RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Shaw Bears football team will take the field for the first time this season Thursday when they play.
Most players are anxious to put the pads on after a normal off-season.
For this team, it has been 663 days since they last suited up.
Their last game was against Saint Augustine’s on Nov. 9, 2019.
Excited doesn’t begin to describe the mood of this team as game day draws near.
“They are very hyped. They got to watch some football this weekend and see North Carolina Central play Alcorn,” said Shaw Bears head coach Adrian Jones. “We look forward to going out there and representing on Thursday.”
For the Bears, it’s their first time playing on Thursday night and they won’t be alone.
Shaw will share the college football stage with a trio of North Carolina teams.
N.C. State takes on USF in Raleigh and Appalachian State squares off with East Carolina in Charlotte.
Share the stage sure, but definitely looking to take most if not all the spotlight with their play.
“It’s good to be pretty much the only team playing on Thursday night,” said coach Jones. “It will be a great test for us to see who we are.”
They are facing a team in Wingate that can do it all. Ranked second in the South Atlantic Conference pre-season poll, Wingate is ranked 21st in all of DII football. The American Football Coaches Association has them 25th in the preseason.
The Bulldogs get back five All-SAC honorees from their 2019 team including All-American offensive lineman Andrew Strickland.
Running back Nijere Peoples is back after putting up 831 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on his way to being tabbed All-SAC honors last time out.
Quarterback Shaw Crocker earned second-team All-SAC honors in 2019 while McLean Robertson picked up first-team accolades as a kicker.
Jordon Anderson earned first-team all-conference recognition as a defensive lineman so yeah, the Bears have their hands full and they know it.
“Wingate has a good offense you know they have a great coaching staff, they’ve been deep in the playoffs they’ve won the conference several times,” said Jones. “We have to hang our hat on what we do and that’s not get rattled. When something good happens we have to continue to play and when something bad happens we continue to play.”
First games are always unpredictable.
You can practice for weeks on end for hours each day but until teams square off against a squad with a different color jersey you never really know what you have.
That being said there are a few things coach Jones would like to see when his players take the field Thursday night.
“We have to hang our hat on being disciplined and protecting the football,” said coach Jones. “The coaching staff has done a great job of preparing these guys for this week and I look forward to seeing what we do on Thursday.”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. this Thursday at Irwin Belk Stadium in Wingate.