Texas A&M University-Commerce downed West Florida 37-27 in 2017 to claim its second national football title in school history.
The two NCAA Division II powers will meet again at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium in Commerce. KETR-FM (88.9) will broadcast the game.
Not only did the Lions win a national championship recently but so did West Florida. The Argonauts outscored Minnesota State 48-40 in the 2019 NCAA Division II title game in McKinney.
West Florida, at 2-0, is the No. 1 ranked team in Division II.
The Lions slipped from No. 7 to 21 in the American Football Coaches Association poll and from 5 to 13 in the D2Football.com poll following a 31-30 loss at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington to Midwestern State. Midwestern State rallied from a 23-point deficit to overtake the Lions who were outscored 21-7 in the second half. The Mustangs took their first and only lead with 25 seconds remaining when Sam Hodges scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dillon Sterling-Cole and Ritse Vaes booted the winning extra point.
The Lions got a break on the ensuing kickoff with a penalty against the Mustangs but a Hail Mary pass attempt to the end zone was broken up by the Mustangs.
“You know we made a lot of mistakes tonight that you can’t make,” said Lions coach David Bailiff. “And that’s me. When you make those kind of mistakes and those costly errors you look at the head coach.
“I’ve got a do a better job of instilling discipline in them. I’ve got to do a better job in my decision making. These kids played their hearts out. There’s a lot of good football left in this football team. And I anticipate a lot of wins.”
That loss dropped the Lions down to 1-1 for the season, including a 12-6 win over nationally-ranked Colorado State-Pueblo in the season opener. That was the Lions’ first game in 636 days. They skipped the 2020 season, as did other teams in the Lone Star Conference, due to the pandemic.
The Lions’ last home game in Commerce was on Nov. 9, 2019 when they beat UT Permian Basin 44-13 in LSC play. A&M-Commerce was 5-0 at home in 2019, when the 11-3 Lions went three rounds deep in the playoffs.
West Florida has started strong in the 2021 season, downing NCAA Division I foe McNeese State (Louisiana) 42-36 in the season opener and then whipping Southwest Baptist (Missouri) 63-14 in the second game.
The Argonauts are averaging 474.5 yards per game while giving up 389.5 yards per game on defense.
Quarterback Austin Reed, a 6-2, 220-pound redshirt sophomore from St. Augustine Beach, Fla., leads the Argonaut offense. Reed is 39-of-62 passing for 637 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception.
His top receivers are Rodney Coates (13-194, 3 TDs) and David Durden (10-238, 3 TDs).
Shomari Mason leads the Argonaut rushers with 128 yards and two TDs on 18 carries, while Ra’veion Hargrove has run for 58 yards and a TD on nine carries.
Jaiave Magalei started for the Lions last week at quarterback, going 13-of-28 for 197 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions but did not play in the second half.
Eric Rodriguez spelled Magalei at quarterback and went 4-of-7 passing for 18 yards and rushed for 10 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
Antonio Lealiiee led the Lion rushers with 95 yards on eight carries. E.J. Thompson ran for 45 yards on seven carries.
Chance Cooper caught a team-high five passes for 97 yards and leads the Lions for the season with seven catches for 123 yards and one TD.