By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Missouri Southern’s football team achieved one season goal — a winning record — with last week’s 34-10 victory over Truman State last Saturday.
Now the Lions look to scissor the streak on Saturday afternoon when rival Pittsburg State comes to Fred G. Hughes Stadium for the Sonic Trophy Series Miner’s Bowl.
“There is no doubt you will see the bar being raised by the effort of our kids on Saturday,” Lions coach Daryl Daye said. “When I was here four years before, it was incredible how hard they played against Pitt and how much they want to win. As a coaching staff, we need that effort every week. We need to gear our mind that every week is a Pitt State-type effort.”
Daye isn’t concerned about his team getting to excited for the season-ending rivalry game.
“Excited is good,” he said. “Tight ... not loose enough is always a concern, but we are doing things as a coaching staff and trying to enjoy ourselves this week. We have a winning season, and this is what we call in Louisiana a lagniappe, a little extra. If we are able to go out there and get the win, that would be great for the school, the seniors, everybody. What we are trying to stress is just go have fun, play the game, enjoy the game, fly around, be loose. Let’s get to the fourth quarter and see if we got a chance to win it.”
“You always have to play within the scheme of what we are doing defensively and offensively,” said senior linebacker Alex Wong, the Lions’ top tackler with 63 stops this season. “Yes, it is another game on Saturday and it happens to be Pitt, so we just have to play within ourselves and play with high emotions but not lose our heads.”
It’s been 19 years — a 20-3 home victory to launch the 1993 MIAA championship run — since the Lions beat the Gorillas. PSU’s 51-28 home victory last season ended a string of four consecutive games decided by one score.
“We really don’t discuss the past,” said senior wide receiver Landon Zerkel, who will finish No. 2 on the Lions’ career chart for receptions (192 now) and receiving yards (2,829). “We started something new this year with Coach Daye, and we are excited to get to play them this week.”
“It’s always about building something special here,” Wong said. “That is the reason why we are here and the reason why we play college football, to be in those positions. You don’t ever go into a fight tiptoeing. You got to bring everything with it.”
Zerkel and Wong are two of 15 seniors who will conclude their Lion careers on Saturday.
“It’s gone by quick,” Zerkel said. “My redshirt year when I had shoulder surgery seemed like the slowest year of my life ... sitting out. I’d never had to sit out a sport an entire year, but these last four years have flown by, and it has been a great time.
“Football has helped shape me as a man. My coaches especially have been there for me, and we have changed. I have been through every style of offense here from no-huddle to more pro-style to now the triple option. But is has been a great experience, everything you could ask for.”
“Coach Daye recruited me when he was defensive coordinator,” Wong said. “That seems like yesterday, and here we are talking about my last college football game. ... I was actually talking to the freshmen and telling them it goes by in a hurry.”