Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
Photos by Patsy Collier-Lamar
Can Fort Valley Take The Conference Crown in 2017?
ATLANTA-The Wildcats of Fort Valley State University, hometown Peach County Georgia, return to face Tuskegee in the championship game of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) for the first time since they lost the grand game 55-24 in 2012 to ( guess who?) the ‘ole Golden Tigers at Lakewood stadium. Under then head coach Donald Pittman, the Wildcats kept the game close in the first period until TU opened up behind a heavy offensive performance and began pulling away. The 2012 game was the first for both Tuskegee and Fort Valley . Five years have brought huge changes to both schools. Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater was there in 2012 .This Saturday, he faces Fort Valley’s Kevin Porter who is celebrating only his second year as the Wildcats’ head coach and when he got town, he hit the ground running without stopping to unpack. In 2016,though, his rookie year in the conference, Porter faced tough times, losing five of the team’s first games of the season. The Wildcats rebounded, winning their last four which included the conference’s eastern division championship and the school’s first SIAC championship 33-30 over Kentucky State in two overtimes.
This year, it initially appeared that the lightning of losing which struck the Wildcats the previous year would elude popular thinking and strike….and on the same campus! There were the first two losses to West Georgia and Miles. The second scheduled game of the year with Valdosta State in Waycross Georgia was cancelled. Then came the first win of the year, a conference and division clash with Benedict that the ‘Cats won in 2 OTS ( this game got the Wildcats into the playoffs for this year’s championship), a loss outside the conference to Southern University and then four critical victories which sealed their trip to the championship game ( which they are playing at their own stadium. (Do I smell home field advantage?).
Tuskegee, as I hope Valley realizes, will be no snap. Tuskegee lost two games during the regular season, including that 61-0 shellacking to Findlay University of Ohio on the road. After that, the other six opponents had to suffer, including their final do- or- die game which ‘Skegee “did” via a 50-20 victory.
So who will leave Fort Valley Saturday evening with the conference trophy? I’ll give my thoughts in a minute,
MEANWHILE IN THE REST OF THE CONFERENCE: What in the heck happened to Clark-AU last weekend against Morehouse? If you haven’t heard (likely since I hear nothing about our schools here on local radio), or seen (local TV blacks us out too) but will read through this web site and columnists like me, ”‘Dean” Lut Williams, NC A&T journalism student Ashley Lambert, and Alvin Hollins) CAU was shut out 40-0 by Morehouse, cross –campus rival from the Atlanta University Center. I checked the stats to see if perhaps Morehouse’s seven pillars of concretel known as the defensive line got to CAU quarterback Johnathan McCrary. I checked his stats. He once again threw for over 200 yards(215 to be exact). But then in the next column I saw what REALLY happened. He threw three interceptions but was sacked 7 times. Morehouse defensive coordinatorGeorge Copeland’s “pillars” got to him!!! On the other side of the oval, Morehouse’s senior quarterback Kivon Taylor threw for 166 yards but made many of them count with 4 touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks……..
A big second half allowed Tuskegee to pull away from Miles and win 50-20. Despite being sacked three times, Tuskegee quarterback Jamarcus Ezell managed to pass for 154 yards, throwing two touchdowns and rushing for another. The loss prevented the Golden Bears from advancing to the conference championship a third time…….
Albany State lost out on another trip to the conference title game but still managed to defeat Fort Valley 34-9 at Columbus Georgia’s Fountain City Classic. 13,391 attended ……..
Good thing Central State won their homecoming this year. That was it in the winner’s circle for the Marauders. Lane College, which unfortunately fared little better in the W-L column, managed to win their season finale 28-20. Junior Marcus Reynolds threw for 205 yards and scored twice, one in the air, the other on the ground…….
Three years ago when Benedict Athletic Director Willie Washington hired longtime Albany State head coach James “Mike” White to do the coaching for the South Carolina Tigers, most thought it the wrong move and that the ole vet was too far over the hill for the job. But Washington didn’t agree. He once told me he wanted someone “who could hit the ground running”. Initially, it didn’t look good. The first two of his now four year stint with Benedict wasn’t too swift. In fact, he suffered a second season of pain when his elevens went 0-10. Had Washington stepped on his own foot- ball? Maybe not. Washington proved he had more guts and courage than a riverboat gambler. He hung with his selection and in 2016, it began paying off. Benedict went 5-6 overall but had a winning conference mark of 5-4. And this year was the best for Benedict and Big Mike since 2008. The team went 7-2 overall, 5-1 in the conference, 3-1 in the eastern division of the SIAC and, but for the loss to Fort Valley back in September which took 2 overtimes, would have been in the conference championship game Saturday.
XTRA POINTS: I wonder why the SIAC decided to change venues and move their conference championship game out of Montgomery to Fort Valley? Could be attendance, perhaps? I took the time to research attendance figures since the game started in 2011 at Clark-AU field. Here’s what I found:
2011-Miles vs. Albany State-CAU field –Attendance 6374 (the site was changed from Atlanta’s Lakewood Stadium after officials determined renovations to the high school facility weren’t complete enough)
2012-Tuskegee vs. Fort Valley-Lakewood Stadium,Atlanta- Attendance : 8377
2013-Albany State vs. Miles—Lakewood Stadium- Attendance : 8773
2014-Tuskegee vs. Albany State-Montgomery Alabama’s Cramton Bowl-Attendance: 7193
2015-Miles vs. Albany State-Cramton Bowl, Montgomery-Attendance-6433
2016-Fort Valley vs. Kentucky State-Cramton Bowl, Montgomery-Attendance-3752
2017-Fort Valley vs. Tuskegee- Fort Valley State-Attendance: ?
INSIDE PICKS THIS WEEK
Kentucky State @ Alabama A&M- A&M by 4
Fort Valley vs. Tuskegee (7th SIAC Championship game in Fort Valley)-Ft Valley by 7
Got an item? Contact Hal -> hallamar at comcast.net