With seven weeks to go before the 87th "Battle of the Piney Woods" at Reliant Stadium in Houston October 6, GoBearkats.com presents the next installment of"Great Performances" in Piney Woods history.
Sam Houston 31, Stephen F. Austin 17
Outstanding individual performances have highlighted a number of "Battle of the Piney Woods" showdowns between Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin.
Among the most memorable of these games was the 1987 meeting during both the Bearkats and the Jacks' first season in the Southland Conference.
Quarterback Reggie Lewis, who would set Sam Houston total offense marks that would stand another two decades, led the Bearkats to a 31-17 victory before 15,532 fans at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches.
"Three words could sum up this game," SFA head coach Jim Hess said. "Reggie, Reggie, Reggie! He is simply a fantastic player and he made the difference today."
Lewis ran and threw for 318 yards and one touchdown as Sam Houston defeated Stephen F. Austin a fourth straight time in the 62nd Piney Woods war.
Lewis carried 13 times for 70 yards and completed 13 of 19 passes for 248 more before a Home Sports Entertainment (HSE) regional television audience.
The senior hit tight end Ricky Eggletson on a 46-yard touchdown pass to put Sam Houston's first points on the board. He also darted 41 yards to set up the Kats' second TD.
Senior tailback Luther Turner tied a school record four touchdowns in one season (15) on a six-yard run late in the second quarter. Turner broke the record with his 16th TD of the year on an eight-yard run with 9:25 to play. Before the year was out Turner would score 20 touchdowns, a record that still stands.
Sam Houston's defense shut out SFA the final 30 minutes, giving up just 81 yards and four first downs in the final 30 minutes. Turner picked up 69 yards rushing on 21 carries. Eggleston grabbed four passes for 134 yards and with a long of 50.
The 31-17 victory over the Jacks was the third triumph in a five-game winning streak that closed the 1987 season for head coach Ron Randleman and the Bearkats.
Sam Houston ended the season with an 8-3 record. For the second year in a row, the Bearkats ended the year ranked among the top 20 in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision's national rankings. The Kats stood No. 16 in the final rankings, finishing as runner-up in the 1987 Southland race with a 5-1 mark.
Lewis completed his four-year career with 5,150 yards total offense. The quarterback had a hand in 40 touchdowns, throwing for 30 scores and running for 10 more. He totaled 4,269 yards in the air. Lewis's career record stood until Oklahoma transfer Rhett Bomar rolled up 6,159 career total offense yards in 2007 and 2008.
Lewis, Turner and Eggleston were among seven members of the 1987 Bearkat squad who received All-America honors during their Sam Houston careers. Others included linebacker Lish Adams, defensive back Billy Anderson, punter Bart Bradley, defensive end Andre Finley and offensive lineman Floyd George.
While winning four "Piney Woods" games in the four seasons from 1984 to 1987, coach Randleman's Bearkats rolled up a 33-12 record, won two conference titles and finished as league runners-up the other two years in one of the most successful four-year runs in Sam Houston history.
The next chapter in the "Battle of the Piney Woods" football rivalry sees Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin battle at Reliant Stadium in Houston Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.
Crowds of more than 25,000 have packed the lower bowl at Reliant each of the past two years and tickets are going fast.
Battle of the Piney Woods Tickets are now on sale through the university's athletic website. Fans also can purchase tickets at the Sam Houston athletic ticket office located in the Ron Mafrige Field House in the south end zone at Bowers Stadium or by calling ticket office at (936) 294-1729.