Lions 2018 schedule announced: How do you top a national championship?

BJ Laudermilk, Sports Editor

The Lions hoisted the National Championship trophy up high just three months ago. What’s in store for 2018? East Texan Photo | Jessie Cunningham

BJ Laudermilk | Sports Editor

Just months after a 37-27 victory over West Florida in the National Championship game, the A&M-Commerce Lions football team has learned their 2018 slate of opponents.

With so much anticipation building to see the defending national champions back in action, the schedule reveal yesterday almost felt like a letdown, seeing that the squad would start off the season with no game, an open week to open the season for quite possibly the first time ever.

To make things even worse, the Lions start the 2018 slate with back-to-back road games, starting off at William Jewell Sept. 8 and then head to Portales, N.M. to start Lone Star Conference competition with Eastern New Mexico the following week.

The Lions home opener is a late one, as the first home game of the season is not until Sept. 22, as they welcome Colorado State-Pueblo from the RMAC to Commerce. The Thunderwolves are coming off of a 9-3 campaign in 2017, and a loss in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. CSU-Pueblo won the 2014 National Championship, and has qualified for the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, so this matchup might end up being a battle between ranked teams once the season kicks off.

The Lions are then in LSC play for the remainder of the regular season. The Lions have home battles with Texas A&M-Kingsville, Tarleton State, West Texas A&M, and conclude the regular season with a Senior Day battle against Angelo State. The Lions have road contests at Midwestern State, Western New Mexico, and UT Permian Basin in 2018.

Looking at the schedule, a few things jump out. Surprisingly, the Lions will be at Midwestern State for the second year in a row, while getting a home matchup with Angelo State in back-to-back years. In head coach Colby Carthel’s tenure, every year since 2014 has seen the first two conference foes be Eastern New Mexico and Texas A&M-Kingsville, and that won’t change in 2018, as for the third straight season, the Lions start against the triple-option attack of the Greyhounds before battling for the Chennault Cup, the Lions looking to hold on to the trophy for the seventh straight season, which would equal the longest streak for either side in the rivalry.

The Lions will look to avenge their only loss of the 2017 slate when they head to Wichita Falls on Oct. 6. After suffering a heart-breaking 47-42 loss at the hands of Midwestern State, the Lions renewed rivalry with the Mustangs has gotten tighter than a pair of pants after an all-you-can-eat buffet. The Lions hold a 12-11 edge, but have lost three straight games in the series by a total of 10 points.

Instead of concluding the regular season with Tarleton State, the Lions will face the Texans in October for the first time since 2015. The Lions have won six straight against Tarleton State as well, beating the Texans every year under Carthel. The rest of the schedule looks remarkably similar to the past couple of years, the Lions will battle the Buffaloes of West Texas A&M on Homecoming again, just like they did in 2016. In fact, the only difference between 2016 and 2018’s conference slate, besides the removal of Oklahoma Panhandle State, is the flip of Angelo and Tarleton State in the schedule placement and the previously mentioned road/home flips of games from last year to this year with Midwestern and Angelo State.

The Lions schedule is set-up for them to make another run towards a conference title and set themselves up for another long playoff run. The non-conference slate will be a bit of a challenge, but is manageable for this team. The defending national champions will have a huge target on their backs in 2018, but they wouldn’t want it any other way.