By I.C. Murrell

By I.C. Murrell

COMMERCIAL SPORTS EDITOR

Gone are Stephen Jones’ high-top haircut with the gold streak and Brian Niedermeyer’s long hair. If they and the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions have their way today, four straight years without a winning record will be gone as well.

And Jones, Niedermeyer and the rest of the Lions’ senior class will have their elusive sixth victory of the season — the first under fourth-year coach Monte Coleman.

“It is a winning season, but being a senior, I do want a championship,” said Jones, a running back. “If Grambling (State) some kind of way lost and Prairie View (A&M) some kind of way lost, that would be awesome, and I can promise you we will come back this weekend with a victory and the championship as well.”

Some of the Lions have spent five seasons on the team with redshirts. Some were part of Coleman’s first recruiting class. And some, like Niedermeyer, came from the junior-college ranks. But they’re all missing two of the same things — a title and a winning record.

“There’s a lot of character in each of them,” Coleman said. “There’s about 24 of them. There’s a whole host of them that we’re going to miss dearly . They’ve truly helped us this season — not just this season, but helping us get the foundation laid as seniors.”

Whether things fall into place for the Lions, Niedermeyer knows how he’ll remember the 2011 campaign.

“A season of — looking back — some ups and downs,” said Niedermeyer, who’s split time at tight end and right tackle. “We’ve been a great team at times, and at other times, we haven’t put it together to win.”

UAPB (5-5, 4-4 SWAC) needs its victory against Texas Southern today at Golden Lion Stadium, Alabama A&M to win at Prairie View today and Southern to beat Grambling State in next Saturday’s NBC-televised Bayou Classic in New Orleans to win the Western Division and reach the Dec. 10 SWAC championship game. Alabama A&M will clinch the Eastern Division with a victory; otherwise, Alabama State will make its second straight title game appearance.

If nothing else, the senior class just wants to leave a big mark with a sixth win.

“It’s senior day. We’re going to try to go out with a win,” senior right guard Colton Jones said. “It’s been a while since this team has had a winning record — I think since 2006. That’s pretty much been our motivation.”

He was correct on the year. That also was the only time UAPB made the SWAC championship game, when it lost to Alabama A&M 22-13.

In preparing for Texas Southern (4-6, 2-6), Colton Jones said the Lions have treated each day this week like any other day with “extra emphasis” on winning and not missing any assignments on the field.

The Lions’ defense has a big assignment in stopping the SWAC’s third- and fourth-leading rushers in Martin Gilbert (82.2 yards) and Marcus Wright (68.4). Gilbert is second in the conference with 11 touchdowns, one ahead of Stephen Jones.

UAPB senior Adrian Moore and Jones will need strong performances to break down the Tigers’ top-ranked defense. The Tigers have only allowed 64.5 yards on the ground per game this season.

A good game and a new haircut could go together just fine for Stephen Jones.

“I just like to do different stuff and I wanted to do something different for the end of the season — we’ll possibly have (another) game,” he said. “I just want to finish out with a bang. I’m looking forward to a victory this weekend.”

Take a Kid to the Game Day

Youths in grades kindergarten through 12th will be admitted to today’s Texas Southern at UAPB football game for free with a paying adult.

Today is “Take a Kid to the Game Day” at UAPB, in conjunction with the NCAA.