Homecoming win crucial for football team’s success

Junior quarterback Jacob Tucker looks for an open receiver in last year’s homecoming against Western Oregon. The Lions won last season’s homecoming game 30-10 and will face North Carolina-Pembroke Oct. 17.

Coming off a heartbreaking 24-22 loss to Western Oregon, the UNA football team will return home for its homecoming game against North Carolina Pembroke Oct. 17.

This will be the third straight year the Lions and Braves have squared off and will be the first time the teams have played each other in Braly Stadium.

“It will be great (to be back at home),”said head coach Bobby Wallace. “We’ve had two long road trips. UNC-Pembroke is in our region and is a very important game.”

UNA president Kenneth Kitts was the former provost at UNC-Pembroke before arriving in Florence this year.

The Lions, who are 4-1 on the season, will look to rebound from last week’s non-conference loss. While the Braves are not a conference opponent, they are in UNA’s super region, which could affect UNA’s playoff status.

“They are having a very successful season,” Wallace said. “Last year was kind of a rebuilding year for them, but now they are coming back with a lot of success.”

North Carolina-Pembroke comes in with a 4-1 record. The Braves, who appear to be a slight underdog, look to overcome their woes against the Lions.

The Braves have failed to defeat UNA in the last couple of years, as the Lions won the 2013 second round playoff game 37-13. The Lions also took last year’s matchup in Pembroke 27-6.

Wallace said in order for his team to rebound, they will need to cut down on turnovers. The Lions had five turnovers in the loss to Western Oregon Oct. 10.

“We have to work on ball security,” Wallace said. “Our quarterbacks will need to understand their decision making process. We have very intelligent quarterbacks and I have all the confidence in the world we will get back on track.”

Junior defensive end E.J. Parnell said he quickly put last week’s loss behind him and cannot afford to dwell on it.

“The loss is in the record books,” he said. “I wouldn’t say this is a rebound game. I would just say this is another game on our schedule we have to win, especially since we are back in Braly (Stadium) this week.”

Parnell said while homecoming games can bring many distractions to a football team, he sees the game as an opportunity to perform in front of some of UNA’s historically greatest players.

“Everyone is coming back for homecoming, so it puts a weight on our shoulders to perform to the best of our ability,” he said. “We have to win this game.”

Senior defensive back Darvell Harris said he does not want to overlook this game after last week’s upset.

“We got a little sidetracked last week,” Harris said. “We came out flat. I can’t make excuses for that. We need to come out and make a statement. Pembroke is a good team, so we have to be ready to execute.”

After homecoming, the Lions will finish the season with four tough conference games against West Georgia, Delta State, Shorter and West Alabama. West Georgia is ranked second in the nation, while Delta State holds the 15th spot in the polls.

“We still control everything we want to control if we take things one game at a time,” Wallace said. “That’s the only way we can look at it.”

The homecoming game will take place in Braly Stadium at 6 p.m.