Winston-Salem faces Valdosta State for D-2 title


Winston-Salem faces Valdosta State for D-2 title

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) No. 2 Winston-Salem State has already gone deeper into the playoffs than any other team from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Now, the Rams are a win away from making history for black college football, too.

They face two-time national champion Valdosta State Saturday hoping to become the first HBCU team to win Division II's football national title.

``That's a huge deal. For our conference, the HBCUs , to have a chance to play for a national championship and be the first one to win one, is a steppingstone,'' Winston-Salem State coach Connell Maynor said. ``It's a great opportunity for us. We're happy to be here carrying the flag for the CIAA and HBCU. It'd be a great thing if we could pull it off Saturday.''

The only other HBCU team to make the championship game, Central State of Ohio, lost 41-21 to North Dakota State in 1983.

Winston-Salem (14-0) is also trying to become just the fifth team to go 15-0.

Standing in the way is a Valdosta State team seeking its first title since 2007, David Dean's debut season as head coach.

Winston-Salem is in its third season since aborting a Division I move for financial reasons. The program's former status is just one more reason for Valdosta State (11-2), which ended the regular season ranked 17th, to keep the underdog mentality that formed with a rough start.

``The fact that they haven't been Division II for very long and they've got a lot of Division I players, that automatically puts us as the underdog,'' Blazers quarterback Cayden Cochran said. ``That's something we welcomed since we were 2-2 and teams kind of wrote us off and fans of other teams kind of wrote us off.

``It kind of helps us, gives us a little extra push to know that there are people in the stands that don't think we can do it.''

Winston-Salem won its last eight regular season games by at least 19 points and had only one tight playoff game, a 21-17 win over Indiana, Pa., in the quarterfinals. Yet Smith, like his Valdosta State counterpart, feels his team does not get enough respect.

``Even though we've played as good as we have, some people still have doubted us,'' said Smith, who has passed for 3,043 yards with 42 touchdowns against nine interceptions. ``That makes us want to come out and play even harder just to prove people wrong.''

He's got several dangerous targets. Jahuann Butler has 1,167 receiving yards, Jameze Massey 1,156 and Jamal Williams757. All three have caught at least 12 touchdown passes.

Winston-Salem is ninth nationally in total offense and Valdosta State 10th.

Winston-Salem's defense and Valdosta State's offense have easily handled big challenges in the playoffs.

The Blazers racked up 525 yards against West Alabama and Division II's No. 5 defense and gained 498 against Minnesota State-Makato, which had the third-rated defense.

The Rams held West Texas A&M's Harlon Hill Trophy finalist Dustin Vaughan to 169 passing yards in a 41-18 semifinals victory.

Valdosta State's Cochran has passed for 2,506 yards with receivers Gerald Ford (1,018) and Seantavious Jones (916) hovering near 1,000 yards. Both have caught 13 touchdown passes.

Winston-Salem counters with a defense allowing just 89 rushing yards a game and ranking eighth in points allowed (16.1 per game).

``They're probably one of the fastest teams that we have faced all year long,'' Valdosta State's Dean said. ``They're tremendously athletic. Their defensive line has very good pass rushers, which can cause us problems as much as we throw the football.''

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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