The major news in the DMV was the sale of the Washington Commanders becoming official. It set the tone for the upcoming football season as locals Bowie State University and Howard University kicked off their respective annual pre-season roundups this week.
Bowie State was picked second overall and first in the Northern Division of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) by the coaches and media while Howard was picked to finish second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) behind the reigning Black National Champion, North Carolina Central.
Bowie Bulldogs Gear Up for New Season
The Bulldogs, who won the CIAA Title and advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs the previous two seasons before this year, took a bit of a “slide” last season, finishing 6-4 overall and 5-3 in conference play.
Bowie State returns 18 starters from last year’s squad.
“It was certainly a year of transition for us,” admitted Kyle Jackson, following his first year after succeeding former head coach Damien Wilson, who took over the reins at Morgan State University. “There were some areas that we need to get back to the tradition that we have maintained here at Bowie State.”
Bowie State was a juggernaut on the offensive side of the ball where it averaged over 456 yards and 29 points per game. It was a defensive side of the ball where the Bulldogs were not as effective and allowed almost 300 yards of offense per game.
“We recognize that is an area where we have to improve,” said red-shirt sophomore cornerback Jadon Carter (Lackey HS), an all-CIAA pick who recorded 31 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. “We had a good off-season and you will see an improvement in that area. We are all working hard to get back to where we were on that side of the ball.”
An all-conference pick, red-shirt junior wide receiver Keshane Hinckley (Laurel, Maryland) was one of the most dangerous receivers in the league with 56 catches for 686 yards and five TDs.
“I like the way we operate on offense,” noted Hinckley. “We have some weapons and that allows me to be more effective.”
The Bulldogs will be looking to regain the CIAA title and make another appearance in the NCAA playoffs.
Bowie State opens the season against HBCU and MEAC opponent Delaware State in Dover, Delaware on Sept. 2.
Howard Bison Work to Keep Up Momentum from Historic Last Season
After a 1-5 start, the Bison turned things around, winning four of their last five games to finish 5-6 and 4-1 in the MEAC. They were crowned co-champions, the first time that they have had a share of the crown since 1993.
Their hopes are further buoyed by the return of a number of key starters, including leaders Kenny Gallop, Jr. and Jarett Hunter.
A 6-1, 214-pound senior from Portsmouth, Virginia , Gallop is regarded as one of the top safeties in the Football Champion Subdivision (FCS). He is a first team All-MEAC selection in 2022 and has been named to several pre-season honors, including the conference team. He led the team in tackles for the second straight year with 93.
“We faced a lot of adversity early in the season,” noted Gallop, a pro prospect, who majors in kinesiology. “But as the season progressed down the stretch, we were able to come together. One of the keys for us going into the season is to focus on the little things that may go unnoticed but often determines wins and losses.”
A 5-10, 205-pound senior running back from Mineral, Virginia, Hunter is one of the top all-around backs in the MEAC. He led the team with 627 yards rushing and five TDs while also catching 24 passes for 240 yards and two TDs out of the backfield.
“This has been a gradual process over the past three years that I have been here,” said Hunter. “Each year, under Coach Scott, we have improved and gotten better. You could see last year when we cut down on mistakes and executed the game plan. It gave us a chance to win. Coming that close, we realized that it is the little things that the coaches have been preaching that make a difference. That is what we are looking forward to. It’s like Kenny said, ‘we have to cut out the little things like jumping offsides or missing an important assignment.’”
When Larry Scott took over as head coach of the Bison in 2019, there were a number of challenges, including a COVID-19-shortened season and bringing in the type of players that fit his style and vision.
“We are not just a football team here at Howard; we have a football program. We are doing it the right way so that we can sustain what we are building,” said Scott. “Here at Howard, we want to make it a good experience here in football, in the classroom and in their career pursuits.”
He continued, “After last year, we are trying to elevate the program. We have gotten bigger, stronger and more experienced.”
The Howard football team has transformed from one that was often manhandled on both sides of the ball due to being vastly undersized. There has been considerable size difference due to recruitment and an emphasis on weight and strength conditioning.
The offensive line is now considerably better with the return of the likes of graduate offensive tackle Anim Dankwah and junior guard Darius Fox (DeMatha), both all-conference selections. Dankwah is a pro prospect and a selection to the East-West game.
On the skill side, Howard has balance, both running and passing the ball. They have the advantage of graduate quarterback Quinton Williams (Upper Marlboro, Maryland), in his fourth year as starter.
Defensively, there has been significant improvement with the likes of graduate defensive linemen Darrian Brokenburr (Manassas, Virginia) and Jevin Jackson, junior linebacker Terrence Hollon and a talented and deep secondary, led by Gallop.
“The last two years, we have been growing as a program,” added Gallop. “We were one of the youngest teams in the FCS. We have now matured and ready to take the next step.”
The next step for the Bison is to win the MEAC outright and advance to the Celebration Bowl, played in December in Atlanta, Georgia against the Southwestern Atlantic Conference (SWAC) champion for the Black National Championship.
Howard opens the season at Eastern Michigan on Sept. 1.