No matter which of the four black college conferences you favor or fancy, critical showdowns are on tap Saturday in each as races speed toward exciting finishes.
The races in both the East and West Divisions of the SIAC have come down to the final week of the regular season. In the East, Fort Valley State (5-3) and Albany State (5-3) have identical 3-0 division records and will hook up in Columbus, Ga.’s Fountain City Classic Saturday (2:30 p.m.), their traditional season-ending battle, for the division title. In the West, it’s Tuskegee (8-1) and Miles (5-4), both with 4-0 division marks, who will tangle at Tuskegee’s homecoming (1 p.m.) for that division’s title.
The winners will meet next week (Nov. 14) in the league’s championship game in Montgomery, Alabama. Albany State sports the conference’s leading rusher in junior running back Jarvis Small (109.9 ypg.) and its passing and total offense leader in junior quarterback Caleb Edmonds (158.5 passing ypg., 184.2 total ypg.). Small also leads the league with 10 touchdowns. Tavarius Washington (7.4 tackles per game) is the top defender.
Fort Valley State counters with passing efficiency leader (143.4), senior quarterback Malcolm Eady (10 TDs, 2 ints.), and the receptions (3.8 per game) and receiving yardage (68.5 ypg.) leader in senior Jevon Bell. Junior defensive back Tracey White (7 interceptions) and senior linebacker Stefon Harper (8.1 tackles per game) are defensive leaders. FVSU averages 27.8 points per game, second best in the conference, while giving up 22.0 ppg. Albany State is fourth in scoring at 22.0 ppg. while surrendering 16.6 points, second in the league. The Golden Rams lead the league in rushing defense (87.2 ypg.).
Tuskegee is on top of about every conference team statistic leading in scoring (31.1 ppg.), scoring defense (14.7 ppg.), total offense (331.6 ypg.) and total defense (252.2 ypg.). Junior QB Kevin Lacey (145.1 passing ypg., 9 TDs, 8 ints.) and senior RB Dennis Norfleet (62.3 rushing ypg., 124.7 all-purpose ypg.) lead the offense. Senior linebacker Jewell Ratliff, the conference leader in tackles (11.8 per game), and sophomore backer Osband Thompson (7.9 tackles per game) lead the defense. Miles is led by junior QB David Whipple (121.4 passing ypg., 6 TDs, 5 ints.) and junior RB Jamarcus Nance (75.7 ypg., 7 TDs). Senior lineman Braysean Jones averages 5.9 tackles per game to lead the Golden Bears.
After overtime losses Saturday, Fayetteville State and Winston-Salem State will head into their match-up Saturday in Winston-Salem (1:30 p.m.) with identical 4-2 conference records and tied for first in the South Division. The winner of the game advances to the Nov. 14 league championship game in Durham to face North Division winner Bowie State. FSU has the top passing attack in the league led by QB Derek Bryant’s 270 yards per game and 23 touchdowns. But Bryant has also thrown 11 interceptions.
Receivers Chris Hubert (80.1 ypg.) and Tavon Gatlin (79.2 ypg.), both with 11 receiving TDs, are his top receiving threats. The Broncos are rushing for only 86 yards per game (9th) and scoring 31.6 points per game, third in the league. WSSU is scoring only 20.6 points per game (9th) and is led by QB Rod Tinsley (144 passing ypg., 9 TDs, 9 ints.). The Rams are one of the better running teams in the league at 156 ypg. (5th) led by Tyree Massey’s 78.7 yards per game (4th) with five TDs.
In the MEAC, the showdown is in Orangeburg, S. C. where BCSP No. 7 South Carolina State (5-3, 4-1 MEAC), one of three teams with one loss in league play behind first-place and BCSP No. 1 North Carolina A&T, entertains (1:30 p.m.) the Aggies (7-1, 5-0). Both the A&T and SCSU defenses are stout. All-American defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (8.5 sacks, 1st) is the central point of the Bulldog. Linebackers Reggie Owens (6.5 sacks, 2nd), Dayshawn Taylor (6.9 tackles per game) and Darius Leonard (6.2 tpg.) are the other defensive leaders.
A&T’s gang-tackling crew is surprisingly led by defensive back Tony McRae’s 4.6 tackles per game. A&T is the MEAC scoring leader (34.8 ppg.), and also leads in total defense (267.4 ypg.), rushing offense (187.6 ypg.) and rushing defense (85.0 ypg.). SC State leads in scoring defense (14.9 ppg.) and is right behind the Aggies in total defense (289.5 ypg.) but has the top passing defense (145.2 ypg.).
A&T alternates senior Kwashaun Quick with redshirt freshman Marcus Raynard at quarterback. Quick is more of the runner with Raynard the passer. Junior Tarik Cohen leads the league in rushing (118.6 ypg.) and is 54 yards away from his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. He also tops the league with 12 touchdowns and 9.0 points per game. Denzel Keyes (31 receptions, 7 TDs) is the top receiving threat.
True freshman QB Caleb York has ably led the Bulldog offense passing for 1,524 yards with 11 TDs and just five interceptions. Senior Jalen Simmons (78.6 ypg.) is the top rusher. Taquan West (32 rec., 3 TDs) is the top receiving threat. Both teams have dangerous kick returners and special teams players. A&T’ WR/KR Khris Gardin leads the conference and is second in the FCS in punt return TDs (2) and is second in punt returns (23.7 ypr.). SCSU DB/KR Antonio Hamilton has both a kickoff and punt return TD. A&T’s Cody Jones (7.4 ppg.) and SCSU’s Tyler Scandrett (5.6 ppg.) are 2-3 in MEAC kick scoring. The other two second-place teams are also in action. Bethune-Cookman (7-2, 5-1) is hosting Morgan State (3-4, 3-2) in Daytona Beach (4 p.m.) while North Carolina Central (5-3, 4-1) hosts Delaware State (0-8, 0-5) in Durham, N. C (2 p.m.).
The big game in the SWAC has BCSP No. 4 and East Division leader Alcorn State (5-2, 5-1 SWAC E) hosting (2 p.m.) No. 5 Prairie View A&M (5-2), 5-1), a game behind West leader Grambling State, in a showdown of two of the leagues top scoring teams and title contenders. Prairie View, with dynamic junior QB Trey Green (291.8 passing ypg.) at the controls and all-purpose yardage leader Johnta Hebert (200.6 ypg.), tops the league in total offense (491.3 ypg.) and scoring at 45.2 points per game.
Alcorn State leads in scoring (22.9 ppg.) and total defense (282.7 ypg.) while scoring at a 39.3 points per game clip, third in the league. John Gibbs Jr., normally leads the offense but went out last week vs. Southern with an injury. Sophomore Lenorris Footman filled in and rushed for 274 yards and four TDs in the 48-7 win. Alcorn senior RB Darryn Ragsdale is second in the league in rushing (84.7 ypg., 5 TDs). The Braves lead the league with a whopping 279.7 rushing yards per game. Prairie View is third in that category at 182.3 ypg.