Stephen F. Austin seeking more balance in 2017

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(STATS) - Call it the rubber match as Stephen F. Austin gets set to conclude spring practice Saturday night with its annual Purple & White game at Homer Bryce Stadium in Nacogdoches, Texas.

The Lumberjacks' offense held the upper hand in the team's first scrimmage of the spring, but the defense answered in the second scrimmage.

Excellent balance from both sides of the ball is important for SFA because the Southland Conference race appears particularly strong this year.

The Lumberjacks feel they're ready for it after finishing 5-6 overall and 4-5 in the conference last season.

"(Strength) Coach (Dan) Eason and his staff put the team through a physically and mentally rigorous offseason with the goal of adding some toughness," said coach Clint Conque, who enters his fourth season.

TCU transfer Foster Sawyer and returnees Ryan Cottingame and Jake Blumrick seek to replace three-year starting quarterback Zack Conque, the coach's son. The defense struggled last season, but the Lumberjacks have a new coordinator in Jeff Byrd, who arrived from UT Martin.

They'll have to be ready from the start this season as they open at SMU (Sept. 2) and host Southern Utah (Sept. 9) before playing the nine-game Southland schedule.