The Lions square off against the Tigers Thursday night at 7 p.m.
COMMERCE – With all the preseason buzz swirling around the A&M-Commerce football, it is time for the Lions to finally take the turf at Memorial Stadium as they host East Texas Baptist Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the season opener.
Despite being separated by only 125 miles and a short two and a half hour drive, the two teams have met only three times, 1920, 1921 and 1922, prior to Thursday night’s contest with the series spilt at 1-1-1. ETBU, then College of Marshall, won the first meeting in 1920, 31-0, and after a tie in 1921, A&M-Commerce, then East Texas State Normal College, won the 1922 matchup 31-6.
The Tigers are coming off of a 3-7 season in 2013 despite opening the year at 2-0. ETBU stumbled through a seven-game losing streak before ending its season a win. Josh Warbington returns the helm of the offense after completing 143 passes on 229 attempts and 15 touchdowns. He totaled 1,876 yards through the air. Toi Glover returns as the team's leading rusher from 2013. He accounted for 1,050 yards and nine TDs on 222 carries. ETBU is coached by Joshua Eargle and are members of the American Southwest Conference, a NCAA Division III conference.
The Lions are under the direction of second-year head coach Colby Carthel, who along with his staff, turned around an A&M-Commerce team that went 1-9 in 2012 into a 7-5 team in 2013. The Lions appeared in their first postseason game since 1995 with an appearance in the Live United Texarkana Bowl against Harding. The Bison topped the Lions ending the year with a 44-3 loss.
However, the Lions return 10 all-conference winners from 2014 including the league's Defensive Player of the Year in Charles Tuaau. A&M-Commerce also returns offensive weapon and the league's top receiver in Vernon Johnson. Johnson and Tuaau have been racking up preseason All-American publications for various media outlets including BSN and D2 Football. A&M-Commerce is the only LSC school with a preseason All-American player, and the Lions have two. Johnson has also been added to the Reese's Senior Bowl watch list. The Senior Bowl is the premier pre-draft all-star game for seniors and four-year juniors .
Last season, proved to be an historic season for A&M-Commerce as the Lions took a large eraser to the record books. Twenty team and individual records were either tied or broken during the 2013 campaign as the Lion offensive attack set new school records in points scored, points per game, passing yards in a season and passing average. Defensively, A&M-Commerce made its mark on the record books as well, setting new program-bests for tackles for loss in a season and sacks in a season, ranking first nationally in tackles for loss per game and blocked punts while sitting second in all of Division II in sacks per game.