Benedict and Southern – win or go home


Two black college teams flamed out in the first round of the NCAA Div. II Super Region II playoffs Saturday (see NCAA Div. II Playoff Recaps). That leaves undefeated and nationally ranked SIAC champion Benedict to carry the HBCU banner.

The top seeded-Tigers (11-0), after a first round bye, will face Wingate (10-2) of the South Atlantic Conference Saturday (1 p.m.) in a second round game.

Benedict has raced to its 11-0 record and top seed in the region behind second-year head coach Chennis Berry. Berry was named the SIAC’s Coach of the year.

The Tigers were seventh nationally in the last regular season AFCA NCAA Div. II Coaches Poll. They were 11th in last week’s d2football. com Top 25. Wingate was ranked 22nd in the AFCA poll.

Benedict’s stars

Benedict’s defensive lineman Loobert Denelus was named the SIAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

The junior led Benedict with 49 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss (-89 yds) and an SIAC-best 13 sacks (-80 yds). He was fourth in the NCAA in sacks per game (1.18 per game). The Florida native also ranks third in the SIAC and sixth in the NCAA in tackles for loss (1.9 per game). He also ranks first in the SIAC and tied second in the NCAA with four fumble recoveries.

Denelus keys a defense that includes all- SIAC picks in lineman Jayden Broughton, defensive back Olajuwone Smith.

Benedict’s defense ranks first in the SIAC and fifth in the NCAA in total defense (236.9 yards per game) and fifth in the NCAA in scoring defense (12 points per game).

Three Tiger offensive lineman were picked to the SIAC first team – Maurice Campbell, Henry Mitchell III and Tyler Pritchett. All are graduate transfers.
Named to the second team were quarterback Eric Phoenix, running back Noah Zaire Scotland, punter Jared Eubanks, and kick returner Kendall Norman.

Wingate is led by QB Shaw Crocker who threw for 155 yards and two TDs in Saturday’s win over Virginia Union. The Wingate defense had 12 tackles for losses, seven sacks and two interceptions returned for touchdowns vs. VUU.

SWAC West to be decided

The champion of the SWAC West division and spot opposite East Division champion Jackson State in next week’s (Dec. 3) SWAC Championship Football game will come down to the final game of the SWAC regular season this week.

Three of the four teams in position to claim the West title – Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern and Alcorn State – all lost Saturday.

Those results leave only Southern (6-4, 4-3 W) with a chance to catch Prairie View.

Southern holds the cards

Southern (6-4, 4-3 W) faces Grambling State (2-5, 3-7) Saturday at the Bayou Classic in the Caesar’s Super Dome in New Orleans. It is the final game of the SWAC regular season.

A win by the Jaguars and first-year head coach Eric Dooley will tie Prairie View at 5-3 in the division. By virtue of their head-to-head win over Prairie View, the Jags would win the division title and championship game berth. On Oct. 8, Southern easily handled Prairie View behind the play of quarterback Besean McCray, 45-13.

A Southern loss vs. Grambling State Saturday gives the division title and a return trip to the championship game to Prairie View and new coach Bubba McDowell.

Prairie View, with Dooley at the helm and McDowell as his assistant head coach, lost to JSU in the 2021 SWAC Championship Game 27-10. The Panthers (6-5, 5-3 W) did not face Jackson State this season.

Jackson State and Southern met on Oct. 29 this season. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders passed for one TD and ran for two in a 35-0 Jackson State shutout win.

One other game

Alabama State (6-4, 4-3 SWAC E) attempts to closes out a successful first year under head coach Eddie Robinson with a Turkey Day Classic date Thursday (2 p.m.) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-8, 0-7 W).