But while the 10-0 and first-place Lions find themselves as the hunted and not the hunters, the team will still be on the offensive.
“They’re extremely hungry,” coach Keith Walton said of his squad. “That makes the lion very dangerous because you can hunt the lion, but when he’s hunting you, that’s a dangerous position to be in.”
The Lions have the home-field advantage in the first two rounds leading to the championship game in Columbia on Nov. 17.
Cardinal Newman enters with a 4-7 record and a three-game losing streak. When the Lions traveled to Cardinal Newman on Sept. 7, the team jumped out to a 41-3 halftime lead and cruised to a 55-15 win.
Despite reasons to be overconfident, the Lions aren’t.
“We’ve just got to keep getting better each and every game, we can’t get complacent,” said senior fullback Sean Sweeting. “He (Walton) didn’t put it at the beginning of the year to go 10-0, it was to get better every day and wherever that takes you, it goes from there.”
While the defense has played well, it is the offense that has gotten the team to this point with Sweeting adding 343 yards rushing and five touchdowns to a potent attack that averages 39 points a game.
Tailback Thomas Banks has rushed for 1,112 yards, the second-consecutive season he has broken the 1,000-yard plateau, with 13 touchdowns. He rushed for 206 yards on eight carries with four scores in the first meeting against Cardinal Newman. If the Cardinals focus on stopping him tonight, quarterback Tyler Roberson has the ability to take over.
Roberson has thrown for 1,646 yards and 16 touchdowns with only three interceptions while calling his own number in the Lions’ triple option for 774 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns.
“It all starts up front with my center Matt Herzwurm,” said Roberson. “He anchors that line and I think he’s the only senior on the line. They all look up to him and he’s very wise and he knows football. He’s got a very high football IQ. They’ve all worked real hard.”
Roberson also found a connection with junior wideout Nick Fortenberry, who has 39 catches for 830 yards and eight touchdowns. Sophomore Ian McDaniel has contributed 22 catches for 301 yards and two scores.