CHARLOTTE, NC – The 2019 football season has produced some exciting moments for teams across the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) thus far, which featured a schedule made up almost exclusively of non-conference contests during the first three weeks.Though things technically kicked off last week with the double overtime thriller between Shaw and Chowan, the conference slate begins in earnest this weekend as the rest of the CIAA teams begin their battle for divisional supremacy with sights set on ultimately earning a spot in the CIAA Football Championship (November 16 in Salem, VA at 3 p.m.) to compete for a conference title.
Before previewing this weekend’s schedule of games, let’s highlight some of the top storylines that developed across the CIAA over the season’s first three weeks.
Top Storylines across CIAA Football
Bowie State continues their winning ways
Despite losing a Harlon Hill finalist at quarterback in Amir Hall, the Bulldogs have continued to put up points, averaging 34.0 points a game (top three in the CIAA), and churn out wins as they’re off to an early 3-0 start to begin 2019. Up to #23 in the latest AFCA Coaches poll, Bowie State will continue to rely heavily on a defense that ranks first in the CIAA in rushing defense at 57.7 yards per game and second in scoring defense at (18.3 ppg) as league play begins.
Livingstone remains unbeaten
Despite being picked to finish 10th in the CIAA by league coaches during the preseason, Livingstone remains unbeaten after three games for the first time since 2015. The Blue Bears remain one of two undefeated teams remaining in the CIAA this season thanks to the play of quarterback Miles Hayes, who currently leads the CIAA in completions (55), completion percentage (71.4), and passing efficiency (172.1), along with a stingy defense that giving up an impressive 213 yards per contest and just 12 points per game, both of which currently lead the CIAA.
Aerial attacks on display
The CIAA is home to some of the top QB-WR duos in Division II and they’ve been on display the early part of the season. Here are a few of the top tandems:
- QB Bryce Witt & WR Imeek Watkins, Chowan: The tandem has connected on 5 touchdowns in three games. Witt leads the CIAA with 11 touchdown passes (3rd in Division II) while Watkins is tied for first in TD receptions (tied for second nationally)
- QB Khalid Morris & WR Charles Hall, Virginia Union: Like Witt & Watkins, this tandem has connected five times for scores in three games, averaging nearly 50 yards per touchdown catch. Hall is currently one of the top pass catchers in the country, ranking fourth in Division II in both receiving yards (398) and yards per game (132.7), sixth in yards per reception (28.4), and tied for second in touchdowns (5).
- QB Torrin Campbell & WR Daniel Bender, Shaw: Campbell and Bender have connected on four passing scores. Campbell leads the CIAA with 738 passing yards and second with seven touchdowns while Bender is 3rdwith four TD receptions.
The Race to RB1 Is On
Two of the most productive backs in all of Division II so far this season reside in the CIAA in JCSU redshirt freshman Emanuel Wilson and Chowan sophomore Deshaun Wethington. Wilson currently fifth nationally with 471 rushing yards and 157 yards per game, fourth at 8.2 yards per carry, and tied for seventh with 5 rushing TDs. Not to be outdone, Wethington is 11th nationally with 362 yards rushing and 12th at 120.7 yards per game while also currently leading Division II at over 10 yards per carry. Both backs are 1-2 in the CIAA in most statistical rushing categories.
Defense Wins Championships
Several defenders are off to a great start to begin the season. The most productive player on Livingstone’s top ranked defense is Ziah Gibson, who currently leads the CIAA with 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles and tied for first with six tackles for loss. Virginia Union’s Sterling Hammond is tied for second in DII with a CIAA-best 22 solo tackles while Chowan’s Connor O’Brien is top 12 nationally with a league-leading 35 total tackles. Shaw defensive back Kevin Sherman is tied for first nationally with four interceptions.
The Third Phase of the Game
Special teams are a key phase of the game that doesn’t get talked about nearly as much. Several players throughout the CIAA are showing just how important these units are to the game. JCSU’s Damon Rice currently leads Division II at 46.7 yards per kick return and two touchdowns, Bowie State’s Blake Dove currently tied with several players nationally for blocked kicks with two. Virginia Union kicker Jefferson Souza is among the handful of kickers in DII with a perfect field goal percentage.
This Week’s Schedule
Edward Waters at Shaw, 1:00 PM
Livingstone at Lincoln (PA), 1:00 PM
Winston-Salem State at Virginia Union, 1:00 PM
Chowan at McKendree, 2:00 PM
Saint Augustine’s at Bowie State, 3:00 PM
Fayetteville State vs. Elizabeth City State, 4:00 (Game to be televised on Aspire TV/CIAASN)
Johnson C. Smith at Virginia State, 6:00 PM
Please check the CIAA Sports Network listings for game’s being streamed this weekend (https://theciaasn.com/)