This could be the comeback season the Lumberjack fans have been waiting for.
For the past couple of seasons, the Stephen F. Austin football team has struggled. Last season, it went through an obstacle having to adjust to interim head coach Jeff Byrd. The team was only able to get two wins under Byrd—one against Abilene Christian University, 24- 21, and another against Houston Baptist University, 42-14.
After the end of the season, SFA announced Colby Carthel as the new head football coach for the 2019-20 season. Carthel was the head coach at Texas A&M Commerce for six years and in those years, he won the 2017 NCAA Division 2 Football National Championship.
Since the hiring of Carthel, the athletics department hired Matt Storm as the offensive coordinator, Scott Power as the defensive coordinator and Josh Stoner as the director of sports performance.
SFA football was also the third- best recruiting class among all Football Championship Division institutions and the best recruiting class in the Southland Conference. Carthel signed 31 new recruits in February for National Signing Day and four other recruits throughout the summer in preparation for the fall season.
At the 2019 Southland Media Day in Houston, Carthel said several recruits chose to leave. He said, “We are bringing in about half of what we had when I first walked on campus plus the recruits we had.... There’s a lot of transition that has happened in our program, and that’s not easy for coaches, their families or players.”
One of the signees to look out for is Defensive Tackle Carl Williams. At 6’2’’ and 356 pounds, Williams committed to SFA after receiving 12 offers including Oklahoma, TCU, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State and Minnesota. Williams grew up in Lufkin playing at Lufkin High School. He was raked as the 50th- best DT in the nation, the No.3 recruit in East Texas and the No.83 recruit in Texas according to ESPN.
Another recruit is Caiden Walker. With much help needed in the teams’ offensive line, Walker will come in at 6’4’’ and 276 pounds. He is a four-year varsity letter winner from Newton High School with nine Division 1 offers. With the help of Walker, Newton finished 15-0 and won the Class 3A Division 2 State Championship according to East Texas Sports Network.
The 2019 football schedule was released in March. The Lumberjacks will play a total of 12 games, nine SLC games and four home games. Their first matchup is against Baylor at 6 p.m. on Saturday, August 31 at McLane Stadium in Waco. The game will be live streamed on ESPN+.
The rival game against Sam Houston State University in the 94th Battle of The Piney Woods is at 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston. Another rival game is against Northwester State University as the 54th Battle for Chief Caddo at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 21 in Turnip Stadium in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Returning players who have continued to make an impact for SFA football include senior wide receiver Tamrick Pace who was named to the 2019 Preseason All-Southland Conference Second Team Offense. In his junior year, Pace completed a total of 42 passes for 623 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
Senior safety Alize Ward also returns to play for SFA. Ward was named to the 2019 Preseason All- Southland Conference Second Team Defense. Last season, Ward had a team high total of 36 solo tackles.
Carthel said, “The reality is, we’ve got a tough job ahead of us. It’s an uphill climb, but we’re going to put our best foot forward every single day.”