Lumberjacks to play Demons in 54th Battle for Chief Caddo

Senior running back Thomas Hutchings runs the ball through the Cardinal defense during the last home game of the season. The Lumberjacks defeated University of the Incarnate Word 31-24.

The SFA Lumberjacks football team concludes the 2019 season in the 54th Battle for Chief Caddo against rival Northwestern State University. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. on Thursday in Turpin Stadium in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

The Jacks look for a win after a 30-7 road loss against the University of Central Arkansas Bears. Freshman receiver Xavier Gipson hauled in four receptions for 85 yards and SFA’s lone touchdown. Redshirt freshman quarterback Cam Arnold went 14-28 for 143 yards and the touchdown pass to Gipson. Junior safety Trenton Gordon led the Jacks with 11 tackles. Freshmen cornerbacks Willie Roberts and Myles Brooks both recorded an interception.

NSU defeated the Sam Houston State University Bearkats 31-28 on the road last Saturday. In that game, the Demons erased a 14-point deficit and held off Sam Houston in the second half for the win.

Chief Caddo is the world’s largest sports trophy, standing 7 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing over 320 pounds. Since the inception of the game in 1961, NSU leads the all-time series 32-20- 1. The Demons hold a two-game win streak in the annual rivalry game. SFA last defeated NSU in the 2016 game 45-31.

Coming into this game, the Demons have won three of their last four contests and are on a two-game win streak. They are led by second year head coach and alumnus Brad Laird. He also serves as NSU’s defensive coordinator and coaches the safeties.

NSU’s multiple offense is led by Shelton Eppler, a senior quarterback and Texas native. A 2014 state champion as a junior at Navasota High School, he is the conference’s second leading passer with 3,254 yards. Eppler has gone 314- 495 with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a 63.4 completion percentage. In addition, he is the owner of 13 NSU records and the first Demon quarterback to pass for over 3,000 yards. Over the summer, Eppler served as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, Louisiana, hosted by Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.

Northwestern State’s receiving corps features eight players with over 100 yards receiving. Quan Shorts is the Demons’ leading receiver and the conference’s fourth leading receiver with 862 yards from 91 receptions with 10 touchdowns. The Humble- Atascocita product averages 78.4 receiving yards per game and 9.5 yards per catch. He is followed by senior receiver Akile Davis, a Desoto native, who has made 59 receptions with 762 yards and four touchdown catches. He averages 12.9 yards per catch and 69.3 yards per game.

Jared West, a senior running back, leads NSU’s rushing attack with 430 yards from 136 carries and eight touchdowns. The New Orleans native has also recorded 37 receptions for 212 yards and one touchdown.

Ja’Quay Pough, a junior linebacker, leads the Demons’ multiple base defense in total tackles with 102— 60 solo and 42 assists. He has also forced two fumbles, recorded six tackles for loss, two pass breakups, three sacks and a fumble recovery. The Sherman native was also the SLC’s week nine Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against UIW. Pough recorded 21 tackles, which are the most by a SLC player this season and the most for an NSU student-athlete since Marion Chapman recorded 20 tackles on Oct. 18, 2014. Jomard Valsin, Brice Borgeson, Landon King, Rashaud Powell, Kyle Moore and Quin Whitley round out the linebacking corps.

Reed Ryan, a senior safety, is tied for first on the team in interceptions with two and has broken up four passes. He’s the team’s second leading tackler with 73— 50 solo and 23 assists. Senior cornerback Dylan Wilson leads NSU in passes broken up with six and has recorded two interceptions. The Demons’ secondary is rounded out by cornerbacks D’Ronne Littleton, Shemar Bartholomew, Fred Lee, William Hooper and safeties Isaiah Armstrong and Nick Forde.

O’Shea Jackson, senior defensive end and a preseason second-team All-SLC selection, is tied for first on the team in sacks with three and has recorded six tackles for loss. The Arlington native has also recorded 25 total tackles. Damian Thompson, a junior nose tackle, anchors the defensive front and has recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks to go along with 26 total tackles. Defensive tackles Darius Whitfield and Nathalohn Nani round out the NSU defensive line.

The game can be heard on the radio through Q107.7.

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