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Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC

Hal LamarBy Hal Lamar
Photos b
y Patsy Collier-Lamar

A few years ago, my ole’ friend, Georgia legislator and avid Fort Valley fan Calvin Smyre asked if I felt that year’s Fountain City Classic would be able to fill McClung Stadium in Columbus Georgia. I can bet he already has the answer to that question for this Saturday’s 21st mammoth mixing between the Rams and Wildcats. About the only real problem they will have Saturday is whether McClung will be big enough.

The setup couldn’t be sweeter: Fort Valley, which began the season winning the opener and then losing bitterly to Morehouse College at home, suddenly went on a winning tear and with tornado-like strength, blew every opponent away (including a rare shutout of Tuskegee). They face an Albany State team that for the first time since 2004 can finish a regular season undefeated and cadillac themselves into the playoffs (remembering ,I hope, that the last time they did this, they won the first round of the playoffs 42-24 against Arkansas –Tech, had home field advantage up to the finals but somehow blew it all in the second round by losing 38-24 to Valdosta State after leading 24-0 at the half). fountain_clty_2010

Fort Valley stands a chance of moving into the second season since 2001 when they were edged 40-24 by Valdosta State.

My prediction below.

Morehouse College, principally behind kicker Ian Mullen, who partially redeemed himself from missing two chip-shot PATS in last weekend’s heartbreaker to Albany State and senior quarterback DaJuan Thigpen, who came on late in the fourth period to ignite a sluggish offensive performance, edged AU Center rival Clark-Atlanta University 17-7 in a Saturday afternoon clash at CAU field that left neither team sparkling.

Mullen, frustrated with his performance the fortnight before, composed himself long enough to kick a 42 yard field goal breaking a 7-7 deadlock and giving Morehouse a lead they never dropped.

The most exciting and mildly controversial aspect of the four quarters of play was Morehouse’s touchdown in the fourth period. Thigpen scored with just over 3:00 to go in the game. The scored was confirmed by the head linesman but was devoid of a signal by referee Tony Ross. The clock, which is normally stopped on a touchdown, kept running. “

Upstairs (in the press box) they said they never saw the touchdown signal so they kept the clock running as if they were headed into third or fourth down,” CAU Coach Daryl McNeill told INSIDE after the contest. “When they realized the mistake, they guesstimated putting the clock back to 2:36 rather than take it back to 3:00 (something, by the way, that didn’t escape the watchful eye or the evaluation notebook of SIAC Supervisor of officials Moses Norman).” But that’s football. The thing you gotta do is learn from it and keep moving.”

What appeared to be uncharacteristic lethargy from Morehouse’s elevens was likely because of their homecoming game and 13-12 loss to SIAC leading Albany State on October 23. Morehouse led the contest 12-7 until the final 18 seconds of play when the Rams scored the game winning touchdown.

“It took a tremendous toll, “said Morehouse Head Football Coach Rich Freeman, “not only on the players but the coaches as well. Devastating would be an understatement. It rocked our football program and left about 22,000 fans disappointed when they left the (BT Harvey) stadium.”

Morehouse’s offense was also hampered by the loss of its top tier quarterbacks. Starter Byron Ingram was sidelined with a concussion suffered during the Albany game and second stringer William Brack was dismissed from the team by what Freeman described as a “violation of team rules”, though sources indicated to INSIDE that an altercation with another athlete led to the ouster.

Meanwhile, McNeill characterized his team’s lack of offensive zeal to injuries and youth.

“Three freshmen starting on the offensive line,”he sighed. “ We’ve depleted the offensive line down to the scout team presently which is what you saw today. We still fought. It was 10-7 going into the fourth period and remember, we led 10-9 going into the second half of our game with Tuskegee. Our guys have done a great job. I’m proud of them. But we know there is now no way but up.”

The Panthers will close out the season this weekend when they host Benedict. A win would give CAU a 5-5 mark, a break-even season which bodes will for McNeill in his first year of piloting the cardinal and black.

Morehouse, meanwhile, still has an outsidine shot at post-season play, depending largely on the outcome of  this weekend’s ASU-Fort Valley clash in Columbus Georgia and the NCAA regional standings which were expected to be released sometime this week. Morehouse has been on every major NCAA and local poll since the beginning of the season and is still ninth on the Sheridan Broadcasting Network (SBN) tally.

“We’re always in it,” said Freeman. But we don’t want to give our kids any information that would be false so we don’t give them any sense of false security while not ruling anything out to take the hope from them. We’re going for 8-2 right now and let the post-season chips fall where they may.”

Morehouse will close the regular season on the road this week vs. Miles.

AROUND THE CONFERENCE: Miles celebrated quarterback Carlton Hill showed out for a second weekend with 103 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns but it was too little too late to overtake the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers 40-28….

Tuskegee’s Nykeem Barton ought to easily make the SIAC’s first or second team. Again, he scored three rushing touchdowns to lead the Goldens to a 45-21 win over Kentucky State…..

Lane led Fort Valley 18-14 going into the fourth until the Wildcats opened up against the Dragons and taking a 31-14 a victory and a showdown with undefeated Albany State this weekend which will determine the conference champ… and speaking of the Rams, they had little trouble disposing of Stillman 44-5…

jake_gaither_trophyGAITHER WATCH: The men of the 100% Wrong Club are already clustering to decide who will win the 33rd Alonzo S “Jake” Gaither award which will be bestowed at the club’s 77th annual sports jamboree in early 2011. I have taken a peek at the goings-on in the other three conferences and independent schools and put together my own list of possible candidates for this prestigious chunk of hardware:

*Frank Warren-running back, Grambling State
*Keith Pough-defensive lineman, Howard University
*Matthew Johnson, quarterback, Bethune-Cookman
*Stanley Jennings, quarterback, Albany State University
*Derrin Nettles, defensive lineman, Morehouse College
*Kameron Smith, QB, Winston-Salem

More possibles will follow in future columns

Tuskegee over Lane (Tuskegee homecoming)
Benedict over CAU
Kentucky State over Stillman
Morehouse over Miles

…and for the conference crown…..
Fort Valley over Albany State


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