Lions face conference foe Florida Tech

Senior Dre Hall looks for a lane to run through against West Alabama Sept. 23 at Braly Stadium. The Lions have lost two straight games versus conference opponents, but they have another chance on homecoming against Florida Tech.

by Sports Editor Jacob Cole

The North Alabama football team will look to bounce back from a two-game skid with a win against Florida Tech on homecoming Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. at Braly Stadium.

The Lions have had bad luck with injuries, including losing their starting quarterback for the year. Junior Rico Bruton took over for injured redshirt sophomore Blake Hawkins in the second game of the season. Lions’ head coach Chris Willis said the possibility of a quarterback change could happen.

“We can throw the deep ball at times, but we still can’t throw the intermediate passes,” Willis said. “There were times I did think about trying a different quarterback to see if that would change it up any.”

Willis said  junior Matt Markham could play in the homecoming game, after Bruton threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter during the loss to West Georgia.

“We just have to try something,” he said. “Rico has had some really nice moments and he is going to continue to get better. He did some things today that looked really good, but then we turn around and throw a pick, and we had the turnover early when we were backed up.”

After the loss to West Georgia, Willis said the team needs to work on specifics, but he loved the intensity from his players and coaches during the loss.

“I love our effort today,” Willis said. “The kids never quit, but we just have too many mistakes going on right now. It’s a group effort. Coaches, players, all of us. We have to cut down on mistakes.”

The Lions hold a 48-19-1 record in homecoming games. The Lions have won 12 straight homecoming games going back to 2004. The Lions also have a 3-0 record against opponent Florida Tech dating back to 2015 as the last meeting between the two.

UNA comes into the game with a 1-3 overall record and a 1-2 conference record. UNA beat Valdosta State 30-24 to open Gulf South Conference  play, but the Lions have lost two consecutive games to GSC opponents West Alabama and West Georgia.

Florida Tech has a 3-2 record overall and a 2-1 record in the GSC including wins against GSC foes Shorter and Mississippi College. Florida Tech lost to GSC opponent West Florida.

Senior running back Nick Taylor said the team is getting better but needs to finish better.

“We just have to learn how to finish,” Taylor said. “We get down, and then we get so close to jumping on someone, and something happens. This is a new team, and we can’t worry about the team last year or previous years. We have to come together and find a way to finish these games.”

Junior Chris Johnson said it is as simple as cutting down on mistakes.

“We’ve just been making too many mistakes lately and it cost us,” Johnson said. “We’ve had some people injured, but we have to be able to fight through adversity.”

The Lions need to grab a win against Florida Tech to keep its GSC and playoff hopes alive for this season.

Willis said GSC and playoff hopes are not on his mind for the upcoming homecoming game.

“I’m not really worried about the conference standings and all that,” Willis said. “We need to bounce back for homecoming, and I’ll take a win any way we can get it.”

UNA will start at 6 p.m. against Florida Tech Saturday night at Braly Stadium looking for a 13th straight win on homecoming.