South Division off to fast start

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

IF THE CROSSOVER GAMES are in any way indicative, the South Division would appear to be far stronger than the North this season in Lone Star Conference football.

The South, playing at home on Saturday, improved to 15-3 against their counterparts with a six-game sweep — and that was with an open date for the South’s seventh team, nationally third-ranked Texas A&M-Kingsville.

The North looks like the LSC’s version of the National League West at this point — Southeastern Oklahoma has the division’s best record at 1-2.

Meantime, the South resembles what the NL East has been most of the season, with everybody at .500 or better to this point. Angelo State and West Texas A&M are off to surprising 4-0 starts, while Kingsville and Tarleton State are both 3-0.

Eastern New Mexico University’s Mark Ribaudo, whose team is the only one in the South without a winning record (2-2), noted that the division features five new coaches this fall.

“I thought the South teams would be good,” said Ribaudo, who replaced the retired Bud Elliott this year after spending eight seasons at ENMU as a defensive assistant, the last seven as coordinator.

Other new coaches are former ENMU coach Don Carthel at West Texas A&M, Chris Thomsen at Abilene Christian, Dale Carr at Angelo State and Sam McElroy at Tarleton State.

“They’re all friends of mine,” Ribaudo said of the other new coaches. “I’ve known them all for a long time.

“I knew those teams would all be in good shape, and some of those teams have made fantastic strides.”

AFTER BOOTING A 52-yard field goal in Saturday’s 30-13 win over East Central at Greyhound Stadium, ENMU junior kicker Lee Price is hoping to get a crack at the school record of 53 yards by Rosli Hussein, who did it in 1983 and again in 1985.

His 3-for-3 effort against the Tigers marked his first field goal attempts of the season.

“It’s not a big deal to me,” he said. “I’m always in my own little world anyway.

“We work on it every day in practice, so we’re ready when our names are called.”

THE HOUNDS HAD TWO 100-yard rushers in the same game on Saturday for the first time since Sept. 28, 2002, with quarterback Michael Benton (162 yards) and running back Jason Tezeno (126).

Ironically, the previous time also came against East Central in a 35-29 win at Ada, Okla., when Dwayne Davis (137 yards) and current senior Sukora Cooper (128) did the honors that day.

Even though Benton was just 1-for-9 passing, the Hounds ate up the clock in the second half. Meantime, their defense held the Tigers (1-3) to just five first downs — none after halftime.

“We controlled time of possession (at almost a 2-1 ratio),” Tezeno noted. “One of our goals was to control the clock, and I think we did that.”

BENTON WAS SCHEDULED TO practice Tuesday for the first time in two weeks, Ribaudo said. He’s nursing ankle and groin injuries and Ribaudo said that contributed to his passing woes on Saturday.

Ribaudo said sophomore running back J.J. Jennings (ankle) should also see some action for the first time this season in Saturday’s South opener at ACU.