NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Coach Colby Carthel has not even run with the Stephen F. Austin State University Lumberjacks onto the field for a real game, and he already has the support of higher-ups in the Southland Conference as well as coaches from other schools.
“I was very excited with a championship coach coming into Nacogdoches,” said Southland Commissioner Tom Burnett. “I knew a little bit about Coach Carthel. I knew about his coach pedigree. That we can have that in the conference is special for SFA, and I look at it from a global side. This is good for the league. This is a coaching league. We are as good as our coaches. People at SFA know they expect to be competitive, and I think they are getting that with Coach Carthel.”
After a tough 2018 that saw SFA get just two conference wins, the Lumberjacks were picked to finish 9th in the 11-team league. It might seem “doom and gloom” to get that ranking but things can turn around in the Southland that has shown plenty of parity the past few seasons.
Last year, the University of Incarnate Word was picked 9th. They won the conference. Three years ago, Nicholls State was picked 10th. Now, they are the preseason favorite after making it to the FCS playoffs last year.
"It could be a quick turnaround,” said Nicholls State Head Football Coach Tim Rebowe. “There is not a major overhaul they have to do. You could be at the top of the league in a matter of seconds. Just stick to your guns and believe in what you are preaching."
Carthel will be expected to pick up wins over rivals like Sam Houston State, something the ‘Jacks have not done since they won 31–28 in 2010. Sam Houston Head Coach K.C. Keeler wants SFA to keep the losing streak but he knows it will be hard to beat Carthel.
“I knew the job would be good for Carthel,” Keeler said. “Sam had played Colby when he was in Division II, and that game was a nail bitter. He is an excellent football coach. He has already done a great job of recruiting. It will not be long before they are a national contender again."
On the first day he met his players in December, Carthel made a simple but profound statement.
“How many of you chose to play for Coach Carthel?” He asked. “None of you. Coach Carthel chose you.”
That statement was what hooked in players like seniors Alize Ward and Jake Blumrick.
"I bought in when he said that,” Ward said. “I'm a senior so I do not have time to not be bought in. I have to do what I have to do to buy in, so the young fellas can buy in and follow behind me "
"It showed a guy like that that is for the players,” Blumrick said. “He loves us. He has created a family atmosphere. He loves us so it has been very easy to buy into."
The SFA Lumberjacks open the season on Aug.31 at Baylor.