junior Bransen Schwebel, senior Nih-Jer Jackson, senior Jariah Tolbert and senior Jake Ingraffia are among the returning top pass catchers. Junior Marquis Williams and freshman CJ Turner, who redshirted in 2017, are among the new faces in the Lion passing attack.
Southeastern will be facing a Warhawk defense that allowed 41.0 points and 532.1 yards per game last season. Seniors David Griffith (76 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss) and Wesley Thompson (67 tackles) are the top returning tacklers for ULM.
The SLU defense will be faced with the task of slowing down an explosive Warhawk offensive attack that averaged 34.0 points and 458.6 yards per game a season ago.
The straw that stirs the drink for the Warhawk attack in junior quarterback Caleb Evans. As a sophomore, he threw for 2,878 yards and completed over 62 percent of his passes, tossing 17 touchdowns versus just six interceptions. He was also effective running the ball, leading the team with 13 rushing touchdowns in 2017.
The other top returning playmakers for ULM include senior running back Derrick Gore (585 rushing yards, 6 TD), senior wide receiver Marcus Green (54 catches, 812 yards, 5 TD), junior wide receiver R.J. Turner (38-69-6 TD) and senior wide receiver Xavier Brown (21-228-2 TD).
Southeastern allowed 25.6 points and 374.5 yards per game in 2018. First-year defensive coordinator Louie Cioffi is charged with replacing eight starters from last season’s defense.
The Lion defensive line has the most experience returning. as senior Jon Miller, junior Fred Brown, sophomore Noah Vance, sophomore Ronald Cherry III, senior Imani Mitchell, sophomore Tainano Gailua and sophomore Feletoa Ailua are all back with an extra year of knowledge.
Senior preseason All-Southland linebacker Tamarcus Russell is among a bevy of Lion ‘backers expected to fill a bigger role this season, along with junor Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, junior Kyle Nevels, senior Sean Clavelle, sophomore Will Douglas, senior Dwaine Thomas and sophomore Troy Kruchten. Junior Mike Mason is the group’s top newcomer.
Senior Shamar Busby is the only returning starter in the SLU secondary, but fellow returners Dejion Lynch, Ferlando Jordan, Tre Spann, Brayleon Thorns and Aaron Craig are set to make the most of increased opportunities. A trio of newcomers – senior Zeke Walker (Indiana), junior Matthew Wright (Kilgore College) and junior Xavier Lewis (LSU) – are expected to bolster the Lions’ defensive backfield.
Petit-Frere returns to anchor the return game. The Orlando, Florida native is a consensus preseason All-American after leading the nation with 34.6 yards per kickoff return. Devonte Williams and Mitchell will be among the lions called upon to handle punt returning duties.
Senior long snapper Anthony Freeman, junior punter Ivy Wall and senior holder Jake Ingraffia all are returning starters in their various positions. Senior Jonathan Tatum will add placekicking to his kickoff duties in 2018.
The Lions and Warhawks will meet for the 48th time on Thursday with SLU holding a 30-15-2 advantage in the all-time series. The in-state rivals last met in 2010. Northwestern State (61 meetings) is the only more frequent opponent for the Lions in program history.
Southeastern is 39-25-3 all-time in season openers and is looking to win versus an Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponent for the first time in 23 tries since the program returned prior to the 2003 season.
ULM will be the first of two in-state FBS foes the Lions face to open the 2018 campaign. Next Saturday, Southeastern travels to LSU for a 6 p.m. contest in Tiger Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN2 or ESPNU and via the WatchESPN app. SLU’s first meeting with the Tigers since 1949 will also air on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU 90.9, Kajun 107.1, The Highway 104.7, WFPR 1400), www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the TuneIn Radio and RadioFX apps.
Tuesday will also mark the debut of Inside Southeastern Football with Frank Scelfo, airing on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network. Hosted by Scelfo and Allen Waddell, the hour-long show will air at 7 p.m. from Tope La Catering and will be streamed live on Facebook Watch at www.facebook.com/sluathletics. While the first show will be on Tuesday due to next Monday being Labor Day, all of the season’s subsequent shows will be on Mondays at 7 p.m. through Nov. 12.
For season ticket information and individual game tickets, please contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net/tickets. The Lions will welcome conference foes Central Arkansas (Sept. 15), Northwestern State (Sept. 29), Houston Baptist (Oct. 13 – Homecoming), Abilene Christian (Oct. 20 – Hall of Fame Game) and McNeese (Nov. 3).
CLEAR BAG POLICY
Southeastern Athletics has instituted a clear bag policy for all ticketed events, effective with the start of football season. For more information on the clear bag policy, visit www.LionSports.net/clear.
TOUCHDOWN CLUB/S CLUB
Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the football program are encouraged to join the Touchdown Club. Lion football alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letterwinners.
All membership fees and donations to both the Touchdown Club and S Club (football) are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern football program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at [email protected] or (985) 549-5091 or visiting www.LionUp.com.
For more information on Southeastern Football, follow @SLUFootball and @Coach_Scelfo on Twitter, like /SLUathletics on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.
Fans can also win a pair of SLU Football season tickets by participating in the #SelfieWithScelfo campaign during the month of August. Follow @SLU_athletictix on Twitter for more information.
INSIDE SOUTHEASTERN FOOTBALL WITH FRANK SCELFO
Inside Southeastern Football with Frank Scelfo will debut on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. at Tope La Catering (113 East Thomas Street) in downtown Hammond. The season’s first show will air on Tuesday due to Labor Day. The season’s remaining shows will be held each Monday through Nov. 12 with a 7 p.m. start for each.
The show will air on the Southeastern Sports Radio Network (KSLU-FM (90.9), Kajun 107.1 FM, The Highway 104.7 FM and WFPR 1400 AM). Fans can also listen live at www.LionSports.net/listenlive and via the Radio FX and TuneIn Radio apps. A live video stream of the show will be available via Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/sluathletics.
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