Stephen F. Austin working to rebound in 2016

Apr 17, 2016 - 3:49 PM (STATS) - Stephen F. Austin has had both highly competitive and subpar seasons through coach Clint Conque's first two years in Nacogdoches, Texas.

With a veteran lineup of starters returning, the Southland Conference program expects to get back to winning this year. The Lumberjacks finished 8-5 and reached the FCS playoffs in 2014, but they opened last season with five straight losses and went 4-7 overall and 4-5 in the Southland.

"I love the attitude of our team, I love the work ethic, and the challenge I left with them was to decide who they really wanted to be," Conque said after the team's annual scrimmage concluded spring practices Saturday night. The defense edged the offense in the modified scoring system.

"We need everyone to have the drive and the resolve to come back and help make this team into one that can compete at the national level," Conque added.

SFA returns eight starters on each side of the ball, but with a new offensive coordinator having arrived in Gary Crowton, a greater focus was put on the unit playing at a faster, efficient pace this spring.

In the scrimmage, third-year quarterback Zach Conque, the coach's son, completed 17 of 28 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Fellow senior Hunter Taylor was 13 of 32 for 101 yards.

Aaron Piper led all receivers with seven catches for 54 yards, while Justice Liggins' five receptions went for a game-high 83 yards. Joshawa West had 10 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard run for the game's first score.

Second-team All-Southland defensive end John Franklin is the most notable returnee on defense. Gary Sampson (seven tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Alize Ward (six tackles, interception) were standouts in the spring game.

SFA kicks off its 2016 schedule Sept. 3 with a visit to Texas Tech.

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