Growing up in Baton Rouge and attending Glen Oaks High, it was always an aspiration of Prairie View coach Heishma Northern to one day don the blue and gold of Southern.
After finishing his high school career, it became a reality when Northern accepted a scholarship offer to play for the Jaguars. And during his time as a player under coach Pete Richardson, he realized what he hoped to do after playing football: He wanted to become a head coach.
“I’m grateful to Baton Rouge,” said Northern, who played at Southern from 1992-95. “I want to thank Coach Richardson for inspiring me to become a coach. I’ll always remember getting advice from him.”
Three years ago, that goal was realized when Prairie View made Northern its head coach. Heading into Saturday’s game at A.W. Mumford Stadium, Northern is faced with the task of facing the school he once was inspired by.
“I think anytime as a coach that you get to go back home, whether it’s your hometown or back to the university you attended, you reminisce about some of the things that got you to where you are now,” Northern said.
Northern, who played safety for the Jaguars, will have the opportunity to reminisce about some of the relationships he established with the Jaguars this weekend. Southern has invited back the entire 1993 team in honor of the 20th anniversary of its Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
But make no mistake about it: This is a business trip for Northern.
“If I see some of those guys and get a chance to shake hands with them, that’d be great,” he said. “But all I care about is trying to get out of Baton Rouge with a victory.”
Northern said his defense will have a difficult task in trying to slow the Southern offense.
“I see an offense that, if you’re not careful, they can put some points on the board,” he said. “I think the biggest thing that I see on film for Southern is that Dray (Joseph) is a great quarterback. They have a good receiving corps. We’re going to have to make sure we’re tight in coverage.”
Northern sees potential on the defensive side of the ball for Southern, but he also sees a group that hasn’t learned to finish yet.
“I see a defense that, in spots, they fly to the football,” he said. “It looks like they’re getting to the ball but not finishing the tackles.”
Prairie View’s offense features a two-quarterback system, relying on the arm of Jerry Lovelocke and the legs of Deauntre Smiley.
“We feel confident in both our quarterbacks,” Northern said. “Jerry can throw it just about anywhere on the field flat-footed. He’s not as athletic as Deauntre. I think our offense runs a little faster with Smiley in the game. We don’t change our offense up much depending on who’s in the game.”
With the offensive talent that will be on the field Saturday, Northern believes that points could be plentiful.
“It can wind up being an old-fashioned SWAC shootout,” he said. “It looks like they haven’t put together a whole game so far, and hopefully they won’t against us.”
Richardson won’t attend
Although Southern will celebrate its 1993 SWAC championship team Saturday, the most notable figure of that season will not be in attendance: legendary coach Pete Richardson, who still lives in Baton Rouge.
The school fired Richardson with one season remaining on his contract in December 2009. He was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in June 2012.
Richardson won 134 games, four black college national titles and five SWAC championships, in addition to 12 Bayou Classics in his 17 seasons.
SU has yet to have a winning season since letting go of Richardson, winning just two games in 2010 and four games each of the previous two seasons.
Senior linebacker Anthony Balancier was suspended for Saturday’s game, Southern sports information director Chris Jones said Thursday. Previously, it was announced Balancier would be suspended for the first quarter.
Balancier made disparaging remarks about Northwestern State that were broadcast on local television. Northwestern State blasted Southern 55-14.
Also, senior receiver and first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference selection Lee Doss has been suspended for the first quarter of Saturday’s game for a “violation of team policy.”
Advocate executive sports editor Joseph Schiefelbein contributed to this report.
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