Raleigh, N.C. – The Saint Augustine’s University Falcons football program gets in full swing on Saturday, Sept. 5, when the Falcons open the season against the N.C. Central University Eagles. The game will be at the O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium in Durham at 6 p.m.
Michael Moran, now entering his first full season as head Coach Moran, is hopeful despite coming off a 3-7 season last year when he was interim coach. “I’m able to get the guys in here now that are my guys, and we’re looking pretty good on the practice field as we get acclimated to some of the new things were trying to do,” Moran said.
Moran has some talent to build around. The Falcons return 30 scholar-athletes from last season’s team, notably standout running back Roderick Davenport II, who earned All-CIAA and All-Region as a junior. Davenport, a preseason All-CIAA selection, led the conference in 2014, rushing for 1,133 yards. Davenport needs 566 yards to break the university’s career rushing record in the modern era.
He begins the season with 2,182 rushing yards. Former star Walter Sanders is the Saint Augustine’s University career rushing leader in the modern era with 2,747 yards.
Jamal Parker, who is the team’s top returning pass catcher, is back for his senior campaign. Last season, Parker caught 41 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Defensively, Moran has defensive back Denzel Watkins, who is the top returning tackler (48 total tackles) to rely on in a relatively young defensive secondary unit.
After weeks of speculation it seemed Coach Moran had chosen the starter at quarterback – D.J. Johnson (Fr./Richmond, VA). The freshman sparked the offense with two touchdown passes in the teams Blue and White scrimmage on Aug. 29. He completed a four-yard scoring pass to fullback Reece Bradley (Sr./Fredericksburg, VA) and an 18-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Joseph Baker (Fr./Goldsboro, NC).
But Johnson missed practice on Tuesday because of NCAA eligibility issues, clearing the way for Aj Gilford (Jr., Savannah, GA). This position has been like a carousel for the last couple of years for the Falcons. But, according to Coach Moran, having four QBs on the roster is great problem to have.
“We have four solid guys at this position and they’ve all performed well throughout camp, but we have to find out who plays well with each other in this friendly “spread” offense,” Moran said.
North Carolina Central returns 51 players from last year’s team, which shared the MEAC Championship. The head coach is Jerry Mack, who enters his second season after leading the Eagles to a 7-5 record, including a 6-2 conference mark. The Falcons are 2-4 against the Eagles in the season series since 2002, but the series is tied 2-2 at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. In the last meeting, the Division II Falcons gave a the Division I Eagles a competitive effort in a 23-20 double overtime loss. The Falcons were on the verge of beating their first Division I opponent in school history, but the Eagles scored a touchdown in the final seconds to force overtime. A 19-yard field goal in the second overtime lifted the Eagles to victory after both teams scored touchdowns in the first extra session.
— Issa Glivens