Science museum celebrates state employees with membership discount
How close was the battle for Virginia Union’s starting quarterback position?
Jahkari Grant and Christian Reid competed so vehemently for the spot that the competition lasted all of fall camp. In fact, the Panthers coaching staff didn’t officially declare the starter until the start of the week, just days before the start of the season.
It was a tough decision, coach Alvin Parker said. But Grant, in the end, only made a few more plays in VUU practices to separate.
“It meant a lot,” Grant said, to earn the spot. “But I can credit [Reid] to that too, because he pushed me to be the best player possible.
And so it was Grant who led the Panthers offense in their Thursday debut at Hovey Field against the University of Virginia Lynchburg, against Reid – his roommate and friend.
Their efforts were paired with a voracious defensive performance, and VUU fought their way to a 77-0 victory over VUL, ahead of 4,760.
“The most important thing, we wanted to give a lot of guys the chance to play [Thursday night]”, Parker said. “And I think we did it. I think we went all the way to threes and fours. But we knew during camp that we had good depth. And we knew that no matter who we put in place, we could get results.
“So we were happy to see that.”
The Panthers (1-0) have rushed for 487 total yards. They held the Dragons (0-1), members of the National Christian College Athletic Association, to 203 total yards.
The playability within the Panthers offense is deep. Grant, who began his career in Rhode Island, showed off his arm – notably when he punched Cleon Dickens (JR Tucker) on top for a 51-yard gain that set up Byers’ first touchdown. Byers showed off his nimble quickness and strength — a second-quarter touchdown reception he had after hitting a tackle attempt just after the catch. Jiles showed his athletic ability at 6-3, pushing a VUL defender to add to his yards after the catch on a 29-yard gain early in the second quarter.
And the list could go on.
“We have too much depth for anyone to compete with us,” said Byers, who also said he was playing with passion following the death of his sister on Sunday. His funeral took place on Thursday.
Reid, who started his career at Charleston Southern, replaced Grant in the third quarter and had his own 5-yard touchdown pass, for Ricky Key, Jr. (Westside), early in the fourth quarter.
VUU also had three special teams touchdowns: a blocked field goal returned 70 yards by Ephraim Moore to end the first half, Larry Hackey The 70-yard kickoff returns to open the second half and a blocked punt that was dropped in the end zone by RJ Rountree almost midway through the third quarter.
On defense, the Panthers played with teeming intensity, which yielded eight sacks in total. defensive end Burden of the Armoniian all-CIAA preseason pick, was on 1.5 sacks and led VUU with six total tackles.
“I really appreciated how they didn’t let go,” Grant said of the defense. “As if they were just gas, no brakes, the whole game.”
Even after a shutout recorded in the style of Thursday, Parker came away feeling the Panthers had a few things to work on — namely penalties, of which VUU had nine for a loss of 104 yards.
This is all the more relevant given the sequel. The Panthers will face Valdosta State on Sept. 10, the No. 2 ranked team in D2Football.com’s preseason poll and last season’s national finalist.
But, after Thursday’s statement, next Saturday will be a good test for a VUU squad that is brimming with talent.
“We’re excited to go out there and take on the challenge,” Grant said. “We just have to improve every day and go out there and just play our game.”