VSU forging a victory path through N.C. opponents

Fred Jeter | 9/27/2019, 6 a.m.
If Virginia State University is to be successful this fall, it needs to dominate the Carolina portion of its schedule. ...

If Virginia State University is to be successful this fall, it needs to dominate the Carolina portion of its schedule.

So far, so good.

The Trojans unleashed a relentless ground game last Saturday in trouncing St. Augustine’s University 34-7 in Raleigh, N.C.

On Sept. 14, Coach Reggie Barlow’s squad toppled the University of North Carolina-Pembroke 35-16 in Ettrick.

Right now, it’s two Tarheel state opponents down with three to go, starting Saturday, Sept. 28, with invading Johnson C. Smith University at 6 p.m.

Then comes a visit from Shaw University on Saturday, Oct. 5, and a trip to Elizabeth City State University on Saturday, Oct. 12.

If VSU runs the table, it would set up a climactic homecoming showdown on Saturday, Oct. 19, with defending CIAA champion Bowie State University of Maryland.

Demetrius Strickland

Demetrius Strickland

The Trojans’ short and powerful Demetrius Strickland has taken off like a cannon ball in the VSU ground game. At 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, the explosive sophomore from Hampton High School burned St. Augustine’s for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

Corderal Cook

Corderal Cook

The Hampton area has been good to VSU. The Trojans’ all-time rushing champ, Trenton Cannon, hails from Hampton’s Bethel High School. The yardage leader prior to Cannon, Kavon Bellamy, is from Hampton High.

Strickland has plenty of help toting the leather. Senior Corderal Cook is a dangerous run-option quarterback, and Darius Hagans from Chesapeake and Toure Wallace from Chicago helped accumulate 235 yards in last Saturday’s game. Even Javon LaPierre, a receiver, got into the rushing act with an early 5-yard touchdown run.

The Trojans have looked sharper each week following a disappointing, turnover-plagued opening loss at Norfolk State University.

Johnson C. Smith University, VSU’s next opponent, put up a tougher than expected fight in losing to Virginia Union 33-19 last Saturday. The Johnson C. Smith Golden Bulls held the lead early in the fourth quarter.

Johnson C. Smith (1-2) has a punishing ground game of its own. Emanuel Wilson, a 210-pound sophomore from Roanoke, has run for 471 yards in three games, averaging 8.3 yards per carry.

A VSU defensive leader has been Shakym Peters. The senior defensive back had five tackles against St. Augustine’s and broke up two passes. Like quarterback Cook, Peters transferred to VSU from Alabama State University. Coach Barlow was at Alabama State prior to arriving in Ettrick.

The VSU kicking game has been solid as well. Nicholas Woolfolk, aka “Nick the Kick,” boomed field goals of 22 yards and 42 yards in Raleigh and averaged 60 yards on kickoffs. Woolfolk is from Richmond’s Thomas Jefferson High School.

Punter Jesus Valenzuela, another Hampton product, averaged more that 40 yards on three punts.

VSU defeated Johnson C. Smith 43-14 last year in Charlotte, N.C., with Cook passing for 242 yards and three touchdowns.

Saturday, Sept. 28

Virginia State University plays Johnson C. Smith University at Rogers Stadium.

Kickoff: 6 p.m. Game broadcast on WVST radio, 91.3 FM.