UWA rolls over Lenoir Rhyne in season opener

HICKORY, N.C. – West Alabama amassed 481 yards of total offense while limiting Lenoir-Rhyne to just 184 on the way to a 46-7 college football win in the season opener for both teams Thursday at Moretz Stadium.

“We are 1-0 and that feels good,” UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. “Anytime you can start with a region win after an eight-hour bus trip that says a lot about your football team.

“We started fast, especially on defense,” Gilliland said. “We caused turnovers and we were ready to play, ready to hit somebody else after fall camp.”

After being forced to punt on its first two possessions, West Alabama got on the scoreboard first on a 32-yard field goal by Colin Douglas, the first of four field goals by Douglas. He also connected from 20, 30 and 33 yards.

Three plays after Douglas’ first field goal, Ken Hibbler intercepted Bears quarterback Jarrod Keller to give the Tigers the ball on the Lenoir-Rhyne 45-yard line. Harry Satterwhite connected with Qua Davis for 34 yards on the first play after the interception and then with Corey Davis for 11 yards and a touchdown on the next play to give UWA a 10-0 lead at 5:01 in the first quarter.

After picking up a handful of spot starts over the last two seasons, Satterwhite completed 26-of-40 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. He also rushed for 17 yards and a TD on six carries.

“In the beginning, I was playing a little too fast, but by about the third drive I began to feel comfortable,” Satterwhite said. “We have so many weapons that I just need to get the ball to the guys quickly. The running backs had a good night, but thanks to the offensive line nobody was touching them until about three or four yards past the line of scrimmage, then they broke tackles.”

Tevin Madison recovered a Bear fumble to set up the Tigers second touchdown. Lakendric Thomas capped a five-play, 38-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, lifting the Tigers to a 17-0 lead with 13 seconds left in the first period.

West Alabama stretched the lead to 24-0 when Satterwhite scrambled for a 3-yard touchdown with just over nine minutes left in the first half. The score capped a 13-play, 66-yard drive for the Tigers.

“Harry had a solid game and the receiver caught it well, but the story was the defense,” Gilliland said. “The defense pursued, hit people and drove them backwards. That’s what you want to see.”

Terry Samuel and Madison led the Tiger defense with eight and seven tackles, respectively. Madison broke up three passes, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble as the Tiger defense allowed just 11 first downs.

Rashaad Lee got into the scoring column with a 1-yard TD run with 2:59 left in the first half. The point after touchdown snap was botched and West Alabama led 30-0. Lee’s score capped a seven-play, 46-yard drive.

Lee finished with 98 yards on 14 carries, all in the first half, to lead UWA rushers. He also caught five passes for 14 yards. Qua Boyd had four receptions for 66 yards. Donta Armstrong, Corey Davis and Tyler Rogers each caught three passes. Rogers also ran for 70 yards on 11 carries.

“This was a pretty good way to start my last go-around,” Lee, the senior from Pensacola, Florida said. “The execution of the offensive line was good all night.”

Douglas drilled a 20-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to send West Alabama to the intermission with a 33-0 lead.

Lenoir-Rhyne got on the board with 2:17 left in the third quarter when Grayson Willingham connected with Sam Camargo for an 11-yard touchdown pass to cap a three-play, 10-yard drive after the Bears blocked a Tiger punt.

“I was praying for the shutout, but this isn’t a bad way to start,” Madison said. “We still have a lot to fix, though.”

Douglas nailed his fourth field goal from 33 yards with 6:54 left to play, capping a 15-play, 76-yard drive that drained 5:02 off the fourth-quarter clock.

Robert Myers capped West Alabama scoring with a 1-yard plunge with 3:08 left to play. Douglas’ PAT made it 46-7 West Alabama. The scoring drive was set up when Jordan Bennett recovered a Bear fumble on the kickoff following Douglas’ fourth field goal.

Nelson Brown had 76 yards on 22 carries to lead Lenoir-Rhyne. Two Bear quarterbacks combined to complete 11-of-28 for 68 yards. Sherrod Williams had 10 tackles for the Bears.

West Alabama remains on the road next week, visiting FCS member Samford in Birmingham. Lenoir-Rhyne remains at home, hosting North Greenville on Saturday, Sept. 9.

Four Tigers names preseason All-GSC, UWA is league favorite

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Four West Alabama student-athletes were selected to the 2017 Gulf South Conference Men’s Soccer Preseason All-GSC Team as Jack Shiels, Jamie Cox, Harrison Roberts and Liam Ireland each received the honor on Wednesday. The Tigers were voted preseason favorites by league coaches.

Shiels, hailing from Manchester, England, and Cox, a native of Sallins, Ireland, both return to bolster one of the toughest defensive units in the GSC. The two defenders helped anchor a backline that held opponents to the league’s second-fewest goals allowed (23) and goals-against-average (1.21) in 2016.

Ireland and Roberts return to the midfield after helping the UWA attack post the GSC’s second-highest scoring margin (1.05) in 2016, outscoring opponents 43-23 through 19 matches. Ireland netted four goals (two of which were good for game-winners) while dishing out seven assists, and Roberts tallied five goals and four helpers from the middle of the pitch.

West Alabama, coming off of its third consecutive GSC Tournament Title in 2016, received six first-place votes and 93 overall points, edging out West Florida as the league favorites for 2017. The Argos grabbed four first-place votes and 90 points in the poll.

Mississippi College, the 2016 GSC Regular Season Champion, received one first-place vote and 86 total points, landing third in the preseason rankings. Montevallo (60 points), who returns to the conference after nine seasons in the Peach Belt Conference, and Lee (59 points) complete the preseason top five.

International transfers Kyle McLeod (Montrose, Scotland) and Ali Brador (Ronchin, France) were selected as two of the GSC’s Top Newcomers, filling in vacancies in the Tiger attack as two of UWA’s newest forwards.

West Alabama will officially kick-off the 2017 season at Union (Tenn.) in a non-conference road contest set for Aug. 31 at 7:15 p.m. The Tigers will open the home portion of the schedule against Mobile on Sept. 4. Kickoff at Tiger Stadium is slated for 7 p.m.

Demopolis alum Tripp making most of MMI opportunity

It is almost decision time for Demopolis alum Charles Tripp. The 6-7 sophomore forward has only the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament remaining in his Marion Military Institute career.

“I have offers from UWA and Emmanuel college so far,” Tripp said of his second time through the recruiting process after having committed to MMI in 2015. “The process has been great. I’m being recruited by a lot of schools at the moment and I’m just trying to find a school that I feel like I can come in and make an impact to the team to be the best that we can be. I’m also looking for a school that’s invested, and likes winning as much as I do.”

Tripp’s fondness for winning has manifested itself in a big way at MMI this season as he has helped the Tigers to a 19-7 record to date while having started 25 games. He is averaging 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season while shooting 71 percent from the free throw line, 60.6 percent from the floor and an eye-popping 40 percent from three.

“Being here has made me better because I’m more aggressive on the floor. I understand the game from a different perspective than I did before because of great coaching,” Tripp said of his growth as a basketball player over the last two seasons at MMI. “Another big thing that I learned is that everything you do off of the court impacts what you do on the court. That’s something that Coach (Philip) Stitt really emphasizes.”

Tripp’s added intensity has resulted in a remarkable uptick in his production over a freshman campaign that saw him average 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest through 29 games and 28 starts. That aggressiveness is also coming to bear on the defensive end where he is averaging 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per contest this season.

Tripp’s accomplishments in Marion include having earned ACCC Player of the Week honors Jan. 17 following a lights-out performance against Southern Union in which he scored 24 points on 66.7 percent shooting to go along with nine rebounds, a steal and a block.

“That meant a lot to me, but I can’t take all the credit for the award I wouldn’t have gotten it if it wasn’t for my teammates all pitching in and helping out,” Tripp said of the recognition. “So even though they awarded me, it was all a team effort.”

The intermingled concepts of team and community have resonated with Tripp as he readies to wrap up his MMI career. For all the positive experiences he has had in and around the basketball program, Tripp points to the a tight-knit campus community as a hallmark of the institution.

“The thing I will remember most about MMI is the people here. There are so many good people at this school, and they are always supportive and trying to challenge you to make you the best person you can be,” Tripp said. “It has definitely made me a better person. In my time here, I’ve matured a lot as far as decision making and knowing how to put my priorities first.”

Tripp intends to major in physical education for the remaining two years of his collegiate career following MMI, a 24-month span that figures to include plenty of basketball along the way. Nearly two years removed from having gone through the recruiting process as a high school senior, Tripp offered personal insight into the value of junior college basketball as an opportunity for any high school hopefuls currently awaiting their scholarship chance.

“(There) is nothing wrong with going JUCO. it is a great start to improving your game,” Tripp said. “Everyone wants to play at the (NCAA Division I) level and if you’re not recruited by (Division I schools), playing JUCO can be that stepping stone for you to work and improve your game to get to that level,” Tripp said.

UWA football to honor memory of former cheerleader

UWA helmetLIVINGSTON, Ala. – To honor the memory of former University of West Alabama cheerleader Bethany Harris, who perished in an automobile accident on Dec. 28, 2015, the Tigers will wear the initials “BH” on back of their helmets during the 2016 season.

“Our football team has decided to add Bethany’s initials to our helmet to honor her and what she meant to our University,” Tiger head coach Brett Gilliland said. “I can’t imagine the pain that her family has faced through this tragedy, so we wanted to find a way for them to know her memory lives on here and we continually have them in our thoughts.”

Bethany’s friends and classmates established a “Buckle Up For Beth” campaign to heighten awareness about wearing a seatbelt while operating a motor vehicle.

From Dora, Alabama, Harris was studying biology at UWA with hopes of becoming a pediatrician to help children with cancer at the time of the accident.

The Tigers will display the “BH” sticker for the first time at the season opener Thursday at North Greenville. Kickoff is 6 p.m. in Tigerville, South Carolina.

UWA upset bid falls just short at McNeese State

LAKE CHARLES, La. – With 45 seconds left to play in what was a Southwest Louisiana shootout at Cowboy Stadium, McNeese State quarterback Cody Stroud found Diontae Spencer from 20 yards out on a fourth-and-4 play to secure a 44-42 victory over West Alabama Saturday.

The two teams combined for 1,068 yards, with West Alabama putting up 565 yards on a team that had already upset FBS member South Florida and won its first two games by an average score of 55-17.

McNeese improved to 3-0 and West Alabama dropped to 1-1. The Tigers remain on the road, facing a short week with a Thursday night game at Florida Tech. CBS Sports will televise the game.

“It hurts, but we have a great football team. Character just exudes from us. We sweat and bleed character,” West Alabama head coach Will Hall said. “What a great group of young men to come down here and do what they did.”

Kyle Caldwell completed 13-of-20 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns, while Kedrick Rhodes ran for 75 yards and Gary Johnston for 67 of UWA’s 265 rushing yards. Chad Toocheck caught three passes for 116 yards and a score.

“I think McNeese knows they played somebody tonight,” Hall said. “We are disappointed, but we have a chance to do some special things in Division II. Our kids played their hearts out.”

West Alabama served notice on the first offensive play of the football game when Caldwell connected with Toocheck for a 75-yard touchdown pass. McNeese came right back, driving 45 yards on eight plays to tie the score at 7-7. Stroud connected with tight end Zach Hetrick on a 3-yard scoring toss to cap off the drive.

The Tigers answered with a seven-play, 75-yard drive to go ahead 14-7 with 7:40 left in the first quarter. Caldwell found Seth Roberts on a 24-yard scoring toss to cap the drive. A 35-yard run by Javae Swindle set up the score.

“This is the most resilient football team I have ever been a part of,” Tiger center Skeeter Sellers said. “The heart we displayed in this game is something that can’t go unheard by the Division II football nation.”

Unruffled, the Cowboys drove 69 yards in 11 plays on the next possession, capping off the drive with a 16-yard scoring toss from Stroud to Wes Briscoe. Stroud threw for a McNeese State record five touchdown passes and 366 yards on a 30-for-43 night.

West Alabama climbed back on top 21-14 on a 1-yard sneak on a fourth-down try by Johnston, capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive with just 1:50 gone in the second period. Ryan Rome kicked a 31-yard field goal on the Cowboys’ next possession to cut West Alabama’s lead to 21-17with 10:39 left in the first half.

UWA drove to the McNeese State 6 yard line before an errant pitch was recovered by the Cowboys to thwart the drive. McNeese then drove 83 yards in seven plays to take its first lead of the game, 24-21 with 4:17 left in the half, on a 4-yard TD pass from Stroud to Nic Jacobs.

“Two fumbles and an interception in scoring position or we would have come down here and slayed the dragon,” Hall said. “Again, I just can’t say enough about our character.”

After the Tiger defense stopped McNeese on fourth and 1 on the Cowboys first drive of the second half, Caldwell begin the third period just like he started the game. He connected for 57 yards and a score to tight end Ty Morgan. The one-play drive resulted in the sophomore from Sweet Water’s first career touchdown reception.

West Alabama stopped the Cowboys on downs on the next possession when Demetrus McNeal intercepted Stroud on fourth down, but the Tigers drive stalled. The Cowboys dodged having to make another fourth-down decision when West Alabama was flagged for targeting, setting up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Dylan Long to put McNeese State back on top 31-28.

“We faced the challenge and played well,” linebacker Ben Brooks said. ” We started slow on defense, but we picked it up. It hurts to come this close, but we played well and surprised some people.”

Not to be outdone, UWA rallied to take a 35-31 lead with 22 seconds left in the third period. Rhodes blasted free up the middle for 29 yards for his first touchdown as a Tiger.

On the next possession Stroud threw his fourth touchdown pass, a 28-yard strike to Jereon McGilvery on a fourth and 4 play to put the Cowboys back on top, 38-35, with 12:58 left in the game.

West Alabama promptly drove to the McNeese State 28 yard line before Michael Ware recovered a Markeyus Johnson fumble to end the threat with 10:00 left in the game.

Facing a third and 25 from the McNeese State 32 with 3:41 to play, Caldwell connected with Seth Roberts for 30 yards to the Cowboy 2, setting up Johnston’s second rushing touchdown of the night to put UWA up 42-38 with 3:41 left.

Marcus Wiltz carried 18 times for 65 yards to lead Cowboy rushers. Spencer caught six passes for 122 yards and returned four kickoffs for 79 yards.

Demopolis alum Cobb fitting in with Tuskegee

Larry CobbDemopolis alum Larry Cobb will be in action again Saturday evening as Tuskegee travels to face Albany State University.

A junior wideout for the Golden Tigers, Cobb is looking to build on his past successes as he continues to carve out a role in a traditionally run-heavy offense.

“It’s humbling,” Cobb said of learning to function as a young receiver within the Tuskegee system. “It wasn’t much of a difference coming from Demopolis because we ran the ball a lot.”

Cobb hauled in 20 passes for 312 yards and a touchdown as a redshirt sophomore a season ago, numbers that left him as the team’s second leading receiver on the year.

“I feel like I grew up a lot as far as helping out my teammates,” Cobb said. “When you’re not catching the ball, you’re blocking. And, at Demopolis, we blocked a lot. So it was key.”

Always having taken pride in his blocking ability, Cobb has built many of his 2013 individual goals around that skillset as he looks to contribute to the ground game as much as the aerial attack.

“My goals for this year, four catches or better every game, three flat backs, two crack backs and a W of course,” Cobb said.

Cobb just missed his reception goal last week but did score as Tuskegee downed Alabama A&M 23-7 in a game in which the DHS alum hauled in two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Cobb’s path to the Tuskegee starting lineup was not an easy one as the receiver has battled injuries while trying to work his way up the depth chart. A member of the Demopolis Class of 2010, Cobb began his Tuskegee career as a redshirt.

“My first year, of course, being redshirted. I didn’t travel. My redshirt freshman year, I played, but I didn’t start right away. There was a junior in front of me. But I ended up beating him out for the position. I didn’t get as many balls as I would like, but I got to finally experience college football,” Cobb said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger. My routes have gotten a lot crisper and I’m a lot faster than I was as well. But the biggest improvement is my overall strength.”

Now Cobb hopes to put those gains to good use as he increases his role in the offense and on the team.

“To contribute more, to match Marquel Gardner,” Cobb said of the expectations placed on him this season. He was our leading receiver. He played big. I just need to match his level. I think they want me to be more of a leader this year as well.”

That productivity and leadership could be key for a Tuskegee team that has abandoned its traditional Turkey Day Classic rivalry with Alabama State in favor of qualifying for the NCAAA Division II playoffs.

The Golden Tigers went 10-2 a season ago and won the SIAC championship but spent the postseason watching two other conference schools compete in the playoffs.

“I just want to win. We’re going into the playoffs for the first time ever in Tuskegee history. And I want to go deep in the playoffs,” Cobb said of his hopes for this season before reflecting on a 2012 team he believes could have made waves in the postseason bracket. “I think Miles went on to play UWA, but I honestly feel like we could have put up a better fight than Miles. I’m not downing Miles or anything, but we beat Miles and we beat Fort Valley and those were the two teams out of our conference that ended up going to the playoffs. I think we would have done tremendously well.”

Tuskegee will play nine of its 12 regular season games on the road this season. The Golden Tigers will not have a home game until they host Stillman Oct. 19.

UWA up to 11th in D2Football.com Top 25

UWA vs Clark-Atlanta-9286LIVINGSTON — West Alabama moved up two spots to No. 11 in this week’s D2Football.com Top 25 Poll following a season-opening victory 42-6 over Clark Atlanta. The Tigers are ranked 12th in the current American Football Coaches Association poll.

The Tigers are one of two Gulf South Conference teams ranked in the top 11, and one of three in the top 25. Valdosta State (1-0) remained in the No. 1 spot, while Delta State (1-0) nudged its way in at No. 24 following a season-opening victory over FCS member Mississippi Valley State.

West Alabama ventures out of division this week, traveling to FCS member McNeese State to meet the 18th ranked Cowboys, who lead the FCS in scoring at 55.5 points per game and has scored in 17 of 23 possessions this season, 17 of the last 19.

West Alabama leads the NCAA Division II nation in tackles for loss and in passing yards allowed. The Tigers recorded 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the season opener and allowed Clark Atlanta just 29 yards passing. UWA allowed Clark just nine yards in the third quarter and a meager 2.5 yards per play for the game.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CDT at Cowboy Stadium in Lake Charles, La. There will be no TV for the game, but James Hardy and Hunter Gibson will describe the action locally on ESPN 104.9 and globally on www.espn1049.com.

UWA freshman Page has strong showing

UWA GolfSEVIERVILLE, Tenn. – West Alabama men’s freshman golfer Trevor Page carded a three-over par 147 over two rounds to finish 12th in the program’s inaugural intercollegiate tournament at the Smoky Mountain Intercollegiate on Tuesday.

“It was a phenomenal performance for a freshman in his first ever collegiate tournament,” said UWA head golf coach Adam Buie. “Trevor and Victoria Smith both battled through both days to land a solid first outing.”

The UWA men overall dropped to a 16th place finish after ending day one in ninth place at the Sevierville Golf Club River Course, while the women’s team finished the tournament in 12th, maintaining their position from the tournament’s opening round while playing the SGC Highland Course.

Page maintained a steady pace through both rounds of the tournament, topping his score of 74 in day one with a 73 in the final round. Freshman Will Walker finished second for the Tigers, shooting a 157 (78-79) overall score. Overall, the men’s team finished with a combined score of 624.

The women finished the tournament with a combined score of 656. Freshman Victoria Smith improved from a 79 in round one to 78 in round two to take 32nd place overall and lead the UWA women with a combined score of 157. Savannah Payne followed Smith on the UWA leader board, dropping seven strokes in the second round from her day one score of 78.

“Overall this was a good experience for us,” Buie said. “We didn’t do as well as we are capable of, but we’ve laid a foundation to build on from here.”

Men’s golf will return to the course on Sept. 15 in the Full Moon Invitational in Calera, Ala., hosted by the University of Montevallo. The women’s team will travel to Greeveville, Tenn., to take part in the Tusculum Fall Classic on Sept. 21.