Lions Football kicks of their 2017 season this Saturday, August 26th as they travel to Leavenworth, KS to take on NAIA opponent University of Saint Mary Spires. The two teams faced off last year for the first match up between the two schools. The Spires came out on top 34 to 0 in the season opener for both teams. The Lions finished last season 4-7 and are looking to improve on the record under new head Coach Eric Slivoskey. Coach Slivoskey coached once before as head coach for the Lions from 2006 to 2009. He moved to coach in Europe for four years and most recently, he served as Professor of Physical Education at Potomac State College of West Virginia University.
Joining Coach Slivoskey on the football coaching staff is 1st year coaches Doug South and Dan Walks. Returning to help coach the Lions for a 2nd year is Tanner Twigg. The Lions have 12 returners coming back including the Lions 1st Team All-NCCAA player David Steeves (Winnipeg, MB). He had 53 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. Also returning for his senior season is 2nd Team All-NCCAA Offensive Lineman Nate Coffman (Lodi, CA). The Lions also return starting sophomore QB M.J. Ybarra (Yuma, AZ) who started 8 games for the Lions last season. Landen Bradley (Powhatan, VA) is another familiar face in the backfield for the Lions, Bradley played in 10 games and racked up 708 yards and 9 touchdowns. The Lions return Jacob Perales (McAllen, TX), Colten Hoots (Gunnison, CO), Anthony Red Cloud (Billings, MT), Tristan Martinez (San Antonio, TX), Zach Marengo (Grand Junction, CO) who all started for the Lions. The Lions have added 17 new faces to the team, including Alex Wattley (Panama City, Panama) who played for the Lions in the 2015-2016 season. Wattley was Honorable Mention All-NCCAA that year, he had 32 catches for 497 yards and 6 touchdowns to go with 26 kick returns for 519 yards.
Head Coach Slivoskey had this to say about the upcoming season: "Despite our lower numbers and the fact that we'll travel to Kansas for our opening game with 24 healthy players prepared to take the field, I am optimistic about our program as we kick off the 2017 season. We had a really productive camp, and our guys came together as a strong and cohesive unit both on and off the field. We have some amazing leaders on this team, and some really talented football players. If we can stay healthy, as well as accept and fight through the challenges that are sure to come our way, then I believe we'll have the ability to surprise some people this season. Our defense is showing an ability to swarm to the ball and play with great intensity. On offense, I'm counting on our veteran guys up front to step up and lead the way."
The Lions are on the road for their season opener on August 26th, but they then return home for back to back home games on September 9th (Homecoming) vs. Grinnell College at 2:00pm and September 16th vs. Lyon College at 1:00pm. They then hit the road for three straight road games before returning home to end the year on November 4th (Senior / Parents Day) vs. Finlandia University at 12:00pm.