Monday, September 18, 2017

Your Seat Is Waiting For You

This Saturday, Ferrum will host its third consecutive home game as defending conference champion Huntingdon comes to W.B. Adams Stadium. It;s homecoming and family day this weekend, and Ferrum must regroup after the disheartening loss to Averett . While this loss hurt, especially as well as the team played, Ferrum will need to reach down deep, and pull it together, because, Huntingdon is a stronger team than Averett.
So what will it take for the Panthers to get a win? It will take total focus and excellent execution in ALL PHASES OF THE GAME.

Is this one Ferrum can win? Absolutely! This however will not be easy, and if there is anything that could help the Panthers to an upset, it will be a loud, and large home crowd. You need to be at the game. Your attendance is a must, and this is a must win, so try to get to  the game........The Panthers need to hear your support!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Numbers Don't Lie.....Usually
This Time They Did

This, despite the outcome was a really good football game. Both teams battled hard the entire contest, but if you just looked at the stats, you would think it came out differently than it did.

Just a few numbers from Saturday's game:

First Downs
Ferrum 18
Averett 4

Yards Rushing
Ferrum 157
Averett 63

Yards Passing
Ferrum 191
Averett 36

These on the surface seem to give Ferrum the upper hand, but there were other things that  overshadowed these numbers.

2 interceptions for the Averett returned for a touchdown
2 blocked punts for the Averett defense  One returned for a touchdown, and one that set up another touchdown.
1 blocked field goal attempt

Final score: Averett 19   Ferrum 7

Sometimes two out of three ain't for the three phases of this game, Ferrum looked really strong on defense, and okay on offense......this was mainly due to the Cougar defense being a very solid unit. Special teams however, the third phase of the game, struggled to say the least. Ferrum could have had more than two punts blocked......Averett was in the backfield all day in the punter's face. This has to be fixed. Not sure what the answer is, but I am sure of one thing. The coaches will make the necessary adjustments to fix it.

Had a comment on a blog post recently asking if I thought Ferrum can legitimately contend for the conference title? My answer was a resounding yes. After yesterday, my answer is still yes, but boy the hill just got steeper. Ferrum will have to win out, and Averett will have to lose twice. Another loss by Ferrum, and it will be next to impossible. If there is a silver lining, it is that the loss happened early in the season, and there is time to recover......but it will require the help of other teams to get Ferrum to a conference title.

Yesterday was a prime example of how important the special team phase of the game is. You must execute in all three phases consistently, and Ferrum was not able to do that as well as Averett yesterday.

On to next Saturday......see you at homecoming!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

GAMEDAY: Averett @ Ferrum

For the second week in a row, Ferrum will be at home, this week to host the Averett Cougars. Coming off of two big wins, Ferrum fans are looking for the Panthers to go 3-0. While its is something I am hoping for too, and believe it should happen, I am not guaranteeing this by any means. Averett is a very good team, despite their 0-2 record. In those two games, they lost by a total of seven points to two ODAC powers...Randolph Macon, and Hampden-Sydney. If there is a weakness, it may be stopping the pass. Their strengths are their running game, and stopping the run.
My feeling is that Ferrum should be able to limit their rushing attack, and will have good success through the air. The Ferrum running game may be hampered a bit, but look for there to be adjustments to stop the Ferrum passing attack, thus making the running game more effective.
In the end, I look for Ferrum to move to 3-0, but this could be a close game......personally, I am hoping for a blowout!

Go Panthers!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Week 3: Predictions

Last week I was 7-2, with an overall record of 13-5.

Averett @ Ferrum

Saturday is my birthday, and as much as I would like to be at W.B. Adams stadium, I will wait and travel to Ferrum for homecoming.
This is an important week as conference games begin, and for Ferrum, this is a huge game.  This is not a given win for the Panthers and the next three games will tell a lot about the Ferrum football program. While all of the conference games are important, these next three will pose stiff competition for Ferrum.
Let's not look too far down the road.....let's focus on Averett.

The Cougars have primarily a run based offense. In fact in their first two games, they have only attempted 26 passes. Their primary running back, Sean Bowman leads the conference in rushing with 309 yards on 50 carries. That is 25 carries per game. That is a lot of touches, and what that tells me is that Averett's offensive line must be pretty capable.

If that is the case, Ferrum's defense has to be up to the test. So far this season, Ferrum has only given up 225 rushing yards, and have not given up a rushing touchdown. This game could be a nail biter, and I think it will take something special like a great special team play, or a defensive touchdown to win this game. I will give a slight edge to Ferrum based on momentum, and home field advantage.
No matter what the score, a Ferrum win will be a great birthday present!

Ferrum wins 32-28

Here is the rest of this weeks schedule:

North Carolina Wesleyan @ Huntingdon

LaGrange @ Methodist

Maryville @ Emory and Henry

Brevard @ Greensboro

Go Panthers!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Panthers Move to 2-0
Conference play begins Saturday

On Saturday, before a very partisan home crowd, Ferrum hosted the Newport News Apprentice School Builders. Meeting for the first time since 1999, both teams came into the game with a week one win. While I believed that Ferrum should handle this game, it was hard to guage where the Builders were as a team. Yes they had an impressive win over Greensboro College in week 1, 39-7, but the question that came to mind was, "Is Newport News turning a corner?" On the surface, the score, and the stats from their first game could give you pause.
Ferrum came to play, and this was a total team effort that made the victory look very easy.
Zach Clifford started his first game at quarterback, and took full advantage of his opportunity. Clifford was 20 of 27 passing and set a single game Ferrum record with 347 yards. He had three touchdown passes in the effort, and ran for one. The defense was also very impressive, holding the Builders to just 6 points well into the fourth quarter.
On the receiving end of Clifford's strikes were several receivers, but no receiver had a better day than Johnny White. White had six receptions for 139 yards, and two touchdowns, the longest touchdown reception was 71 yards. The best reception of the day was a amazing one handed catch that gave Ferrum the ball at the three yard line. This play led to a Ferrum field goal, and a 23-0 second quarter lead. Incidentally, that play was submitted to ESPN as a potential top ten play.
With a fourth quarter lead of 40-6, Ferrum initiated some liberal substitutions, getting some non starters some much needed game time. The Builders added two late touchdowns, and Ferrum closed out the game with a 40-20 win.

So now, Ferrum is 2-0, and has a tough opponent in that of conference foe, the Averett Cougars. Averett is 0-2, but they have faced two very strong opponents in Hampden-Sydney and Randolph Macon. Against the Tigers, the Cougars lost by three points, and in there second game versus the Yellow Jackets, they lost by four. Averett is strong, but Ferrum needs to exact a little revenge on the Cougars. Yes we beat them last year in Danville, but the revenge needs to come for the loss the Panthers suffered in 2015. That game was the only game played at W.B.Adams stadium that year, and represented the first game played on Ferrum's new turf field. Ferrum will be facing a team that I said in an earlier post, could defeat any team in the conference. While it is not going to be an easy path to victory, Ferrum must be ready for the challenge. This represents a must win situation for Ferrum. A victory would put the momentum train at full speed going into homecoming.

Predictions will be posted later this week.

Go Panthers!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

GAMEDAY: Apprentice School @ Ferrum

With both teams coming off big week one wins, it is likely each team will bring a good deal of momentum to the game. Newport News Apprentice has not enjoyed a lot of success in recent years, but did post a .500 season last year. Some things to take note of.
The coaching staff is headed by interim head coach Mark Tomlin, and is aided by Offensive coordinator Zbig Kepa. Kepa was a respected assistant coach at William and Mary for almost 30 years. He has been around the game forever, and brings a wealth of information and knowledge to the sideline. Tomlin is well familiar with the Builders program. He played for the Apprentice School before graduating in 1986, and has had taught and coached in Prince George County Public Schools.
From what I can see, The Apprentice School has a far more difficult schedule this year as they have many ODAC match ups along with a couple of USA South teams mixed in. While I think this is still a team that will have a hard time repeating last years success, they are "building" a strong program.

As for Ferrum, I am looking for this to be a chance for them to pick up win number two, and continuing the tune up process for the conference schedule. I look for Ferrum's ground game to have a more dominant roll in the game today, and expect the Ferrum defense to present a lot of pressure on the Builders offense. This however is not a guaranteed win. To think so would be a mistake for Ferrum. The Panthers have a very good chance be a very special team. They have a very real chance to contend and win the USA South, and while this is not a conference game, a loss today would do serious damage to their momentum, and their overall outlook on a national scale.

Keys to the game today:

For Ferrum to win, they simply have to-

Control time of possession,and score often.

Create turnovers, and convert to points.

Control the line of scrimmage defensively.

Shut down the passing game through pressure on the quarterback

So why is there a concern? This can be a statement game. A chance for Ferrum to really show off their ability. I would love to see a 30+ point Panther win, I would love to see a second week where the Ferrum defense does not give up a touchdown, and I would love to see a touchdown from a punt or kickoff return by the Panthers.
What concerns me is that there is no recent history between these schools, and it would be quite easy to look at the struggles that the Builders have had over the last several years, and develop the feeling that this win will be automatic.....this would be a mistake. The Apprentice School has abilities, and is coming in, believing they can and will win. Here is what I know. Last week, Greensboro only had 6 first downs, and only 192 yards of total offense. The Pride only had 51 yards rushing. I am not sure that we can take a lot from that, but it is quite possible that the Builders defense is pretty good.

In the end, I think it is important for Ferrum to stay focused, follow the game plan and they should come up with their second win. I had earlier predicted that Ferrum will win 32-6. I will stick with that. I  solidly believe that Ferrum can make a statement as to how good they are, but in the end, it is not the score, it's the win........Take it to 'em Ferrum.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Week 2: Predictions

Last week, I was 6-3

Newport News Apprentice @ Ferrum

The memories of last Saturday's win are sweet, but it's time to look to week two. This week Ferrum comes home to host the Newport News Apprentice School Builders. Coming off a lopsided 39-7 win over Greensboro College, The Builders bring in a formidable ground game that accounted for 356 yards rushing. Running Back Brandon Jones (#4) appears to be their go to guy as he tallied 120 yards on 16 carries, scoring two touchdowns. As for the quarterback, the Builders used three different ones. I would expect Brenden O'Neil (#7), (8 of 13 for 144 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT.) to be the starter.

So what should we expect Saturday? On the surface, the score of 39-7 may raise some eyebrows. While Ferrum and Newport News Apprentice enjoy a long football history, they have not played since Sept. of 1999. In that game, Ferrum won 22-0. While you can't draw any inferences from a game played 18 years ago, I am not sure that you can draw very many from the NN/Greensboro last week. Yes the Builders did put up solid offensive numbers, and held Greensboro to just 7 points, but I have to say.....Ferrum ain't no Greensboro, and The Builders ain't no Emory ad Henry.
Look for the Ferrum offense to see much more success, and seem much more in sync. I expect Zach Clifford to get the start, and continue his progression. Look for Brian Mann to have much better numbers, and look for the defense to shine again this week. There are no guarantees in life, but I think chances are good that Ferrum will finish the day 2-0.

Ferrum 32  NNAS 6

Guilford @ Methodist

After a 70- 0 pasting at the hands of FCS opponent Campbell University, the Monarchs return home to take on ODAC power Guilford.  I call them a power even though they are only predicted to finish 6th in their conference. Keep in mind, they defeated Huntingdon last week on the road 38-24. Why is that significant? Huntingdon is predicted to be the co-conference champion of the USA South. Statistically, this was a very close game.

Once again, I think Methodist will have an up hill climb, but it's a hill, not the mountain they faced last week. Look for this to be somewhat of a one sided affair, but I think there will be improvement for the Monarchs.....just not enough

Guilford 28
Methodist 16

Here are the rest of my week 2 predictions:

Hanover @ Maryville

Emory and Henry @ Brevard

Greensboro @ Gallaudet

Randolph Macon @ Averett

LaGrange @ Berry

Shenandoah @ North Carolina Wesleyan

Huntingdon @ Birmingham Southern

Monday, September 4, 2017


In a low scoring affair, Ferrum and Emory and Henry battled hard. Ferrum's offense, which is usually ground based, and features Brian Mann, among others, was frustrated most of the day. Mann did not have the yards per carry he grew accustomed to in his freshman year, but he did get Ferrum's first of two touchdowns on Saturday. It was not that Mann had a bad day, I think it;s more accurate to say that this day belonged to the defenses. This game was an in your face and hard hitting as any I've seen in a while. Both teams used at least two quarterbacks, and  multiple running backs, but the defenses ruled the day.
Zach Clifford, and Tyler English both looked good at quarterback for Ferrum, and Johnny White along with Nick Pearce, each had 4 receptions, but it was White's last catch that put Ferrum ahead for good.

With 1:41 left in the game, Emory and Henry had the ball, 1st and 10 with a two point lead, and Ferrum had no time outs. These circumstances left Ferrum in a pretty desperate position. Essentially, all Emory and Henry had to do was take a knee, and run the clock out, but they didn't.....they ran one more play and well.......we 96'd 'em.
On this play, the quarterback took the snap with about 1:20 left in the game, and he handed the ball off to the running back. The running back went off right tackle, but Montell Lee had other ideas. On this play, the "Alabama Wildman" knifed through the offensive line, and simply stripped the ball from the running backs arms, and took off toward the end zone. While he did not score, this one play set up the improbable win for the Panthers.
This was not  just any win..... Ferrum defeated the team that was picked to win the ODAC. And while there are things that Ferrum needs to work on, to be more effective as the season goes on, this win is huge. It's a first step for what lies ahead. I like what I see, and can't wait for the home opener against Newport News Apprentice School.

Go Panthers!

Friday, September 1, 2017

GAMEDAY: Ferrum @ Emory and Henry

And so begins the 2017 season, the second edition of the Crooked Road Classic, and my tenth season of writing this blog. In looking back to the earliest post, it was a recap of the 2008 Emory and Henry game played at Ferrum. Marcus Mayo, and Mike Vann each turned in a strong performance, but the Panthers came up on the short end of a 26-21 score.

Ten years later, Ferrum is again about to go toe to toe with the Wasps, and after the come from behind win that the Panthers engineered last year, look for Emory and Henry to seek serious revenge.

Ferrum has a solid group of starters. The offensive and defensive lines look very strong. Ferrum will have substantial talent at the running back position, and will likely be blessed with a talented receiving corp. Tyler English saw a fair amount of playing time at quarterback last year, and did not disappoint. I look for English to be developing his skills as he moves through the season, but I think he is quite capable. The quarterback corps is a very solid unit.

If there is anything that concerns me it is the defensive secondary. This unit has to improve significantly over last year. Look for this group to be getting stronger as the season goes on.

Overall I see this game as a potential barn burner. Possibly as good if not better than last years. Look for Ferrum to once again bring home the trophy for the Crooked Road Classic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Week 1 Predictions

Methodist @ Campbell

This will be a tough game for the Monarchs. The Campbell Camels are an FCS school. While Campbell may not be a household name, They play in the same league as William and Mary, University of Richmond, and James Madison University.
David vs. Goliath is an appropriate analogy.  For this to be less than a thirty point difference would be a good effort for the Monarchs.

N.C. Wesleyan @ #2 Mt. Union

This will be another David vs. Goliath match up, but look for the Bishops to be able to give a fairly strong accounting in what will be a very difficult situation. While these are both D3 schools, Mount Union is year in and year out one of the best programs in the country. This will be a tall order for NCW, but it does give them national exposure, and gets them the chance to raise the level of their competition. None the less, Purple Raiders will roll.

Here is the rest of week 1........

Averett @ Hampden-Sydney

Berry @ Maryville

Greensboro @ Apprentice School

Birmingham Southern at LaGrange

Guilford @ Huntingdon

Brevard @ Davidson

Ferrum 30 @ Emory and Henry 28

Looks like the home teams will have the advantage.........all but one!!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Countdown is On!

With less than two weeks till kickoff of the 2017 season, I thought I would let you know where I see Ferrum's strengths and areas that concern me as September 2nd approaches.

In looking at the upcoming season, Ferrum returns 16 starters from last years squad. Among those 16, the Offensive USA South Rookie of the Year Brian Mann comes back to build on his phenomenal freshman season. Look for Mann to again shoulder a large portion of the offensive attack. Mann proved to be a thorn in the side of many defenses last season, and I expect that trend to continue this season.

Staying on the offensive side of the ball, Ferrum will have to fill a hole left by the graduation of quarterback Harvey Taylor. Ferrum has the potential to return 7 quarterbacks from last years roster. I look for Tyler English to assume the starting role, but do not discount Johnny White as a potential replacement. While White took on receiver duties last year, he is listed as a quarterback on the roster. If English does start at quarterback, White will definitely be a receiving target for English.
What I see as a recruiting coup, was the commitment of  McMichael High School quarterback Tyrez Welch. Welch in his Senior season had over 1500 yards rushing, and 1500 yards passing while leading his team to the state playoffs. It is not clear when and how Welch will be used, but this guy is an athlete that will benefit Ferrum. As it stands now, Ferrum, I believe is in good shape at the quarterback position.

With Mann returning, it's easy to see how he will be looked at as a main cog in the offensive wheel. While I was impressed beyond words with his Freshman campaign, I think Ferrum will need to have a credible passing attack to keep the defenses off balance, and give the offensive attack another dimension. With the loss of Chris Guy to graduation, Ferrum will have to rely on some of those returning receivers to carry the load. Junior Nick Pearce will be the old man of the group and should see plenty of playing time.  Sophomore Ne'Shaun Gill, who saw a good amount of field time as a freshman will definitely be a prime target for the quarterbacks. I also look for Johnny White to be right in the middle of things this year.

Overall offensively, Ferrum should be strong. Much will depend on the quarterback, and his receivers, but look for Ferrum;s offense to be one of the better units in the conference.

Defensively, Ferrum will be led by returning Senior Montell Lee. Lee garnered USA South Defensive POY honors after the 2016 season, and this was done as he was moved from DE to DT. Lee has been the epitome of consistency for Ferrum, and it will be a pleasure to watch him finish his Senior year.
Along with Lee, look for Senior Al Mathews to be another force on the defensive line.

Overall, Ferrum's defensive questions don't lie along the defensive line, but from my perspective, the linebackers and defensive backfield are the areas that concern me the most. The linebackers will have some new faces this year as graduation caused the exit of Tony Konieczka, Lance Moore and Jabbar Coward. Look for Sophomore AJ Camp, who got a lot of playing time last season as a Freshman  to pick up where he left off. Overall, there is some depth at linebacker, and this will be increased with recruits like LB Kendall Bell out of Woodside H.S.

Last year, Ferrum ranked last in the conference for overall passing yards allowed.... 270 yards per game. As for interceptions, Ferrum ranked 7th overall with 9 INT's, and while the Panthers recorded 20 sacks, that was only good enough to rank them fourth in overall sacks for conference teams.
This is where Ferrum has to improve the most. If these three areas can improve significantly, Ferrum will be a STRONG CONTENDER.

Things to watch for.......

Ferrum @ Emory and Henry

The Crooked Road Classic will have it's second edition as Ferrum opens the season on the road September 2nd at Emory and Henry. This is an Important game, and could serve as an indicator as to where Ferrum is in the restore the roar effort.  A win would be far more beneficial than a loss would be detrimental......As this is a non conference game, a loss would have to be looked at as a learning opportunity, but a win,.....a win would be huge! Emory and Henry will be looking to avenge last year's loss in what was one of the most exciting games I have seen in many years. That loss ended about a nine or ten year winning streak. That plus the under story of Coach Grande returning to his old stomping grounds will give the Wasps plenty of fodder to get fired up.
This will be a big game as far as the local rivalry goes, and will give the local fans a chance to get out to see Ferrum and support the Panthers on the road.

Home Opener vs. Apprentice School

For the first time in at least the last ten years, the Builders come to Ferrum to face the Panthers. This has been a team that for many years has had less than a stellar record, in fact last year their record of 5-5 was their best since 2007.  While this should be an expected victory for Ferrum, the Builders should not be taken lightly. A few games on their 2016 schedule shows how formidable an opponent they can be

L vs Methodist 24-20
W vs Greensboro  42-22
W vs Bridgewater 26-23

Apprentice has an established program, and a strong coaching staff. While it should be a Panthers victory, don't count your chickens before they hatch!

Homecoming vs. Huntingdon

By the time we get to homecoming, Ferrum should have at least two wins under their belt, and may well have three. Huntingdon is picked to at least tie for the top spot in the USA South, according to the coaches poll. After going to the playoffs the last two seasons, the Hawks will be a tough hill to climb, but they have had a lot of roster changes, and may not be quite the same team as we saw the last two years. Roster changes or not, they are predicted to be co conference champion. If Ferrum could come into homecoming with a 3-0 record,, and at the end of the game have a 4-0 record, things will be looking strong. It will be a great game, and one of the biggest things that can help Ferrum pull off the win, will be to have a huge homecoming crowd. I encourage any and all fans to try to get to this game. It will be worth the trip, no matter how far you have to drive.

The USA South Schedule begins August 31 as Methodist travels to Buies Creek N.C. to play FCS opponent, Campbell University Camels. All other schools begin play September 2nd.

Go Panthers!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

2017 USA South Predictions

Its that time for my pre -season predictions, and while it is easy to automatically anoint Huntingdon as likely conference champion, I am inclined to channel my inner Lee Corso and say "Not So Fast"
There are many teams that will be in serious contention this year, and Huntingdon will definitely be one, but I think things could be so close, that it could end up being one of four or five teams that could end up on top. There may be more parity in the conference this year, and this has been a trend of recent years, but to have 4-5 teams that could legitimately take the title is parity on a higher plane.

Some interesting information about the USA South. It has been the practice that the conference office has posted information about the media day event for football. This event is hosted by one of the member schools each year, and all head coaches, usually someone from the athletic directors office, or possibly the SID office, and each institutions local media would likely be in attendance. Although I had been looking, I had not seen anything about this years media day. Knowing that this is usually held in late July, I decided to contact the USA South office directly to find out when the media day would be. I spoke to assistant commissioner Mike Christie, and learned that the conference office would have a meeting with all of the coaches, but the format apparently would not include media coverage. He did assure me that there would be a  coaches poll, and this would happen in very early August.
As of now, I have not seen any coaches poll, and I always try to publish my predictions before the coaches poll comes out. With this in mind, below is where I think the USA South teams will finish.

9)  Methodist

8)   Greensboro

7)   LaGrange

6)   Brevard

5)   Averett

4)    N.C. Wesleyan

3)   Ferrum

2)  Huntingdon

1)  Maryville

This is very difficult. First, very little is known about Brevard. They are a former DII school, in their first year of DIII. They will have scholarship athletes, and could do better than projected. They had 1 win last year.

I do believe that any of the top five teams can win the conference. To put Averett at 5th seems like they are under rated. I think they can beat any team on their schedule......Its going to be fun to keep up with the Cougars.

I am picking Maryville to beat Huntingdon, and Ferrum to beat North Carolina Wesleyan.

For Ferrum to do better than this, they need to go into Homecoming preferably unbeaten. If they start 3-0, look out!

ts going to be a fun season. Stay tuned for a more in depth article of the season soon.