RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Games scheduled at the end of a season carry more weight. A team in the playoff hunt can ill afford a loss. A team looking for positive momentum into the offseason needs a win. It’s what makes this year’s Raleigh Classic one to watch.
Saint Augustine’s fits in the latter category. The rebuilding Falcons are still looking for their first win. Their 0-7 record belies a lot of overall team talent. A win over Shaw in this final game will be both a spoiler and a springboard to the offseason for the program.
“My main objective with our guys this week is to not only get our first,” said St. Augustine’s head coach David Bowser. “But to keep (Shaw) from getting that seventh win and just slow down what they have.”
What the Shaw Bears have is a defense that allowed just over 8 points per game over their last seven games, including a shutout against Central State. Leading the way is a pair of seniors no offensive coordinator wants to see. Linebacker Devon Hunt leads the team with 76 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and eight tackles per game.
Over his shoulder is another problem in Kevin Sherman. The senior defensive back is third on the team in tackles with 39 and first in interceptions with three. The good news for the Falcons is this comes down to a numbers game and the numbers favor Saint Augustine’s.
“We’ll be able to put Kesean (WIlliams), Aakiel Greer, and (Deandre) Proctor out there, and there is only one (Kevin) Sherman,” Bowser said. “We just have to make sure whoever Chris (Perkins) eyes down this week that he’s looking to make sure we know where Sherman is.”
Slowing down the Bears’ offense means slowing down the ground game. This means dealing with a one-two punch of sophomore running backs Andre Blanton Jr. and Sidney Gibbs. Blanton Jr. leads the team in touchdowns with nine. Meanwhile, Gibbs has rushed for over 800 yards and five scores.
“We have to load the box. We have to be stout inside and maintain our gap integrity,” Bowser said. “We don’t want Gibbs getting downhill, so we have to keep him running to the sideline because if we let him get a head full of steam, it could be the same issues that Winston (Salem) had on Saturday.”
The return of defensive tackle Thomas Washington and a few other injured linemen should help the Falcons run defense, as well.
No other two schools in the CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) are as close literally and figuratively as Shaw and Saint Augustine’s. They were founded within two years of each other. It’s a five-minute drive from the entrance of one institution to the other. Just 1.1 miles, as the crow flies. They recruit from the same high schools. The players competed against each other before. They play their home games on the same field.
However, familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed contempt. Sure, there’s a rivalry and they compete hard with each school going for every win. There just doesn’t seem to be the hatred like another local rivalry of schools that wear different shades of blue. It has more of a family feel, like two brothers squaring off. They can go after each other all day, but heaven help the person that jumps on one or the other.
“You’re talking about two institutions that have a similar philosophy on education on society and what we want to do for humanity and that’s big,” Bowser said. “When you sprinkle in the football and the other sports aspect of it, that’s a beautiful thing. You love to compete, but you also know that you have common goals outside of just sports with Shaw and Saint Augustine being two pillars of this Wake County community for just progress over the years.”
Kick off is set for 1 p.m. at the George Williams Athletic complex.