Good defense down the stretch is the reason Mark Wright Jr. had a chance to play hero for Langston.
The redshirt freshman quarterback accounted for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, giving the Lions a 20-19 victory last week at Panhandle State. Langston is 4-4 and needed the fourth-straight win to keep alive its hopes for an NAIA playoff berth. A loss to Panhandle State, even though it is an NCAA Division II program, would have likely dashed any playoff hopes.
“As long as we keep taking care of business on the field, all we can do is leave it up to the (NAIA poll) voters and to God,” Wright said.
Trailing 19-6 entering the final quarter, Langston's defense forced a punt. The Lions drove into Panhandle State territory, and then Wright and Sheldon Augustine hooked up for a 33-yard touchdown to cut the gap to 19-13. Langston's defense would then force a turnover, leading to Wright's 2-yard TD run. Dave DeHarde added another point-after kick, and the Lions led by one with eight minutes left in the game.
“The defense took over after that,” Wright said.
Langston started the season No. 23 in the NAIA ratings. The Lions dropped out after four consecutive road losses, all to Division I-AA teams. Despite its strength of schedule and current win streak, Langston has not received any votes. And since the Central States Football League champion does not receive an automatic bid to the NAIA playoffs, the Lions need to win out — preferably by large margins — and make the Top 20.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Langston plays another postseason hopeful, No. 22-ranked Bacone in Muskogee. Both teams are 3-0 in the CSFL, and the winner will likely take the league title. Langston will then host winless Wayland Baptist (Texas) on Nov. 16; Bacone (7-2 overall) will wrap up its regular season the same day at unpredictable Southwestern Assemblies of God (Texas).
“We've played a lot of good teams this year,” Wright said. “We know Bacone is good, too. If we're lucky enough to win out and score a lot of points, hopefully we'll get in the playoffs.”
BY THE NUMBERS
3 — Quarterbacks used this season by Northeastern State. Original starter, Johnny Deaton, suffered a broken leg during the season opener against Pittsburg State (Kan.); his replacement, Thor Long, played three games before he sustained an unspecified injury; and redshirt freshman Cory Meaders took snaps while Long was out. The RiverHawks have two other quarterbacks on the roster, Josh Cousins and Prince McJunkins, but both have nursed injuries.