Saturday, December 5, 2015

Grambling, Alcorn State Battle for SWAC Title and Berth in the Celebration Bowl

(photo by The Vicksburg Post)
Saturday's SWAC Championship football game is a game that both Grambling and Alcorn State have been looking forward to, but for very different reasons.

Both teams are looking to claim the SWAC title, which for Alcorn State, would be their second in a row.  The winner will also play in the inaugural Celebration Bowl, which pits the SWAC champion versus the MEAC champion on Dec. 19.

But the Braves have had problems with a Grambling football team that has been on a steady climb since the dreadful days of 2013 when the team lost most football games and even boycotted a game because of the horrible conditions of their football facilities.

They've been the most consistent team in the SWAC for the past two years, the only main bump in losing a close battle last year to Southern that would have put them in last year's title game.

This season, the Tigers are 9-2, have won nine games in a row, and most importantly, they've defeated Alcorn State two years in a row.

They have SWAC Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Johnathan Williams who has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 36 touchdowns this season for the SWAC's second best offense.  The 34 points they scored last week was the fewest they've scored this season, besides the 14 points they had against Pac-10 team California in their opening game loss.

But they are the second best offense in the SWAC.  The top offensive team is Alcorn State.

The Braves averaged nearly 45 points and 487 yards of offense a game this season and are led by Ragsdale Darry, a rusher who only 44 yards from the 1,000 yard mark this season and has run for seven touchdowns.  But they have questions at quarterback as Footman Lenorr has had to step in for injured star quarterback John Gibbs Jr., a dual passing and rushing threat.  Footman has been solid, but head coach Jay Hopson has been coy about who will start today.

"All that stuff will kind of be game time," Alcorn head coach Jay Hopson told the Monroe News Star.  "We will see how that all plays out."

Alcorn State also has the SWAC's stingiest defense, giving up only 270 yards and 21 points a game this year.

Overall defense isn't Grambling's strong suit, but they do have the SWAC's best defense against the rush.

That all came into play earlier this season when Grambling needed a blocked extra point on the last play of the game to hold off Alcorn State.

Besides winning the SWAC title for the second year in the row, Alcorn State wants to finally defeat their nemesis while Grambling is looking for that elusive SWAC championship.

"It has been a stellar year for your program," said Grambling's Brandon Fobbs, the SWAC Coach of the Year, to The Advocate.  "I felt very confident in our blueprint for success.  I'm very pleased with with what we've been able to accomplish, but we still have a few more steps to go.  We will definitely have our hands full with Alcorn."

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tuskegee Meets Old Playoff Foe West Georgia Saturday in NCAA Division II Football Playoffs Quarterfinals


Tuskegee is only a few steps away from a possible NCAA Division II championship game berth.  But that road winds its way 45 minutes west of Atlanta in Carrollton, Ga. where the Golden Tigers take on West Georgia in the Division II playoffs quarterfinal round Saturday.

Tuskegee (10-2) knocked off North Alabama in the waning seconds last Saturday in the playoffs' second round 35-31.

Now they face a West Georgia (11-1) team that is the top ranked team in Super Region Two bracket. Tuskegee is ranked sixth.  At stake is a place in the Division II playoffs semifinals.

It's the second consecutive year that the two teams meet in the D-2 playoffs.  Last year, Tuskegee lost a close 20-17, first-round game in Carrollton.

West Georgia had to come from behind last weekend to defeat rival Valdosta State 27-20.  But they are a team that has a strong running game with three players (Devontae Jackson - 910 yards; Lamarcus Franks - 339, and Aares McCall - 455) combined for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground this season. Quarterback Dallas Dickey has thrown for 1,721 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 529 yards and four touchdowns.

The rushing stats are big because Tuskegee is 9-1 when they hold opposing offenses to under 150 yards rushing this season. They've held opponents to an average of 110 yards rushing per game this season.

On defense, the Wolves have only allowed 15.3 points a game and are led by Dylan Donahue who has 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss this season while Marlon Chapman led the team with 66 tackles.

With last season's loss fresh on their minds, Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater's team is hungry and ready.

"I haven't forgotten about last year," senior receiver Travis Hawkins told The Montgomery Advertiser.  "Definitely motivated, definitely hungry.  They're the team everybody's trying to beat. They're on top.  I don't think many people are expecting us to win, and that's how I like it.  But I know I'm ready. I know my team's ready and I'm excited to play them."

"We're playing a team, I feel like one of the best teams in the whole country," Slater told the Advertiser.  "But as crazy as it sounds, we're kind of excited about it.  They have like 26 Division I players, guys that've played Division I football.  So that's what we're up against.  Which makes our kids excited because they get a chance to play against the best and see how good they really are.  I think we have some good players too.  It's going to be an interesting game."

Kickoff in Carrolton is at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Tuskegee Tops Final 2015 ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT Division II Top Ten Football Poll; Crowned As AHSR HBCU D-2 National Champions


While some teams finished playing nearly a month ago, Tuskegee is still on the field.

The Golden Tigers are still in a historic run in the NCAA Division II football playoffs, with a quarterfinal matchup against West Georgia tomorrow.

It continues a season in which they finish as the best Division II HBCU football team in America, according to the final ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT Division II Top Ten football poll for 2015.

The Golden Tigers only had two slip ups this year, a 29-17 loss to a strong UNC Pembroke team and a surprising 26-23 loss to Miles in their regular season finale, a game that determined who went to the SIAC championship game.  Miles eventually won the SIAC title.

Miles finished 7-5, but won the SIAC championship and defeated Tuskegee on the final day of the season to claim the No. 4 spot.  They started the season off losing three of their first four, but two of those losses were two of the best Division II teams in the country in North Alabama and West Georgia.  But the Golden Bears went on to win six in a row, the final game a win over sixth ranked Albany State in the SIAC championship.

Bowie State's stellar season was marred by the loss of star quarterback Matthew Goggan after he was ruled ineligible, but the Bulldogs kept winning.  They won seven in a row before losing to fifth ranked Winston-Salem State in the CIAA championship game.

Here is the entire 2015 ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT Division II Top Ten:

1) Tuskegee (10-2)
2) Bowie State  (9-3)
3) Virginia Union (8-3)
4) Miles (7-5)
5) Winston-Salem State (6-5)
6) Albany State (6-4)
7) Virginia State (6-4)
8) Fort Valley State (5-4)
9) Chowan (6-4)
10) Morehouse (5-5)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Late Tuskegee TD Lifts Golden Tigers Over North Alabama 35-31; Tuskegee Advances to NCAA D-2 Football Playoff Quarterfinals


Tuskegee nearly blew an 11-point, third quarter lead, but got a 2-yard Dennis Norfleet touchdown run with 19 seconds remaining to surprise North Alabama 35-31 in the NCAA Division II football playoffs Saturday.

Tuskegee's second round win, their first ever, moves them into the quarterfinals where they visit West Georgia Saturday in Carrolton, Ga.

In a game that close throughout, Tuskegee (10-2)  erased a 17-14 deficit in the third quarter with a Kevin Lacey touchdown pass and Branden Wilson touchdown run to go up 28-17.

North Alabama followed in the fourth quarter with a touchdown and two field goals, seemingly putting the game away with 3:54 left on their final field goal to go up 31-28.

Lacey shook off an interception from earlier in the final quarter to move the Golden Tigers downfield as time ticked away.  The biggest play in the drive was his 33-yard completion to Desmond Reese on third and 10 to get to the UNA two yard line. Norfleet scored the game-winner on the next play.

"That was probably the most confident pass I threw all day," Lacey said on  "Coach (Slater) made the call and we just had to execute.  I felt a little bit of butterflies through the game, but knew I had to execute to give us a chance."

Norfleet rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns while Lacey threw for 176 yards and a TD and rushed for another score.

The win avenges a close 30-27 first round Division II playoff loss to North Alabama in 2013.

"I am just tickled to be back up here," Slater said.  "It' is just great to be back in this area.  I am stunned and it is unbelievable the way the game ended.  My hats to our players. They played hard adn played with their hearts.  I am just happy for them."