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Everybody still chasing Grambling, Alcorn in SWAC

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - The Southwestern Athletic Conference has decided to keep the status quo by continuing a conference championship game this season.

The teams chasing Alcorn State and Grambling State for the right to play in that game will seek to change the status quo.

It won't be easy. The two powers have squared off in the last three championship games - Alcorn State actually has made four straight appearances - and SWAC preseason honors announced at media day Friday in Birmingham, Alabama, predicted even more success. They were runaway favorites to win the East (Alcorn) and West (Grambling) divisions again.

Grambling (11-2, 7-0), the two-time defending conference champ, had the most preseason selections with 10 on the first team and 15 overall, and Alcorn (7-5, 5-2) had the second-most with four and 11, respectively. Alcorn senior running back P.J. Simmons was the preseason offensive player of the year and Grambling senior linebacker De'Arius Christmas gained the preseason defensive honor after winning the postseason award last year.

The selections were announced one day after the SWAC said it would stage a 20th conference championship game on Dec. 1 at Birmingham's Legion Field, reversing a decision last year to end the game. The winner will advance to play the MEAC champ in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 15 in Atlanta.

Grambling's visit to Alcorn on Oct. 20 could be a preview of the championship game, but just as important are wins over divisional opponents. Alabama State was picked second in the East Division voting and Southern gained the same spot in the West Division.

"It never gets easier. There's a lot of really good coaches and good players in this league," Grambling fifth-year coach Broderick Fobbs said. "At the end of the day, you all start at the starting line at the same place. There's no advantage just because of what you've done previously. We have to go back to the drawing board and do what we've always done and do it a little bit better."

Said Alcorn coach Fred McNair, now in his third season: "I guess the biggest thing is just to push forward, just maintain execution when you're out there on the football field - that's the biggest thing we kind of emphasize as a coaching staff to get those guys going. And just to play a little bit harder than we've been playing."

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KEY CONFERENCE GAMES (REGULAR SEASON)

Spotlight Game: Grambling State vs. Southern in New Orleans (Nov. 24)

The Bayou Classic winner has advanced to the last five SWAC conference championship games.

Four More: Grambling State vs. Prairie View A&M in Dallas (Sept. 29); Grambling State at Alcorn State (Oct. 20); Jackson State at Southern (Oct. 27); and Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State in Birmingham, Alabama (Oct. 27)

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SWAC FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLL

Vote of Coaches and Sports Information Directors

East Division

1. Alcorn State, 95 points

2. Alabama State, 72

3. Jackson State, 55

4. Alabama A&M, 51

5. Mississippi Valley State, 27

West Division

1. Grambling State, 96

2. Southern, 78

3. Prairie View A&M, 65

4. Texas Southern, 31

5. Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 30

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SWAC FOOTBALL PRESEASON TEAM

Offensive Player of the Year - P.J. Simmons, RB, Alcorn State

Defensive Player of the Year - De'Arius Christmas, LB, Grambling State

First Team

Offense

QB - Noah Johnson, Alcorn State

RB - P.J. Simmons, Alcorn State

RB - KeShawn Williams, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

OL - Mustaffa Ibrahim, Alcorn State

OL - Jeremiah Abby, Southern

OL - William Waddell, Grambling State

OL - Kyle Davis, Grambling State

OL - Corbin Finlayson, Prairie View A&M

WR - Quinn McElfresh, Mississippi Valley State

WR - Darrell Clark, Grambling State

TE - Jordan Jones, Grambling State

Defense

DL - Linwood Banks, Grambling State

DL - La'Allan Clark, Grambling State

DL - Brandon Varner, Grambling State

DL - Vernon Moland, Alabama A&M

LB - Patrick Harbin, Mississippi Valley State

LB - Trae Ferrell, Alcorn State

LB - De'Arius Christmas, Grambling State

DB - Dylan Hamilton, Alabama A&M

DB - Andre Augustine, Southern

DB - Ju'Anthony Parker. Prairie View A&M

DB - Percy Cargo, Grambling State

Special Teams

PK - Marc Orozco, Grambling State

P - Jamie Gillan, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

RS - KeShawn Williams, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Second Team

Offense

QB - Darryl Pearson Jr., Alabama State

RB - Jordan Bentley, Alabama A&M

RB - Dawonya Tucker, Prairie View A&M

OL - Deonte Brooks, Alcorn State

OL - Kevin Hall, Alcorn State

OL - Roderick Smith, Prairie View A&M

OL - Jimmy White, Texas Southern

OL - Tytus Howard, Alabama State

WR - Quintin Guice, Grambling State

WR - Markcus Hardy, Prairie View A&M

TE - Zarrian Holcombe, Prairie View A&M

Defense

DL - Anfernee Mullins, Grambling State

DL - Sterlin Shippy, Alcorn State

DL - Kevin Agee, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

DL - Christian Clark, Alabama State

LB - De'Andre Hogues, Grambling State

LB - Malcolm Williams, Grambling State

LB - Solomon Muhammad, Alcorn State

LB - Darron Johnson, Alabama State

DB - Reggie Stubblefield, Prairie View A&M

DB - Jeffrey Hill, Alabama State

DB - Brady Smith, Alcorn State

DB - Dedrick Shy, Grambling State

Special Teams

PK - Corey McCullough, Alcorn State

P - Corey McCullough, Alcorn State

RS - George Golden, Alabama State

Updated July 13, 2018

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