Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
Photos by Patsy Collier-Lamar
TUSKEGEE & MONTGOMERY, Ala- The state of Alabama was burning up with football fever last Saturday with two games; one played on the campus of Tuskegee University and then an evening tilt at another historic venue, the Cramton Bowl near downtown Montgomery.
The participating teams, Fort Valley, Kentucky State, Tuskegee and visiting Virginia State from Petersburg all had vested interests in the outcomes. As it turned out, Fort Valley became the fourth true champion of the six year old Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) championship game, beating Kentucky State University 33-30 in double overtime.
Earlier in the same afternoon, Virginia State beat Tuskegee 45-35 at Cleve Abbott Stadium before an estimated crowd of 3289. VSU penetrated the scoreboard first with a 23 yard field goal. Tuskegee responded at the top of the second period with a 16 yard pass from starting QB Kevin Lacey to Desmond Reece. The Golden Tigers went alead 7-3 but it would be their only lead of the ball game. The Trojans then scored three successive times, twice in the first and once more in the third period. The second and third TDs by VSU came on a 79 yard punt return by Marcus Vanhook and then a 75 yard kickoff return by the Trojans’ Trenton Cannon with only 13 seconds elapsed in the third period.
Tuskegee narrowed VSU’s 24-7 lead to 10 thanks to a pass from Jamarcus Ezell, who had relieved Lacey at QB, to Reece for 30 yards. Tuskegee would go on to score three more times in the second half but found themselves playing catch-up as VSU responded to each score with one of its own. Trailing 45-35 , the Golden Tigers got one last opportunity to score with 2:12 remaining in the contest. But on a 4th and 13 at the Trojan 47. Ezell’s pass was intercepted by VSU’s Bryce Bradley which iced it for the Trojans.
VSU Head Coach Reggie Barlow, the former Alabama State University pilot, said the trip to Alabama held a great deal of interest for the program. Finishing the 2016 grid season with a record of 9-2, Barlow accepted an offer from Tuskegee to come and play them as a tenth game the Golden Tigers needed to qualify for the Division II playoffs. Barlow felt a victory over TU might give them an opportunity to back-door their way into the playoffs . “We had played and beaten some Division II powerhouses and thought with our record, we would have a shot,” he told INSIDE following Saturday’s victory. “ The team really wanted to come further south to see how football is played here. “
The loss Saturday made Tuskegee squirm most of the night and on into Sunday until the afternoon televised announcement of the pairings for round one of the playoffs which begin this weekend. With an 8-1 mark, the Tigers made it to sixth place in the NCAA’s Super II region. The top seven finishers qualified for the so called “second season” which was also helped by South Carolina’s Newberry College knocking off Wingate 27-22 and moving the latter to 8th in the poll.
Tuskegee will visit Newberry Saturday afternoon< Kickoff time is 1pm. The host Wolves are no strangers to the SiAC. They have played four conference schools including Clark-Atlanta University and hold a 4-1 edge. Their only loss was to Stillman 35-7 in 2002.
Thirty minutes up Interstate 85 in Alabama’s state capitol, Fort Valley and Kentucky State were going after each other hot and heavy before a small but highly vocal crowd of just under 4000 at the Cramton Bowl which recently underwent a drastically needed makeover. The two teams tied three times during the 3:33 contest which wound down to a 24-24 tie at the end of regulation. The teams exchanged field goals which left the game tied until overtime period two. KSU then took a three point lead 30-27. But on their opportunity from the 25 yard line, Fort Valley quarterback Otis Brown managed to engineer a drive that ended with an 11 yard toss to junior running back Chauncey Jackson from Atlanta Georgia (Lovejoy High School) that gave the Wildcats the victory.”I saw that ball coming to me and I said to myself, I’m going to catch this ball if I have to grab it by my teeth.” said Jackson who also scored the Wildcats’ first touchdown of the game on a two yard run.
The win by Fort Valley and the trip that got them to the big dance was no snap. Fort Valley was starting 2016 with a new president Paul Jones and a new head coach, Kevin Porter. The team lost six of its first seven games this year. “ It’s been hard. The kids had just lost their coach and now haved a new one they didn’t see until training camp,” Porter told INSIDE.” “We worked them hard at the beginning of the season. We just wanted to see who was serious or wasn’t serious about playing. We streamlined the team from 95 to 70 players. Those guys came to work every day. They didn’t give up or turn on each other. We just kept telling them to keep practicing, keep playing and good things will happen.”
OTHER SIAC SCORES: Benedict closed out its 2016 grid season on a losing note. The Tigers lost to Point University of Georgia/Alabama 22-7 in Columbia, South Carolina. They finish the regular season at 5-6 overall but retain their 2-2 eastern division record and 4-3 conference mark which is good for third place in the conference.
XTRA POINTS: One of Fort Valley’s managers is a young freshman named Shaturah Ruth. That ordinarily wouldn’t grab my attention except that Shaturah is our (Hal and Patsy the INSIDE photog’s) granddaughter. Guess I’ll have to keep a closer eye on the sports doings of the Wildcats….Speaking of Fort Valley, their former men’s basketball coach, Michael Moore has had the interim wraps taken off and is now the head men’s basketball coach at Albany State University……..Speaking of basketball coaches, I wonder what former Fort Valley women’s basketball coach Lonnie Bartley is doing these days. There were strong rumors the retired hoop pilot was trying to get another coaching job.
Got an item? Contact Hal -> hallamar at comcast.net