Game of the season

VUU Panthers take on VSU Trojans Saturday in long-standing rivalry

Fred Jeter | 11/4/2021, 6 p.m.
Virginia Union and Virginia State universities open every season with the top goal of winning the CIAA championship. When that …

Virginia Union and Virginia State universities open every season with the top goal of winning the CIAA championship.

When that becomes unavailable, beating each other emerges as the next best thing.

In a rivalry dating to 1900, according to the VUU record book, the tug-of-war for area bragging rights resumes at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 6, at Lanier Field at Hovey Stadium in Richmond.

At stake will be a shot at second place—behind Bowie State University—in the CIAA Northern Division and, more importantly, pride.

The VUU Panthers head into the finale with the power of momentum, having slammed Elizabeth City State University 44-14 in North Carolina last Saturday.

The same can’t be said for the VSU Trojans, who are limping from last Saturday’s 38-30 home defeat to Chowan University.

A few talking points ...

In the beginning: Exploring deep in the VUU archives, it is learned that in 1900, Virginia State defeated Union 11-5 before about 200 fans on “The Hill” in Ettrick. The two teams have been popping pads ever since. An exception was last year when the rivalry was put on hold because of the pandemic.

Looking back: To finish the 2019 season, VSU defeated VUU 27-24 on an overtime field goal by Nick “The Kick” Wool- folk. The Panthers’ overtime possession ended in confus- ing disappointment. Everyone wasn’t on the same page and a futile fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

Air raid: VUU signal caller Khalid Morris is back in the saddle after missing time with an injury. The graduate student from Thomas Dale High School was 14 for 27 for 298 yards and three touchdowns last Saturday at Elizabeth City State. He was never intercepted or sacked.

Morris has the advantage of tossing to Charles Hall, the “Jersey Jet,” who ranks among the most dynamic receivers in the nation on any level.

Hall led the NCAA Division II in yards per reception in 2019 and he hasn’t lost his touch. The junior had four catches for 131 yards against Chowan and is averaging 28 yards this season on 26 grabs.

After trying out several quarterback candidates, VSU seems to have settled on Chauncey Caldwell, a junior transfer from North Carolina Central University.

Caldwell was 14 for 28 for 213 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday against Chowan, but was picked off twice and sacked three times.

Slash ‘n’Dash: Both squads showcase tailbacks with plenty of get-up-and-go. A freshman from New Jersey, 5-foot-7, 171-pound Jada Byers at VUU added 99 yards and three touch- downs to his tally in the win at Elizabeth City State.

Byers has gone over 200 yards rushing in two games and ranks with the top freshmen ball carriers in all of HBCU football. It has been said that trying to get a grip on Byers is like trying to tackle the wind.

From Chesa- peake’s Grassfield High School, VSU’s Darius Hagans is a threat carrying and receiving the pigskin. The 6-foot, 210-pound Hagans with power and speed was dynamic against Chowan, rushing for 86 yards and a touchdown and snagging three passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

Getting their kicks: The 2019 VUU-VSU game was decided by a kick and it could happen again. VSU’s Woolfolk, a brilliant all-round athlete out of Richmond’s Thomas Jeffer- son High, and VUU’s Brazilian born Jefferson Souza are three points waiting to happen.

Woolfolk is 7-for-7 on field goals this season. Souza, a preseason All-American, is 4-for-8 but he has a “pro leg” by all accounts.

In conclusion: Both squads have been wildly inconsistent this season following the year layoff.

VUU has a one-game winning streak, the home field advantage, a game-breaker extraordinaire in the “Jersey Jet” and a chance for a winning season.

On the Trojans’ side, VSU’s game against Bowie State was much closer than VUU’s and the team dreads a dreary ride home on Interstate 95 South from a stinging loss.

Either way, the winner will party hearty while the loser can only moan, “Wait until next year.”