Nov. 28, 2013
BEAUMONT, Texas -
The Lamar Cardinal football team finished off a record-setting 2013 campaign by having 10 players named to the All-Southland Conference team Tuesday afternoon. In addition to the record number of selections named to the postseason squad, Lamar also had three first-team selections which is the first time since the return of the sport that Lamar has placed anyone on the first team. Freshman Kade Harrington became the first Lamar Cardinal to be named SLC Freshman of the Year. Harrington's honor comes just a year after Kevin Johnson became the first Lamar player to be named Southland Newcomer of the Year.
"I thought we had some guys who would have the ability to do some things," said head coach Ray Woodard. "We had some individuals who played well all year long. The all-conference honors they received shows the maturity of this program."
The Cardinals closed out the season just missing one of the biggest wins in program history. Lamar was 58 seconds away from knocking off rival, and No. 6 McNeese State on Senior night. Although the loss was heartbreaking, it defined the growth of the LU program in a very short period of time. The near upset of the Cowboys was just one of three games against nationally ranked conference opponents that gave fans reason to be excited about the future, while sending a message to the rest of the league.
The Southland was forced to take notice when Lamar opened the conference schedule at No. 2 Sam Houston State, and battled the two-time national finalist to the end before falling by a score of 14-3. It was a similar situation against No. 20 Central Arkansas dropping a two-point decision to the defending conference champions.
The league was given advance notice that things were different in Beaumont before league play began. The Cardinals traveled to Ruston, La., to face FBS opponent Louisiana Tech in the second game of the year. The Bulldogs were coming off a season that saw them climb as high as 18th in the FBS polls. Tech managed to escape its home opener with a 13-point decision, 27-14, but it was Lamar who left the game feeling as if they let one slip away. The Cards left at least 14 points on the field against the highly favored Bulldogs.
In addition to the near misses, the growth of the program can be seen in the history against rival Stephen F. Austin. The first two years back on the gridiron saw SFA defeat Lamar an average of 64 points. In year three, Woodard's squad cut that deficit to 14 points. This past season, Woodard's Cardinals showed poise battling back from a nine-point deficit late in the contest to defeat the Stephen F. Austin on a 41-yard field goal with seconds remaining.
"Offensively, I felt like we made tremendous strides all year long," said Woodard. "Defensively, we picked up where we left off last season. We were much more competitive this year, but I'm not satisfied. We let a couple of wins slip away this year. I like the improvements we made but I'm not completely satisfied."
Lamar kept the media busy throughout the 2013 season trying to keep track of all the records being set. By season's end the boys in the Red and White set, or tied, more than 20 team and individual records. The list of records includes:
Points scored in a game
Margin of victory
Yards of total offense in a game
Most touchdowns (individual)
Most touchdowns (team)
Most extra points in a game (individual)
Most extra points in a game (team)
Most points scored against a conference team
Most points in a game (individual)
Most completions in a game (individual)
Most completions in a game (team)
Most completions in a season (individual)
Most completions in a season (team)
Most TD passes in a season (individual)
Most TD passes in a season (team)
Most passing yards in a season (individual)
Most passing yards in a season (team)
Most yards of total offense in a season (individual)
Most yards of total offense in a season (team)
Most receptions in a game (individual)
Most receptions in a season (individual)
Most rushing yards in a season by a freshman
Career Punt Average
Punt Returns Returned for Touchdowns (Season and Career)
Single-game TD receptions (individual)
The 2013 version of the Lamar Cardinal defense proved that the 2012 season was no fluke in terms of leading the Southland against the pass. LU held opponents to less than 200 passing yards per game, and was the only team in the conference to not surrender at least 220 yards per contest.
If you take a closer look at the team, on an individual basis, the numbers support the forward steps being taken by the program as well. Defensive end Jesse Dickson received first-team all-conference honors following a season that saw him rank in the league's top 10 in tackles, top five in sacks, and lead the league in tackles for losses. Dickson was the only defensive lineman ranked among the league's top 30 tacklers. Center Kyle Gillam started every game of his LU game and finished off the season considered one of the league's top linemen.
Freshman Kade Harrington not only set the LU single-season freshman rushing record, but went on to be named the league freshman of the year after finishing sixth in the league in rushing. The Southland's top freshman running back, Harrington proved he could help team as a receiver out of the backfield as well finishing eighth in the league in receptions.
Although Lamar's original class of seniors has used up their eligibility, plenty of big names return for the 2014 season. Quarterback Caleb Berry enters his final season on pace to become the school's all-time leading quarterback, not to mention Reggie Begelton is coming off a sophomore season that saw him lead the league in receptions and finish fourth in the SLC in receiving yards.
"If you watched this team play from the first snap through the end of the season, you can see that our offense improved every week," said Woodard. "We have eight offensive starters returning next season, including a record-setting quarterback in Caleb Berry. He will be surrounded by some weapons at running back and receiver as well. We also have some second-teamers who will be pushing for some more playing time next season as well."
Aside from all the honors and records that were set on the field, Coach Woodard and his staff entered the season with one huge goal that dealt with a more fundamental aspect of the game. He wanted his team to take better care of the football, and value each possession more.
"I think we improved in all areas," said Woodard. "One of the things that I really wanted to stress coming into the year was that we had to cut down on the mistakes. In previous years I felt like we had too many penalties, and turned the ball over too much. This past season we were the second least penalized team in the league, and we led the Southland in turnover ratio. So we did a great job of holding onto the ball and not hurting ourselves with penalties. "