|Is this the year for a Raleigh team title?|
|Published Thursday, August 29, 2019|
Shaw hasn’t returned to the CIAA championship game since 2010, and St. Augustine’s has never been since reinstating football in 2001. Can either team break through? The Tribune previews the CIAA South.
Fayetteville State (6-3)
After going seven straight seasons without a division title, the Broncos have now won two in a row. They’ve also lost both times in the championship game.
The last time FSU won three straight division titles was 2002-04 under the late Kenny Phillips. The team went 2-1 in the championship during that stretch: defeating Bowie State and Virginia Union back-to-back before losing to Shaw.
Only one of the Broncos’ six wins was against a winning team. They also had two cancellations due to Hurricane Matthew: Benedict and Elizabeth City State.
But so far, FSU has been the only team to capitalize on the weaker South. The team lost to archrival Winston-Salem State, 51-21, in its regular season finale, but had the division title already wrapped up.
Coach Richard Hayes says they plan to “move from contender to champion” this season.
Leading the charge is redshirt senior quarterback Collyn Anderson, who passed for 1,541 yards and 10 touchdowns versus 7 interceptions. Anderson will have veteran hands to hand the ball off to in senior tailback Stevie Green. The Washington, North Carolina, native averaged over 100 yards last season and finished with 1,047 yards and 6 TDs.
But the most important man on offense may be offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Maurice Flowers who returns to the position and could be the puzzle piece to get FSU over the hump.
The Broncos open the season September 7 against Benedict.
Winston-Salem State (5-4)
Kienus Boulware is out. Robert Massey is in.
Massey was named interim head coach after Boulware was fired in April. Boulware vowed to appeal his dismissal, but, so far, nothing has changed. Massey last head coached at Shaw from 2012-15.
The Rams haven’t missed two consecutive championship games since going dry from 2002-10.
Gone are star RB Kerrion Moore and his 848 yards and 16 TDs, and QBs Rod Tinsley Jr. and Emiere Scaife. That had put the offense on the young shoulders of sophomore QB Dominique Graves who completed 59.4% of his passes. But Graves also gave as good as he got, throwing four TDs but also four INTs.
However, Massey snagged an early Christmas present when North Carolina Central graduate QB Naiil Ramadan transferred over last month. Ramadan can run as well as pass and gives the offense some much needed experience.
Senior free safety Daryus Skinner was the only Ram to earn preseason all-conference. The defense allowed over 300 total offensive yards, but WSSU was still in the title hunt until losing to Shaw late in the season.
Can WSSU put the drama behind it for another division title run? The answer begins on September 5 at UNC Pembroke.
Prognosticators weren’t convinced by the Bears second-place finish last season, picking them to finish third in the division. That didn’t sit too well with coach Adrian Jones. “Predictions are made, we’re about results,” Jones said. “We’ll be playing this season with a chip on our shoulder.”
Shaw hadn’t finish at .500 or above since a 6-4 mark in 2013.
The return of senior standout linebacker Devon Hunt, above, alone should have put the Bears up another notch on the totem pole.
Hunt finally got his due after being named the 2018 CIAA defensive player of the year. He led the conference in tackles (98 total, 15.5 tackles for loss), was the team leader in sacks (4) and averaged almost 10 tackles a game.
His prowess earned him the nickname “Human GPS” by TV broadcaster Stan Lewter because he always knows where the ball is. “I want to be a playmaker and just get to the ball,” Hunt said.
Shaw lost four of its first five games but rebounded to win four of its last five, including that all-important showdown against archrival St. Augustine’s.
With the departure of QB Keon Marsh, Jones says senior Vidal Woodruff will take over the starting role. Woodruff played in four games last season.
He should get plenty of time to hit veteran targets Marquis Gorham and Malik Odom. “This is the best offensive line we’ve had,” Jones said. “They know what it feels like to win.”
Can Shaw finally put it all together under Jones? The season begins September 7 at Campbell.
The Blue Bears last winning season was 5-4 in 2015. But injuries and even a sickness by coach Daryl Williams have thwarted attempts at a consistent rebound.
LC has a new athletics director in Lamonte Massie-Sampson but who is not new to the program. The Blue Bears lost five of their last six contests, but that one win was against rival Johnson C. Smith in the all-important Commemorative Classic.
LC returns 16 starters (7 offense, 9 defense). Williams has depth in the QB position with junior returnees Xavier Longerbeam and Alexis Archie. Also in camp is freshman Miles Hayes and sophomore Ryan Williams.
"Depth at the quarterback position and finding some playmakers at wide receiver were things we knew we had to accomplish this spring, and we are pleased with how both young quarterbacks improved," Williams said.
The Blue Bears open the season September 7 at Clark Atlanta.
St. Augustine’s (2-7)
Shaw isn’t the only one expecting a breakout season.
“This is the best recruiting year I’ve ever had,” said coach Tim Chavous who enters his fourth full season as head coach. “We’re going to prove the CIAA wrong by picking us fourth in the South.”
The Falcons return 23 players plus 12 junior college transfers, and numerous freshmen. One of those freshmen is QB D’Ontre Gilliard of Holly Hill, South Carolina, who is the projected starter. If Gilliard gets the jitters, he can turn to senior RB Jeremiah Miller, who’s led the team in rushing for two straight seasons.
“The depth chart won’t determine our season with guys getting injured,” Chavous said.
Defense has been a staple of St. Aug’s, though last season was mired with injuries. Sophomore linebacker Joseph Harris made a name for himself as a freshman with 58 tackles and two interceptions. He will lead a unit with six returning starters.
Chavous said he intentionally scheduled tough nonconference games to get his team conference ready. The Falcons open the season September 7 at Lenoir-Rhyne.
Johnson C. Smith (2-8)
Coach Kermit Blount is 11-29 in four seasons at Smith.
Junior QB Antonio Wallace returns after throwing for 1,344 yards, 10 TDs and 9 INTs. Wallace will have a veteran secondary with senior wide receivers Desmond Dozier and Miles Kelly, not to mention senior RB Braxton Gambrell in the backfield.
But JCSU needs to be able to stop somebody, too. The defense allowed 36 points per game and almost 400 yards of total offense. Key returnees are senior cornerback Lorez Taylor, and defensive backs Jahvez Mitchell and Tyki Lawson-Oates.
The Golden Bulls host Wingate on September 5.
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