Four CIAA teams kickoff this weekend with an important interconference matchup as the headliner. One-time CIAA Heavyweight Fayetteville State hosts South Atlantic Contender Wingate with an opportunity to start building a strong 2007 resume at stake. Virginia State travels to Division II powerhouse, Carson-Newman. Johnson C. Smith looks to keep up its 2006 winning ways as it hosts Edward Waters. Shaw travels to face SIAC rival Miles.
GAME OF THE WEEK: WINGATE AT FAYETTEVILLE STATE: Over the past decade, FSU built itself into the CIAA’s dominant football program of the 2000’s. Then came last season’s fall from grace. After being picked as the favorite to win the CIAA West in 2006, FSU fell to an unceremonious 3-7. This season, the Broncos have once again been picked as a co-favorite to win the West. However, FSU will have its hands full with the Wingate Bulldogs. The Bulldogs were 8-2 in 2006 and missed the NCAA Playoffs by a hairstrand. This season, Wingate returns 12 starters from its 2006 unit including All-SAC performers in DL Kenwin Cummings and WR Gary Tatum. QB Brian Hardy will start under center for the Broncos. However, former All-CIAA performer Jay Autry still is waiting in the wings. Defensively, DB Donte Wise and LB Geron Harper will lead FSU. (6:00 p.m. at Fayetteville).
Players to watch: (Wingate: DL Kenwin Cummings, WR Gary Tatum, TE Brad Horne).
(Fayetteville State: DB Donte Wise, LB Geron Harper, QB Brian Hardy).
VIRGINIA STATE AT CARSON-NEWMAN (Thursday night): The Trojans open on the road at one of college football’s most respected programs in Carson-Newman. Head Coach Ken Sparks has a sparkling 259-62-2 record with the Eagles including 8-3 in 2006. However, C-N has missed the NCAA playoffs the last three seasons. The Eagles have been anointed as the favorites to win the South Atlantic Conference and with 16 starters returning will be formidable in 2007. VSU, despite suffering a 3-7 record in ‘06, played the Eagles well last season. The Trojans nearly pulled off the upset of Carson-Newman before falling 27-24 in Petersburg. Offensively, VSU returns outstanding talent in Quarterbacks Michael Terry and Lamar Blizzard. Receivers Davian Richard and Jerome Choice will be the primary targets for Terry and Blizzard. Also, outstanding RB Nick Fleming returns after missing all of 2006 due to injury. (7:00 p.m. at Jefferson City, TN).
Players to watch: (Carson-Newman: RB Alex Rouse, WR Reggie Hubbard, DL Eric Rice). (Virginia State: DB Anthony Hailstock, QB Michael Terry, RB Nick Fleming).
EDWARD WATERS AT JOHNSON C. SMITH: The surprise story of 2006 was undoubtedly Johnson C. Smith. After going over two seasons without a win, the Golden Bulls posted a 7-4 record and went to the Pioneer Bowl. JCSU looks to continue their winning ways and perhaps play host to the CIAA Championship Game on November 10. Defensively, the Golden Bulls were one of the league’s best defenses. However, its linebacking corps, the backbone of the ‘06 defense was hit hard by graduation. All-America candidate DB De’Audra Dix returns to provide leadership. JCSU will be led offensively by QB Carlton Richardson and RB Marco Kirven. (6:00 p.m. at Charlotte).
Players to watch: (Johnson C. Smith: QB Carlton Richardson, OL Rashan Curry, DB De’Audra Dix).
SHAW AT MILES: Shaw, the 2004 CIAA Champ, like FSU looks to bounce back from a 3-7 campaign in 2006. Key contributors will be WR James Pettway and DB Pierre Reeves. SIAC Contender Miles provides an outstanding test for the newly rebuilt Bears. (6:00 p.m. at Birmingham, AL).