Lions eliminated in second round

UNA sophomore wide receiver Dre Hall walks off the field in disappointment after the Lions’ 35-31 loss to Tuskegee Nov. 28. The Lions finished the season with a 9-3 recond, including 6-1 at home.

Another seemingly premature playoff ending occurred for UNA Nov. 28, as the No. 23 Tuskegee Tigers upset the No. 14 Lions 35-31.

The Lions finished the season 9-3, winning their third straight Gulf South Conference championship, but falling in the second round of the NCAA Division II Playoffs.

“We had a lot of things go against us,” said UNA head coach Bobby Wallace. “You could call that a little bit of luck, but at the same time you have to stop that luck. That’s why you have to play good enough to overcome those things when you get in the playoffs.”

Although the season’s end disappointed Wallace, he said seeing his former assistant and Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater advance was encouraging.

“I told (Slater) after the game I wasn’t glad he won, but I’m happy for him,” Wallace said. “He’s a great football coach and a great person.”

The loss ends the career of the 2012 recruiting class, the first since Wallace’s second stint as the Lions’ head coach.

“I hate to see it end like this in the second round at home,” said Lee Mayhall, who played his last game in a Lion uniform. “I didn’t think it would ever end. At the end (of the game), I was trying to savor that last moment. Having all of these (teammates), I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything.”

UNA senior quarterback Luke Wingo said despite coming up short of a national championship the past few years, he would not change his decision to play for this team if he had a repeat.

“I’ve been very lucky to be a part of something as special as this (team),” Wingo said. “I don’t have any regrets; it’s been a lot of fun. I’m going to miss the comraderie and being around great guys everyday.”

This year’s seniors left their marks in the record books.

Wingo, who became the team’s starter in the middle of his freshman season, graduates from the team as the all-time leader in total offensive yards with 9,532.

Wingo also finished with 8,374 career passing yards, putting him second all-time behind A.J. Milwee, who holds the record with 8,436 career yards.

“It’s a cool feeling,” Wingo said. “It shows how much success we had as a team in the last three or so years. Usually, when you have a good team around you, the stats start to pile up.”

While Wingo gave credit to his teammates, he also mentioned the offensive coaching staff attributing to his success.

“Coach (Cody) Gross has especially helped me since I’ve been here,” Wingo said. “I give him a ton of credit for helping me as a quarterback, along with the other coaches and players around me.”

Senior running back Lamonte Thompson, who redshirted in 2011 and started as a freshman in 2012, leaves as the second all-time rushing yard leader with 3,524 yards. Thompson fell short to Tyrone Rush’s record of 4,421.

“It feels really good to leave my name in the record books,” Thompson said. “I have to give all the credit to God, because without him, I wouldn’t be here, but also my teammates who have helped me become the player I am. I can‘t take all the credit.”

Thompson said taking off his uniform one last time was tough, especially it being his last game in Braly Stadium.

“It was really sad leaving the field after the game,” he said. “I’ve been playing in Braly since middle school. Growing up in Florence and continuing my playing career here, I had a lot of supporters, and I’m going to miss that.”

Mayhall finished with 131 career receptions, putting him fifth all-time among wide receivers in the program’s history.

While the Lions lose 21 seniors heading into next season, the future still looks bright for the program.

The Lions return numerous All-GSC players, including junior defensive backs Philbert Martial and Levi Fell, sophomore receiver Dre Hall, junior tackle Stephen Evans and sophomore longsnapper Will Lovelace.

“This team continues to build, even when we lose a lot of guys,” Wingo said.