Everything about Saturday’s Labor Day Classic in Montgomery will be about pride and rivalry in the state of Alabama. Miles College, led by former University of Alabama star Sam Shade, will challenge the Alabama State Hornets for the second year in a row. Although the nearby neighbors from Fairfield are a Division II school, the Golden Bears added some spice in last year’s overtime battle with Alabama State.
There’s also the matter of pedigree to throw into the mix. New ASU coach Eddie Robinson Jr., was a shining star on a championship team for the Hornets in the early 1990s. Both he and Shade were drafted into the NFL and went on to have productive careers in the league. Both coaches, now in their forties, will influence the game from the sideline however, not in between the lines.
Shade will make his debut as head coach just one week after Robinson who coached his team to victory in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge against Howard. Miles College was predicted to win the SIAC Western Division once again and return to the championship game in hopes of a title. Last year’s team fell short against Albany State but that was during the Reginald Ruffin era. Ruffin moved on to coach Tuskegee during the offseason.
But many of the star players from last year’s team will return for another run at the SIAC title. The Golden Bears return five student athletes who were named to the preseason all conference team in the SIAC. Mitchell Smiley, Tyler Lowery, Roosevelt Thompson, Marcus Lodge and Jackson Spradlin.
All Conference Selections
Smiley, a First Team defensive back is a two-time All-SIAC selection who has also been an all-conference pick at linebacker. Lowery was also a First Team All-SIAC pick in 2021 as an offensive lineman. Thompson, a sophomore, was named to the preseason First Team on the defensive line. Last season, he finished with 34 tackles (18 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a blocked kick on special teams.
Lodge was named to the First Team at wide receiver. Last year, he caught a team-high 20 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns. Spradlin, a Second Team place kicker, made 7-of-11 field goals, including a long of 50 yards last season.
Alabama State only has two All SWAC preseason selections in offensive lineman Robert Alston and defensive back Irshadd Davis. Both players were selected to the First Team. However, no one wins a trophy for preseason accolades, and the best to come for ASU may have landed via the portal.
New quarterback dazzles in first start
Quarterback Demetrius Davis was a huge recruiting gem for Alabama State. The Auburn transfer had the high school resume to fawn over, 2,453 yards passing with 30 TD and 529 yards rushing with 14 scores as a high school senior. He was rated the No. 4 dual threat recruit nationally at the time.
In his first game as a Hornet, he was only upstaged by mother nature and a five hour plus marathon of game riddled by stoppages for lightning. But Davis provided the thunder, going 16-23 passing for 184 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 37 yards.
Miles College will be looking for a huge bang to start the tenure of Sam Shade with an upset on Saturday. It’s not that far fetched of an idea, Alabama State barely won in overtime last year, 14-13, against Miles.
Robinson Jr. has the Hornet faithful talking about championships again in Montgomery. You can’t win one in week one but you can certainly build some momentum in the home opener.
Kickoff is set for 6pm EST/5pm CST on ESPN Plus. I will have the pleasure of being on the television broadcast along with Santoria Black.