by Hal Lamar
Tuskegee three-peats as SIAC Champ; Homecoming jinx ends for Savannah State
(SAVANNAH,GA.)—To the great surprise of no one really, Willie Slater’s Tuskegee elevens have three-peated as champs of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Their win over Kentucky State took care of that. The Goldens still have two games remaining on their 2008 plate that stands between it and a second national title and their third this decade.
The outlook is good (at least I think so) that they will emerge victorious from their homecoming tilt with Lane and their annual season finale against Alabama State. As of this November 2 writing, the Hornets were 2-6 overall but face two tough SWAC matches enroute to the 85th Gobble Day hookup in Montgomery. Tuskegee will have 19 days to get ready for the same game…..
The remaining challenge now in the SIAC is who will end up finishing second and third in the conference standings. This is quite important since the runner-up to Tuskegee might also qualify themselves for an invite to the NCAA Division II playoffs (I’ll have more to say about the playoffs later in this report)…
…One of the readers of this column e-mailed me last week to ask I stop putting ideas in the heads of other schools about snatching Slater away from Tuskegee. I don’t blame Skegee fans for wanting to hang on to the good thing they got but don’t blame other colleges if they covet the same coaching prize. And they don’t need me to put any ideas in their heads. They read the newspapers, Onnidan and other media too. “He’s happy here at Tuskegee,” said the e mailer. Well, I responded, if he is, fine. When he gets an offer from an NC A&T or other school, he can always say “no.”…..
In the last 10 years, Savannah State University’s football playing elevens have given fans little to cheer about and especially at homecoming. But at least the homecoming losing jinx which has hounded the Tigers for 6 of those 10 years is over. On November 1 before a large and partisan crowd, the Tigers’ offense woke up in the fourth period with two touchdowns and a field goal to beat the visiting Hornets of Selma Alabama’s Concordia College, 23-7.
The win was especially sweet for head coach Robby Wells’ gridders after their hairline 22-20 road loss to the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State University.
“I thank the Lord for this win,’ said Wells, in his first season ad SSU’s head coach. “I also want to give credit to this team and to my coaching staff. “ Likely, Wells swallowed hard in the second quarter when his starting signal caller Kurvin Curry was sidelined with an injury. Wells went to his bench for junior backup JoCorey Kilcrease who accounted well for himself completing 8 of his 11 passing attempts and rushing four times. More importantly, he managed to engineer those three scoring drives late in the fourth period that provided the winning margin.
It was a big lift for the team that got itself shut out the end zone three times in the first half by the Hornets and was forced to settle for two field goals to take a 6-0 lead into the locker room at the break.
“Coach just told us at halftime we were driving but not scoring,” said Kilcrease, a Macon Georgia native. “I told them to keep the faith and don’t get down on themselves,” added Wells. “ If we came unglued, we don’t have a chance.”
Concordia took the lead briefly after the break on a 12 play scoring drive that ended on a 7 yard r un to pay dirt. But Head Coach Shepherd Skanes said his defense simply had to stay on the field too long.
“We just couldn’t get off the field on third downs,” Skanes told INSIDE after the game.” We had a chance to put the nail in the coffin in the second half but they (SSU) came on strong . There wasn’t much we could do.”
But Skanes was justifiably proud of his Hornets who came to Savannah with a winning 5-4 record.
”I have non-scholarship athletes, walk-ons,” he said. “We are playing against schools with way more resources than we have and look at what we’ve managed to do. We have been ranked most of the season. I’m darn proud of my coaching staff and these athletes.”
Concordia finishes its 2008 season against Texas College this weekend while SSU, now playing ,500 at 4-4, has three games remaining…all of them on the road. The Tigers need to win two of those games to give the campus its first winning grid season in 10 years.
“ I‘m not really thinking about that “, said Wells.” Our next game is with Edward Waters. Let’s get ready for that.”
Shepherd Skanes, the head coach at Concordia College, has done a yeoman’s job with a football program that relies on walk-ins and few resources to make it happen. The Lutheran-backed college in historic Selma Alabama has only a few hundred students and its grid program is a fairly recent development . But they’ve done well for themselves as a member of the NAIA and aren’t afraid to schedule college football teams like Tennessee-Martin, Texas Southern,Webber International and West Alabama who,on paper at least, are better fixed.
“ They’ve got some talented athletes,” said Savannah State head coach Rob Wells. There was some talk In 2006 when INSIDE first met Skanes about Concordia making a bid to join the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference but little has been said of it since. What “Shep” has done with the ballclub these last handful of years should prompt the college to put more resources in the program. Whether it will or not remains to be seen. But if my sources are accurate, there may some coaching changes after the 2008 season and a school looking to improve their lot in 2009 should look in the direction of Skanes and his awesome staff….
Speaking of the SIAC, expansion is probably the last thing on the minds of this conference. The governing board known as the Council of Presidents has their hands full identifying resources to ease the bite they have had to put on its member schools to keep the conference doors open. It’s no surprise to this writer that the Pioneer Bowl has once again been suspended with promises to return the following year. The Heritage Bowl promised the same thing and then quietly joined the rising heap of HBCU post season games that died on the vine. My concern right now is what the NCAA might do about the sanctioning aspect? Could they reach in and yank the sanctioning rights away? When the late SIAC Commissioner Wallace Jackson came up with the idea of this post season contest, he got it through the NCAA kudzu by selling it as the only Division II post season game… period. Think about this. What other sanctioned post season Division II grid event is there besides the Pioneer? It’s valuable and needs to be protected…….
INSIDE was the recent special guest of a Nashville Tennessee radio show hosted by Fisk University athletic director William Head. I got to know Head in the late 70s when he ran the defense for Morris Brown College of Atlanta. Among the issues we discussed was one he and I have talked about for years….the need for HBCUs to spurn the NCAA playoffs and in lieu establish one of their own to determine a true, not mythical, black college national champ. In 30 years of Division IAA playoffs, there has been only one HBCU champ. And few of our schools have gotten past the first round since. None have made it to the brass ring in Division II and only a bare handful have made it to the second tier. The so called major colleges have talked about establishing a playoff bracket for years but there is a fat chance of that so long as the Bowl games continue to be the cash cows they are. The HBCU playoffs could once again be a pioneer in this and generate serious interest and revenues for all the schools…..
PS-I have always been curious about who’s under those uniforms of Bears, Lions and Tigers mascots. So while in Savannah, I decided to find out. Their Tiger, who prances up and down the sidelines for four straight quarters, is freshman DeShawn Lowe. He is a music major from Augusta, Georgia where he attended Glenn Hills High School.
INSIDE’S SIAC PREDICTIONS THIS WEEK
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