Among all of the celebrated Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) football teams in the United States, two that stand out are Tuskegee and Florida A&M. Going into this season, the Golden Tigers claim the most all-time wins among HBCU teams with 668, while the Rattlers are next at 574.
Now, for the first time since 1996, these two rivals will face each other during the 5th Quarter Classic at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 17. The game, sponsored by the Mobile Sports Authority, will kick off at 6 p.m.
“One of the events which we at the Mobile Sports Authority thought was missing on our annual Mobile sports calendar was a ‘Classic-style’ college football game,” said Danny Corte, executive director of the MSA. “It’s been seven years since the last Classic was played here [in 2009]. So several years ago we started working to create another Classic game for Mobile.
“We’re very proud to have two traditional teams and former rivals, that being Florida A&M and Tuskegee, playing in Mobile on Sept. 17 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. We’re looking forward to welcoming the teams, officials and fans for both teams to Mobile.”
The most recent meeting between the two was a 56-0 shutout by FAMU in 1996. The Rattlers lead the overall series, which began in 1906, by a 27-15-2 margin.
The schools have been traditional powers, with FAMU claiming 14 national HBCU titles and the Golden Tigers a dozen similar trophies. However, their fortunes have veered in different directions as of late.
Tuskegee: After beating Clark Atlanta 36-13 in its opener, Tuskegee was ranked No. 15 in the nation. They are the only Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference school in the poll.
Head coach Willie Slater is 92-24 in his first 11 seasons. He has twice won National Coach of the Year honors and is a five-time SIAC top coach. Under him, Tuskegee won the HBCU national titles in 2007 and 2015.
Tuskegee returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense. The team advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II tournament, finishing 10-3.
All-American defensive back Jonah McCutcheon, a junior who played at B.C. Rain High, returns after leading Tuskegee with seven interceptions. Darius Homes is another starter back in the secondary.
Defensive end Julian Morgan was the SIAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He had 54 tackles last year and led the team with 9.5 sacks. Also gaining early honors were defensive linemen Daryl George and Darion Hall.
Devonta Ramseur and Allante Smith are back on the defensive line. Osband Thompson returns at linebacker and was named the SIAC Defensive Player of the Week after recording 16 tackles in the win over Clark Atlanta.
Senior quarterback Kevin Lacey started 20 straight games entering this season. The Golden Tigers have several backs with experience including 2014 starter Hoderick Lowe. Jerome Lewis returns at fullback.
Desmond Reece is again at wide receiver. Tight end Leo Gilbert led the team in touchdown receptions. Both are on the SIAC preseason team.
The offensive line returns three starters from a season ago in Leeword Brown (preseason all-conference), Carlton Antoine and Lowell Richardson. They also return 2014 starter Kelvin Shelton.
Other local players on the roster include defensive back Eugene Leach, linebacker Davoris Thomas and wide receiver Ladarell Pettway from Spanish Fort; offensive lineman Alfonzo Tuggle of Mobile; and defensive lineman Christopher Faulkner of Bay Minette.
Florida A&M: The Rattlers finished 1-10 in head coach Alex Wood’s first season. Things have not started well this year, as they fell to Miami 70-3 in the opener.
FAMU, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, has nine starters back on offense and four on defense.
The leading returning offensive players are MEAC preseason-pick wide receiver Montavious Williams (45 receptions, 627 yards, 1 TD), running back Devin Bowers (430 yards, 2 TDs); receiver Brandon Norwood (49 catches, 442 yards, 2 TDs), Desmond Noird (15 receptions, 157 yards, 2 TDs) and quarterback Kenneth Coleman (607 yards, 3 TDs)
On defense, making the preseason all-conference list are defensive lineman Curtis Alexander (51 tackles, 8.5 for loss) and defensive back Jacques Bryant (75 tackles, 1 interception). Other top defenders are Braxton Brown (45 tackles) and Jules Dornevil (38 tackles). The MEAC second-team punter is Colby Blanton (39.7 ypg).
Many events: There are numerous activities planned to coincide with the game. On Friday, a Greek Step and Comedy Show featuring DC Young Fly will take place at the Saenger Theatre. At the same time, the Gulf Coast Music Fest starring Erykah Badu and Bell Biv Devoe will be at the Mobile Civic Center.
On game day, a Carnival-style parade hosted by the Mobile Area Mardi Gras Association will begin at 10 a.m. The tailgate party at Ladd-Peebles Stadium will get underway at noon. For more information on these and other alumni events, please visit http://5thquarterclassic.com.
Benefit bicycle event set
Baldwin County will host hundreds of cyclists this weekend riding for a cause during the Bike MS: Tour de Beach. The goal is to raise $215,000 to support Multiple Sclerosis research.
On Saturday and Sunday, cyclists will start and end at the Orange Beach Hampton Inn. The routes will cover 25, 45 or 75 miles.
“With rest stops at landmarks like Mullet Point Park and historic Fort Morgan, Tour de Beach truly takes advantage of all this wonderful community has to offer,” Jennifer Ely, Bike MS manager, said. For more information, visit www.bikeMS.org, call 205-879-8546 or send an email to Jennifer.Ely@nmss.org.
Celebrated author to be in Fairhope
Page & Palette bookstore in Fairhope will host author S.C. Gwynn on Wednesday, Sept. 21, for a book talk and signing at 6 p.m. Gwynn has been on the New York Times’ bestseller list with “Empire of the Summer Moon” and “Rebel Yell.”
His latest work is “The Perfect Pass,” which will be released next week. The book examines how coaches Hal Mumme and Mike Leach changed college football forever with their exciting aerial attacks.