Vulcans to face different Cheyney
CALIFORNIA – Forget that California University routed Cheyney, 51-7, last year.
Forget that the Wolves entered the 2003 season with a 29-game losing streak.
Forget that Cheyney has never won more than two games in a season since 1993.
John Luckhardt, California’s second-year coach, is on the eve of Saturday’s 7 p.m. contest with the Wolves at Adamson Stadium.
“They’re almost a brand new team,” said Luckhardt. “There’s a 95 per cent turnover in players from last year. Their coach (Lee Brown) went everywhere he could go to get players and did a good job. They have some good athletes especially at the skill positions.”
Senior quarterback Errieck Stewart and sophomore running back Clifton Jones, transfers from Holy Cross and Indiana State University of Terre Haute respectively, are two of the reasons the Wolves are 2-1 and eyeing their first three-game winning streak since 1978.
Stewart, a 6-4, 225 pounder from Jersey City,N.J., ranks fifth in the conference in passing. He’s completed 48 of 85 passes for 571 yards and four touchdowns.
Jones, a 6-1, 190 pounder from Anderson, Ind., is a threat as a runner and receiver. Jones has run for 249 yards and averages four yards a carry and is the PSAC’s leading pass catcher with 17 receptions for 122 yards.
Stewart’s other favorite receivers are 6-3, 205 pound junior Ed Giddings (13 catches for 193 yards) and 6-3, 180-pound freshman Charles Johnson (11 catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns).
Cheyney rebounded from an opening 28-20 loss to Allen University with a 42-33 victory at West Virginia State and a 17-16 home squeaker over West Liberty.
It was the win over the Hilltoppers that opened Luckhardt’s eyes.
“Beating West Liberty got my attention because they lost to them by almost 50 points (65-19) last year,” said Luckhardt. “That’s a dramatic change and big swing.”
The defense is led by 5-10, 200 pound freshman linebacker Cavanaugh Nweze, who averages 15 tackles a game, and 6-4, 210 pound junior Stephan Watson, a transfer from Wisconsin.
Cheyney is the conference’s youngest team with Stewart the lone senior on the entire roster and the starting offensive line is made up of five freshmen.
On the other side of the ball, junior end Josh Goins is the lone non-freshman in the Wolves’ defensive line.
Meanwhile, California (1-2) will be trying to bounce back from a deceiving 16-14 loss at West Virginia Wesleyan.
The Vulcans’ Wes Clemons lost his third fumble at the Cheyney four-yard line with under two minutes remaining.
If the three turnovers weren’t bad enough, California’s Gary Amos missed one field goal and had another blocked.
Dustin Strayer, who’s been bothered by a hand injury, will be starting at quarterback after coming off the bench in the fourth quarter to complete five of 10 passes for 94 yards and a 54 yard touchdown to freshman Brandon Jackson of Monessen.
“We didn’t anticipate Dustin playing last week,” said Luckhardt. “But he brought us back.He’s our spiritual and inspirational leader.”
LEFTOVERS: California junior linebacker Brian Oddi is second in the conference in tackles with 30 including 12 solos. Wes Clemons leads the Vulcans in rushing (248 yards) and scoring (18 points). Tony Hoskin is Cal’s top receiver with 11 receptions for 101 yards. Cheyney is last in the conference in rushing defense (211 yards) and second in pass defense (99 yards). John Riley’s field goal against West Liberty was the Wolves’ first in five years. Amos has failed to make any of his four field goals. Last year Cheyney’s average score in an 0-11 season was 46-8. Cheyney junior defensive back Orlando Payton was the 2002 PSAC champion in the 100 and 200 meters at the outdoor track and field finals.