By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — It’s the first weekend of November football and the preliminary start of the championship stretch. While the MEAC and SWAC still have a few weeks in the regular season, it’s the final week for the SIAC and CIAA as their championship games will be played next week.
Entering this week’s play, only one of the four championship game slots have been decided. Defending SIAC champion Fort Valley State (5-3, 5-0) clinched the Eastern Division with a 52-7 win over Morehouse last Saturday at Wildcat Stadium.
The Wildcats, who’ll be competing for the title for the second time since 1999, will meet the winner of Saturday’s Miles College-Tuskegee contest at Cleve L. Abbott Memorial Stadium.
Saturday will mark the 61st meeting between the Golden Bears (6-3, 4-1) and the Golden Tigers (7-2, 5-0) with Tuskegee leading the all-time series 47-14. Both teams appear to be peaking just at the right time.
Since a 61-0 pummeling at the hands of Findlay (Ohio) on September 23, Tuskegee has reeled off five straight wins. Miles College has won four straight since their 34-9 loss to Albany State on September 30.
Last week, the backfield of Joseph Cambridge and Justin Hardy led the way as the Golden Bears defeated Clark Atlanta 38-17 last Thursday night at Sloan-Alumni Stadium. Cambridge, a freshman quarterback, threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in the win.
Hardy ran for 177 yards on 17 carries and his electrifying fourth-quarter touchdown put the game on ice. He’s become the first running back under the Reginald Ruffin era to rush for over 1,000 yards with a league-leading 1,081 yards and 11 touchdowns.
As for Tuskegee, they shutout Central State 45-0 in the Golden Tigers’ homecoming last week. TU jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead and was never threatened. The 31 first-half points marked a season high and the most since TU’s home opener against Clark Atlanta.
Senior linebacker Osband Thompson, who had 11 tackles on the day, now has 112 tackles on the season, the most in the nation. This mark is also 34 stops better than the second leading tackler in the SIAC.
The game, scheduled for a 1 p.m. CT kickoff, can be seen live on ESPN3/Watch ESPN.
To say that the CIAA championship is up for grabs would be an understatement. Both division titles are still undecided and the conference has announced what all the tiebreakers will mean.
So take a deep breath and try to follow along.
CLASSIC SPOTLIGHT: THE COMMEMORATIVE CLASSIC
All season, the CIAA has celebrated the 125th anniversary of the first recorded black college football game, which began with two CIAA member institutions — Livingstone College and Johnson C. Smith.
In a snowstorm on December 27, 1892, Johnson C. Smith University, then named Biddle University, traveled for two days by horse and buggy to Salisbury, North Carolina to play against Livingstone College for the first-ever black college football contest.
The Golden Bulls defeated the Blue Bears 5-0 after a disputed Livingstone touchdown was called back by the official. Every year, the two schools come together to celebrate this historic event with the Commemorative Classic.
This year’s contest will be played at Livingstone’s Alumni Memorial Football Stadium. While both teams have struggled this season (J.C. Smith is 1-8, Livingstone is 0-9), Saturday’s game remains a testament to the enduring spirit of what black college football has meant to many over the years.
The Golden Bulls will look for its eighth win over the Blue Bears in the Commemorative Classic era, which started in 2009. Since the inception of the Classic, JCSU has dominated the series by outscored the Blue Bears, 251-108 with the most lopsided win coming in 2012 when JCSU thumped LC, 57-6.
The Golden Bulls are averaging 31.4 ppg while LC only manages 13.5. J.C. Smith leads the overall series at 47-32-4. The last time they visited Livingstone in 2015, the Blue Bears won their only Commemorative Classic game, 35-12 on a rain-soaked afternoon.
NEWS AND NOTES
CIAA TO HONOR FOOTBALL LEGENDS DURING TITLE GAME
The CIAA has selected 12 former conference football players to be recognized as Legends of CIAA Football prior to kickoff at the 2017 Football Championship game at Salem Stadium on Saturday, November 11. Kickoff of the championship game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in Salem, Virginia.
The CIAA will celebrate the accomplishments of each player in support of its historic 125th anniversary of Black college football, which marks the recording of the first-ever game between two of its institutions–Johnson C. Smith University, then named Biddle University, and Livingstone College.
“The CIAA is rich in tradition and strong in leadership,” said Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams. “In honoring the Legends of CIAA Football, we celebrate and thank them for the impact they have had on our conference. Part of our foundation and success is attributed to these phenomenal former players and their contributions.”
The following former student-athletes from each of the conference’s member institutions have been selected as Legends of CIAA Football:
- Isaac Redman, Bowie State University
- Robert Holland, Chowan University
- Johnnie Walton, Elizabeth City State University
- Bryan Holliday, Fayetteville State University
- Bruce Duke, Johnson C. Smith University
- Ben Coates, Livingstone College
- Leo Lewis (posthumously honored), Lincoln University
- Robert Headen, Saint Augustine’s University
- Darnell Evans, Shaw University
- George Leonard, Virginia State University
- Sherman Lea, Virginia Union University
- Anthony Blaylock, Winston-Salem State University
Tickets for the 2017 Football Championship game are still on sale and can be purchased at TheCIAA.com. Special rates for students and youth ages 6 to 14 are available. Admission for children ages 5 and under is free.