NSU hosts SLU hoping for 2-0 league start

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NATCHITOCHES – After a successful home debut two weeks ago got the Northwestern State football team off to a good start in the Southland Conference race, the Demons try to take another step forward Saturday evening at Turpin Stadium.

NSU plays host to old rival Southeastern Louisiana in a 6:30 contest. It’s Family Day at NSU, along with Kiwanis Kids Day, Fork Cancer Day and Cheer Clinic Day.

The Demons have a 1-0 start in the Southland Conference race for the first time since 2011. The Lions are 1-1 in the league.

The matchup will be televised statewide and in 13 other states on Cox Sports Television with NSU alumni Lyn Rollins, Stan Humphries and Carly McCord as the announcing crew. Where CST is not available on local cable systems, the telecast should be available through ESPN3 online.

Both squads scored conference wins over Lamar in their most recent outings. Before an open date last Saturday, the Demons led wire-to-wire but had to hold off a late threat by the Cardinals, getting an Ike Warren interception with a minute left to seal a 35-28 victory on Sept. 16. The Lions whipped the Cardinals 49-21 last Saturday in Hammond, running out to a 35-14 halftime advantage.

Lamar had 370 yards, 141 passing, at NSU. The Cardinals threw for 394 at SLU, and finished with 513 yards. The Lions ran for 366 yards against Lamar, posting 555 total yards, with running back Darren Johnson getting 176 yards rushing on 18 carries.

The Lions’ Juwan Petit-Frere had a 92-yard kickoff return that set up a short TD run. He is the Southland Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. He is averaging 38 yards per return with three runbacks of 79 yards or more, one for a TD in a 49-48 season-opening loss at UL-Lafayette.

Southeastern took advantage of two red zone turnovers by NSU last year in Hammond in a 34-24 triumph on Sept. 24. That was the Lions’ fifth consecutive win in the series, giving them a 31-29 edge. NSU is 18-13 at home vs. SLU.

“It’s always an extremely physical battle when we play,” said Demons’ coach Jay Thomas. “The open date has us refreshed and eager. Southeastern was one play away from winning its opener at UL Lafayette (a 51-48 loss), and looked very impressive last Saturday against Lamar.”

The Demons have an emerging offense led by senior quarterback J.D. Almond, who has thrown for 598 yards and three scores while completing 57 percent of his passes. Top receivers, both with 13 catches, are seniors Bobby Chan-Chan and Cameron Lazare.

NSU’s running game has two main cogs, senior Chris Jones (214 yards) and sophomore Jared West (133), as the Demons average 359 total yards, 232 through the air. Jones ran for a career-best 176 at SLU last year, but sustained an injury that ended his season.

Defensively, senior linebackers Nick Pierotti (28 tackles) and Chrishard Buhl (22) are the top tacklers, with each having a fumble recovery. The Demons’ Purple Swarm defense has given up only five touchdowns in the last two games.

The game will be broadcast on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 100.7 FM KZBL in Natchitoches. Affiliates are NewsRadio 710 KEEL AM in Shreveport, KBUCK 105.5 FM in Alexandria, and 103.1 FM KWLA serving Leesville and Many.

It’s the last home game for NSU until the Oct. 21 homecoming contest. The Demons go to Nicholls on Oct. 7 and Sam Houston State Oct. 14.

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