“DEMONS WIN!”: Miracles in DemonLand as NW St. defeats Nicholls


Chris Reich

Demon Football holding the NSU trophy after defeating Nicholls.

“We found a way.”

Northwestern State University of Louisiana notched a come-from-behind victory in a 36-33 win over Nicholls State University on Oct. 1. In a stunning game against a rivaled opponent, the Demons kept their composure and came away with their first 2-0 start in Southland Conference play since 2005.

With the Demons down 33-21 late against the Colonels, quarterback Zachary Clement needed a spark to keep the Demons with momentum and have another chance at scoring. Then, one of the most miraculous sequences took place in Harry Turpin Stadium.

Wide receiver Javon Antonio was finding his footing earlier this season after returning to the field from last year’s injury-ridden season. Antonio and Clement, with 3:17 left to go in the game, went to work at just the right time.

After Nicholls extended their lead 33-21 from running back Julien Gums’ touchdown, Clement and company drove down the field with 9 plays and 65 yards in a minute and 43 football seconds. Antonio caught a pass for a 27-yard touchdown as the Demons shortened their deficit to 33-28.

In the ensuing kickoff, Eddie Godina set up an onside kick formation to hopefully take the ball and allow the Demons to score again. As fate would have it, the ball bounced off of one Nicholls player and the Demons recovered.

What happened next may have been one of the most miraculous plays Northwestern State has produced since the McNeese thriller game in 2018.

After the Demons recovered the onside kick, nine plays rolled through before Northwestern State started at fourth down and three with 12 seconds remaining. On the 10th play of the drive, Clement connected to Antonio on a 3-yard pass towards the corner of the end zone as Northwestern State took the lead 34-33 with nine seconds to go.

Clement would connect with Antonio again for a two-point conversion to make the score 36-33 Demons. After kicking off and stopping the Colonels from completing a Hail Mary throw as time expired, Northwestern State’s football team hoisted the wooden N-S-U trophy after six consecutive years without it.

For the first time in fifth-year head coach Brad Laird’s tenure with the Demons, his team went against the odds and beat a Nicholls team that has yet to find a win so far in 2022.

“To be on the sideline and watch these young men stay the course and kept fighting, kept believing and kept playing, 100 percent credit to their resiliency,” Laird said. “We found a way. We had enough time there at the end to be able to not only get the touchdown but then convert the 2-point play and get (defensive coordinator Weston) Glaser’s jumper team out there with Travon (Jones) and Javon.”

Clement finished the night with 327 passing yards and threw for three touchdowns in a wild night in DemonLand.

“I have faith in all of our receivers,” said Clement. “It’s a special receiver room. I know if I put it out there, we have a really good chance. They picked me up and made me look good.”

Antonio tallied 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns, with his longest reception tallied for 38 yards. To his credit, Antonio felt like a young Jazz Ferguson, who in 2018 secured a win over McNeese with a touchdown to end the game.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really living this moment right now.’ That was really exciting. I looked at the crowd and the coaches. When I looked at coach Laird, that’s what really turned me up.”

The Demons travel north to face Eastern Illinois in a Southland Conference-Ohio Valley Conference alliance on Oct. 8 at 2 p.m.