Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
Photos by Patsy Collier-Lamar
First, it was a 5-0 start, then a spot on both the SBN poll and the AFCA top 25.But the history making for Morehouse didn’t stop there. At or around 3pm Sunday, November 14, Morehouse College football players watched ESPN and then erupted with cheers, whistles and claps when they learned that they would enjoy a “second season” as the sixth seed in this year’s NCAA Division II playoffs. The placement avenges last year when the school was nudged out of the post –season by West Alabama to capture the final slot.
Morehouse was one of two HBCUs to finish in the top six of the NCAA’s Super Region II poll. Albany State, one of few colleges black or white to finish with a perfect 10-0 mark, enjoys a first round bye with second best Valdosta State and await the outcome of Morehouse’s game with North Carolina’s Wingate College. If Morehouse can make it to round 2, they will get a second chance to avenge their 13-12 homecoming loss to Mike White’s Rams which came close to devastating the Maroon elevens.
The mood among the “men”of Morehouse last Sunday was much more celebratory when the announcement aired. That was followed by some encouraging reminders from Morehouse Athletic Director Andre Pattillo. “I told you on day one of practice that this was a special team. From the very day that you arrived on this campus in August, you have worked very hard. Now, what a heck of a pay day.”
Those comments were echoed by defensive lineman Derrin Nettles, a certain SBN All American and one of 11 seniors ecstatic that their final season at Morehouse has been extended. “This is a task I ‘ve been trying to achieve since I got here,” said the pre-season all conference pick from Montgomery Alabama who is an anticipated NFL draft pick next year. “I wanted us to win either the SIAC championship or go to the playoffs. We’ve achieved one of them.”
This will also be the first playoff appearance for the Wingate Bulldogs, who finished the regular season at 8-2 ,third place in the regionals and the championship of the South Atlantic conference. The 114 year old campus will also enjoy home field advantage by hosting the first round at their own Belk Stadium on campus just a 20 minute drive from Charlotte.
The pairings for the first round couldn’t have worked out better for Morehouse, says Head Coach Rich Freeman, “I really wanted that Wingate match-up because we had made a covenant with Wingate and did a film exchange a week ago. So I really wanted to play against them because we’re prepared for them. I didn’t want to be seeded anywhere else.”
This is the first time either team has been chosen for the NCAA D-2 playoffs since the pairings commenced 25 years ago. Morehouse did enjoy an additional game after their 1979 championship season when they were invited to play Central Florida following their capture of the SIAC Division III title under that year’s first year head Maurice “Mo” Hunt.
The playoff contest between Wingate and Morehouse will kick off at noon Saturday on the campus of Wingate College.
The SIAC narrowly missed making history by being the first HBCU conference to place three of their schools in the post-season. Fort Valley State, ranked seventh in the region was narrowed out when Delta State of Mississippi slid into the 5th slot just ahead of Morehouse. But Valley will have a second season via the Pioneer Bowl. The Wildcats will rep the conference and take on the Falcons of Saint Augustine's December 4 in Columbus, Georgia. ……
RUMOR AND SCUTTLEBUTT: Sources tell inside that the University of West Georgia in Carrollton made inquiries about joining the SIAC. Apparently, UWG has dumped plans to move up to Division one. They, like other schools with the same dreams, found the expense just a little much….
Did the Gulf South conference approach Albany State about joining up? INSIDE was told that the Rams turned down the offer, Smart…….
No word from Miles College about the replacement for former Head Coach Billy Joe. I’d like to think that President French will reach 97 miles to Selma Alabama and bring Concordia College’s Shepherd Skanes into the fold. But the latest scuttlebutt has former Fort Valley head coach Deondra Clark on the short list……