The CIAA Northern Division title and the right to play in the CIAA championship game will be settled Saturday in Bowie, Md.
Defending North champions Bowie State (6-3, 5-1) will host a surging Elizabeth City State (5-4, 4-2) team who has won four of its last five games including a 24-21 OT win over favored Virginia Union. A BSU win and the Bulldogs will win the North and play Winston-Salem State in a rematch of last year’s CIAA championship game. An ECSU win and things get a little more complicated.
If Elizabeth City State wins and Virginia Union wins against Virginia State, the Vikings would take the North because they defeated Virginia Union on October 29.
If Elizabeth City State wins and Virginia State defeats Virginia Union, VSU would claim the title because the Trojans defeated the Vikings on October 7.
Did you get all that?
In the last 16 CIAA championship matchups dating back to 1999 and the old East-West alignment, the West, now the South, has won 12 championships. The only North (formerly East) teams to win has been Shaw twice (2004, 2007), Virginia Union (2001) and Virginia state (2013). (Shaw became part of the West win the CIAA realigned in 2008.)
But there has been a resurgence in the North the last three years. All but one team in the North has at least a .500 record in the division and overall. In the South, only Winston-Salem State has a winning record in conference and overall. Fayetteville State only has a winning conference record, but is 4-5 overall.
Still, even last year when Bowie state and Virginia Union dominated the conference and both received at-large berths to the national playoffs, it was Winston-Salem State who won its fifth championship in the last 16 championship games, the most by any school in that span.
Meanwhile, in the SIAC’s Eastern Division, it has been a while since the annual Fountain City Classic between Albany State and Fort Valley State in Columbus, Ga. will decide which team will play in the SIAC championship game, but such is the case when the two meet on Saturday.
The winner will face Kentucky State next Saturday in Montgomery, Ala. The Thorobreds wrapped up the West last week with a 10-9 victory over Tuskegee.
rEcOrD BrEaKeR: Lenard Tillery the SWAC’s all-time leading rusher
North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen has been the talk of HBCU football this year, especially after becoming the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher, having rushed for in excess of 5,000 yards in his career and rushing for over 1,000 yards for the fourth-straight season. He is regarded as one of the best players in all of college football. Southern running back Lenard Tillery however is quietly doing big things for the Jaguars.
Tillery became the SWAC’s all-time leading rusher after rushing for 195 yards and three touchdowns in the Jaguars 41-33 victory over Alcorn State. Tillery passed former Jackson State running back Destry Wright’s 4,050-yard rushing mark. Tillery led the SWAC last season with 1,211 yards in 11 games. In 2014, he amassed 1,196 yards rushing. In his freshman season, Tillery ran for 784 yards.
Prior to Tillery, SU had a running game that was virtually non-existent, even under former head coach Stump Mitchell, now the running backs coach with the Arizona Cardinals.
Savannah State defensive end Marquis Smith continues his great season for the Tigers. In the Tigers’ 31-27 victory over Howard, Smith had 13 tackles (11 solo), five tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Smith has successfully made the switch from linebacker to defensive end after playing linebacker the previous three years. He leads the MEAC in sacks (7), tackles for loss per game (2.4), forced fumbles (3) and is fifth in the MEAC in tackles per game (8.2).
Smith has been one of the best players in the MEAC over the last four years, but isn’t getting the recognition because SSU has been bad, winning only four MEAC games since joining the MEAC in 2011. As a true freshman in 2013, Smith was third in the conference in tackles (124, 72 solo), and had 13 tackles for loss, a half more than current NFL player Lynden Trail of Norfolk State. As a sophomore he was limited to just eight games but managed 60 tackles (35 solo), 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks. In nine games last year he had 57 tackles, seven tackles for loss and one sack.
He has played his best games this year in the Tigers’ two victories, against Howard and their first win of the season, 16-10 over Bethune-Cookman in Week 4 when he was named BOXTOROW National Player of the Week.
Updated November 2, 2016 10:48 a.m.