|Elizabeth City State, Chowan lead crowded CIAA North|
|Published Thursday, August 22, 2013 8:07 am|
The CIAA North is holding an 11-year drought in the championship department.
|Chowan quarterback Cameron Stover and the Hawks are picked to challenge Elizabeth City State for the CIAA North title.|
Virginia Union is the last division team to win the title in 2001, which, ironically, was in Winston-Salem. The game returns to the city on Nov. 16, but whether that omen spells good news for the Panthers remains to be seen.
• Elizabeth City State. The Vikings have advanced to the CIAA championship game three of the past five years. ECSU still has no title to show for it, but last season did produce a bowl win – the first postseason win in school history.
The Vikings defeated Tuskegee in Pioneer Bowl XIV, which pits the CIAA against the SIAC. The conference has won the past three matchups against its Division II HBCU counterpart. The victory lifted some of the pressure off 11-year coach Waverly Tillar, but a Pioneer Bowl win still isn’t good enough for many Vikings fans.
A third straight title appearance is going to be a challenge with the loss of All-American and CIAA Player of the Year, DaRont’e McNeill. The Elizabeth City native set school records in total rushing yards (4,888) and career touchdowns (58).
Junior RB Petey Boone, a Western Carolina transfer, is the only runner with some experience from last season. Boone rushed for 245 yards and three TDs.
Also gone is starting quarterback Namon Jones, but backup QB Tyree Houghton produced solidly in the team’s win over Tuskegee after Jones’ injury in the championship game. Jones and senior Casey Turner, who appeared in two games last season, should compete for the starting role.
Tillar’s biggest rebuilding job will come on defense as the team returns just two starters. The entire front four of Brad Davis, Orlando Barrow, Devon Price and Teddy Warren have exhausted their eligibility.
After an 0-2 start last season, ECSU won seven of its last eight games. Tillar may need another strong finish for a trip to Winston-Salem in November. The Vikings host Newberry on Sept. 7.
• Chowan. Don’t expect to see the Hawks lining many homecoming calendars in the foreseeable future. After getting picked to finish fifth in the division, the Hawks placed second last year with their first winning season since 1999 as a Division III member.
If not for a blown lead against Bowie State, Chowan could have been in the championship game.
All-CIAA senior WR Robert Holland owns school records in career touchdowns (27), single-season points (84) and seven other categories. Getting him the ball will be junior QB Cameron Stover who threw for 2,358 yards and 19 TDs against only nine interceptions.
The Hawks will find out if they really belong with the bigger boys in October with three straight road games at Fayetteville State, Bowie State and Union. They open the season Sept. 7 at UNC Charlotte.
• Virginia Union. Known as the “running” coach, Michael Bailey said he didn’t do enough of his signature offense last season. Bailey loses top rusher Jerrell Washington, who became the first Panther to run for over 1,000 yards (1,128) in 13 years. But starting QB Kenneth Graham returns, along with his three top wide receivers. The four sophomores have a year of seasoned play under their belts.
All-American senior Devin Wallace returns to lead a defense that lost eight starters.
VUU opens its season at MEAC champion Bethune-Cookman.
• Bowie State. The Bulldogs have advanced to the title game three times since 2002 but always the best man, never the groom. Last season looked promising after a 3-0 start, but BSU lost both its intradivision matchups to St. Augustine and Winston-Salem, and only defeated Chowan (a game the Hawks should have won) and Lincoln in the North.
Coach Damon Wilson returns 16 of 22 starters, including starting QB Jared Johnston who threw for 900 yards and six TDs. Junior tailback Keith Brown will join Johnston in the backfield but is injury-prone. Seniors Delante White and Oladimeji Layeni lead a defense that is always tough, but it has yet to win them a title. BSU opens its season Sept. 7 at St. Anselm.
• Virginia State. Out is Andrew Faison. In is Latrell Scott, a former head coach at Richmond, and assistant at Tennessee and Virginia. Scott’s coaching skills will be tested right away with an inexperienced squad. Quarterbacks Demetrius Campbell and Niko Johnson, who are fighting for the starting role, are freshmen. Top receiver Jaivon Smallwood is a sophomore, as well as RB Lamont Britt. That youth could put a lot of pressure on an equally young defensive unit. The Trojans open their season Sept. 7 at Fayetteville State.
• Lincoln. Out is O.J. Abanishe. In is Ramon Flannigan. The brightest star for the Lions has been the play of QB Doug Cook, who threw for 2,752 yards and 15 TDs. But he gave up as many interceptions as TDs. Plus, his six receivers are gone. But if Flannigan can defeat archrival Cheyney on Sept. 7, his career will have gotten off to a good start.
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