The SWAC championship game is set for a matchup between two teams that have faced each other in the same circumstances. The only remaining question is which team will host, East champion Alabama A&M or West champ Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Alabama A&M plays at Mississippi Valley State, and UAPB plays host to Texas Southern in their respective season finales Saturday. If both teams win, A&M would get the home-field advantage if its margin is eight points or more since the Golden Lions beat Valley by seven.
If only one team wins, the winner gets the host honors. If both win and A&M beats Valley by exactly seven, home-field advantage goes to a coin-flip tiebreaker.
Regardless of what happens, the game will be a rematch of the 2006 title game, won 22-13 by Alabama A&M, the last time the Bulldogs won the league title. A&M’s last appearance in the title game was a 16-15 loss to Grambling in 2011.
UAPB’s last time in the SWAC championship game resulted in a 24-21 victory over Jackson State in 2012.
Clinching the East
Alabama A&M (3-0, 2-0) clinched the East Division title with a 38-14 victory over injury-plagued Alabama State on Saturday in the Magic City Classic. Quarterback Aqueel Glass completed 25 of 40 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Zabrian Moore caught four passes for 138 yards and two scores while the Bulldogs defense shut out the Hornets in the second half.
The Bulldogs were one of the SWAC's more persevering teams, playing only one game through the first six weeks of the spring season because of COVID-19 restrictions and in one case, a weather cancellation. Ironically, that weather cancellation was at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the team it will play for the SWAC title May 1. A&M led that game 10-3 when lightning forced cancellation.
“It shows our kids don’t have any quit in them,” coach Connell Maynor said. “They fought through a lot of adversity. This is what we’ve worked for, what we came here for. We’re very grateful.”
Clinching the West
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4-0, 4-0) outlasted Prairie View 36-31 to win the West as quarterback Skyler Perry, a former Karr Cougar, completed 16 of 33 passes for 201 yards and four touchdowns. The Lions defense sacked PV quarterback Trazon Connelly five times and intercepted three passes. Kolby Watts had nine tackles, four for loss including a sack, a forced fumble and a pass breakup for the Lions.
“Skyler Perry brings confidence you need at that position,” first-year UAPB coach Doc Gamble said. “It flows throughout the team. But he has some other parts around him that help his confidence level. As tough as he is physically, he’s tougher mentally.
“Kolby Watts, he’s a tackle-maker, a student of the game. He sees things before they happen because he studies. We showed we’ve grown up, learned how to win and we’re still learning how to win. We’re doing that against good football teams.”
Texas Southern coach Clarence McKinney said his squad has been affected the past two weeks by pandemic issues going into the season finale at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The Tigers (0-2) haven’t played since a March 20 loss to Southern and are riding a 17-game losing streak dating to 2018.
“Fifty percent of our team is in quarantine for the second week,” McKinney said. “The guys who are able to practice are ready to get after it. It’s been a while since we’ve played a game.”
Alabama State struggled in the Magic City Classic partly because of losing three starters to injuries, including freshman starting quarterback Ryan Nettles early in the game.
Nettles was hit in the face while trying to slide and suffered a concussion. Hornets coach Donald Hill-Eley said he was still in concussion protocol on Monday.
In addition to making the SWAC title game, Alabama A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff remained 1-2 in the BOXTOROW HBCU coaches and media poll released Monday. Southern was No. 3, Prairie View No. 4 and South Carolina State No. 5 in both top 10 rankings.