Grid season down to last three games
New coaches look to put finishing touches on great seasons at Pioneer Bowl IX
With the ouster of the Black College Sports Page's
top teams from the NCAA playoffs (see HOW THEY DID IT), attention now turns to the final
three games of the 2006 football season.
The first is the 9th Annual Pioneer Bowl
pitting teams from the two NCAA Div. II black college conferences to
be played Saturday in Charlotte's Memorial Stadium.
SIAC runner-up Tuskegee (8-3) will be matched against
CIAA West Division runner-up Johnson C.
Smith (7-3) in the 1 p.m. contest.
Grambling State and Alcorn State close out their SWAC regular season Saturday afternoon in Grambling.
There's a two-week wait before West Division champ
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-3) and East Division winner
Alabama A&M (8-3) square off Dec. 16 in Birmingham in the
9th SWAC Championship Game at Legion Field, the
final game of the 2006 season.
There's a lot at stake for both teams in the SIAC vs. CIAA matchup
Saturday in Charlotte. For starters, both Tuskegee head coach
Willie Slater and JCSU head coach Daryl McNeill
are trying to put the finishing touches on turnaround
Slater is in the final throes of a successful first season after taking over
from Rick Comegy, who led the Golden Tigers to ten dominant years of SIAC
play before resigning to take the head coaching job at
The only thing Slater did not do this season was win the SIAC title
that Comegy captured four times in his ten-year tenure. Even Comegy didn't do it
in his first year. But Slater did get several big wins that should put him in
good stead with the TU faithful.
Slater's troops handed four-time SIAC champ
Albany State its only conference loss of the season, 17-10 on
Oct. 21. He also guided the Tigers to a big 55-29 win over
Morehouse in the 71st renewal of their storied rivalry. And just
last week, he led TU to a its third straight win over another in-state rival,
Alabama State, at the 83rd annual Turkey Day Classic
on Thanksgiving Day in Montgomery, 24-17.
What he didn't do was beat Miles, a 31-20 loss, or
Clark Atlanta, a 10-6 loss that cost them the SIAC title. All-in-all,
he did well to get the Tigers back to the Pioneer Bowl, where they have played
six times under Comegy, winning four.
McNeill's task was perhaps even more daunting. He had to stop a 24-game
Golden Bulls' losing streak, the longest in the nation at the time, ten of which
came during his winless 2005 first season.
He dispensed with the losing streak quickly, winning the first two games of
the season, and went on to post six single-digit wins out of the seven games they
won. Two of the losses, to Bowie State
(14-13) and St. Augustine's (15-9) were also
by single-digits before a 52-7 blowout loss to CIAA champ
N. C. Central ended the season.
Wideout Marquis Belton has been the Golden Bulls' chief offensive
weapon with 797 receiving yards and 5 TDs. Belton also doubles as a dangerous punt
returner. DeAudra Dix, who also plays
defensive back, was among the nation's leaders
(6th, 29.4 ypr.) in kick returns.
Tuskegee won its last three games after the loss to Clark Atlanta with
QB Kevin Huff averaging right at 300 yards of total offense per game and providing
the offensive spark. Huff, the preseason all-SIAC QB, struggled early in the season as he adjusted to the
new schemes implemented by Slater. Backup QB Jacary
Atkinson was switched to wide receiver and became one of Huff's
key targets towards the end of the season. Senior placekicker
Roosevelt Echeverry led the SIAC in kick scoring with 61 points.
© 2006 Azeez Communications, Inc.