Category Archives: Football

Former football player reflects on time at Wingate, looks forward to future

Alex Virgilio, Sports Writer

Former Wingate University wide receiver Jaiquis Tyheem Stokes, more commonly known as JT Stokes, is willing to tell  about his past football career and hopeful future.

Stokes is planning on graduating at the end of this semester with a major in psychology and a double minor in communications and sports management. He is not only a student athlete, but a God-fearing man.

“It’s kind of a cliche, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Stokes says, when talking about where he gets motivation to be the best that he can be.

Stokes started his football career at the young age of five years old. His father, Tim Stokes, served as his “role model” as he played professional football for a few years in Europe and in the U.S. in the Arena Football League. Stokes says he used to watch his father play in the Arena Football League and that pushed Stokes to one day play professional football.

However, Stokes was not always the star wide receiver that the Bulldog community knows and loves; he actually started his career as a running back. Stokes made the transition from running back to wide receiver his freshman year of high school, but never forgot the skills he learned from his young career as a running back as he rushed for 186 career yards and 2 touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Stokes, who added 1,310 career receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, credits his two wide receiver coaches, Ross Jenkins and Nathan Poole.

Jenkins, an ex-college quarterback at Louisiana Tech, was an offensive coordinator who coached wide receivers (at Wingate), according to Stokes. “Coach Jenkins is the one who brought me here (to Wingate). He taught me a lot about offensive schemes.”  

Poole, a former NFL wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals from 2002-2004 and the New Orleans Saints in 2005, only coached Stokes for one year but taught him the art and the technique of playing Wide Receiver. Stokes, who was on his way to a record breaking year, had his senior season cut short due to injury at Limestone early in the first half. He suffered an ACL tear in his left knee, and did not return for the remaining three games.

Although Stokes did not compete in the last three games of his senior season, he is determined to not let this injury will not keep him from continuing his football career.

“It taught me to keep my faith. God sometimes tests our faith to see if we can handle the blessings,”said Stokes.

Stokes is in active conversation with potential agents and football leagues such as the Alliance of American Football League who believe that despite this setback, Stokes can make it to the next level.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Wingate wins 6th straight by beating Tusculum on Senior Day; advances to playoffs

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

Wingate built a 16-0 halftime lead and held on for a 16-12 victory over visiting Tusculum on Nov. 10. With its sixth-straight victory, Wingate (8-3 overall, 5-2 SAC) clinches second place in the final SAC regular-season standings.

Wingate senior defensive back Cameron Mattison celebrated Senior Day in style with a 44-yard interception return for a TD while freshman running back Nijere Peoples carried the ball 25 times for 82 yards to finish his first season with 994 rushing yards.

“We are very proud of our seniors and the great leadership they provided all year. The defense came up big all game. The 10 points off turnovers were the difference,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

It was a dominating effort for the Wingate defensive unit. They recorded seven sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, forced six fumbles and recovered one of them.

The leader of the defense that night was Cardell Rawlings. He had 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble.

Offensively, the Bulldogs did just enough to win. Wingate had no turnovers and scored a touchdown and a field goal in their two trips to the red zone.

To start the game, freshman Ra’Quan Simmons returned the kickoff 51 yards. His return set up Wingate’s only offensive touchdown, a 17-yard strike from Shaw Crocker to Mason Flynt.

Following Mattison’s pick-six, Tusculum fumbled on their next possession. Wingate took advantage of the miscue, as redshirt freshman placekicker McLean Robertson nailed a 38-yard field goal to conclude the first half scoring, giving the Bulldogs a 16-0 lead at halftime.

In a scoreless third quarter, Tusculum missed two field goals attempts, one of which was blocked by Robbie Wallace from 24 yards out with 1:36 left in the frame. Finally, Tusculum scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout.

With the win, Wingate advances to the NCAA Division II football playoffs this Saturday. They will play on the road against West Georgia at 12 noon.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Bulldogs win big over Mars Hill on Homecoming

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

The Wingate University Bulldogs scored the fourth-most points in program history on Oct. 20, racing out to a 44-14 halftime lead en route to a 58-21 victory over visiting Mars Hill University in front of a capacity crowd on Homecoming weekend at Irwin Belk Stadium in South Atlantic Conference football action. Wingate wins its third straight, improving to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the SAC.

“It was a very physical, aggressive game for us. We did a really nice job of getting after them physically,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

As a team, Wingate piled up a season-high 534 yards, including 284 on the ground, collected 5 turnovers and scored 7 touchdowns in as many trips to the red zone.

Quarterback Shaw Crocker and running back Nijere Peoples led the Bulldog offense. Crocker was 13-for-15 for 223 yards and 2 TDs and ran for a TD in the second half. Peoples had career highs of 33 carries, 166 yards and 2 TDs.

Cardell Rawlings and Joe Kelly led the Wingate defensive unit. Rawlings had 9 tackles while Kelly registered 8 tackles.

Despite the lopsidedness of the score, Wingate trailed only 7-0. But it only took 4 plays for the Bulldogs to tie it up and after a bad snap on a punt that resulted in a safety by Floyd Louallen to make it 9-7 Bulldogs, Wingate was off and running with quick drives from that point forward.

Wingate returns home for Senior Day against the Tusculum Pioneers on Saturday, Nov. 10 after two straight weeks on the road at Newberry and Limestone, respectively.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Wingate drops heartbreaker to Florida Tech, 26-23 after mishandling extra point

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

The Wingate University Bulldogs looked to be on their way to tying the game in the final minute of regulation on Sept. 29, but a failed PAT returned for a score finished off a 26-23 victory for visiting Florida Tech. With the loss, the Bulldogs fall to 2-3 on the year.

“We had some opportunities and had a nice drive there at the end. Unfortunate to miss the chance to tie it up, it’s something we’ve done a million times so it’s unfortunate,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

JT Stokes and Nijere People’s led the offensive unit for the Bulldogs. For the second straight week, Stokes had more than 100 yards receiving, with seven catches for 185 yards and a touchdown in the loss. People’s had 23 carries for a career-high 133 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, Robbie Wallace and Auntrell Mack led with 11 tackles each. Kam Johnson also had nine tackles.

After a scoreless first quarter, Wingate took a 10-7 lead at halftime on a 20-yard field goal by Mclean Robertson. Then after a nearly scoreless third quarter, the final 17 minutes were wild.

Peoples scored his second TD of the day to give Wingate a 17-14 lead on the last play of the quarter. After a Florida Tech touchdown and field goal to make it 24-17 in favor of the visitors, Wingate drove down the field in hopes of redeeming themselves for the missed opportunities that would have tied the game against Lenoir-Rhyne the week before. For the second straight week, they couldn’t muster a tie and a chance to win it in overtime.

Crocker hit Stokes for the touchdown to make it 24-23, but the snap on the PAT bounced and the desperate attempt at a kick was blocked. Florida Tech then proceeded to return it for the game-clinching 2 points and after a failed onside kick, the Panthers had secured their victory.

Wingate is on the road this Saturday, traveling to UNC Pembroke for a 7 p.m. start.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Wingate moves to 2-0 with win over Fayetteville State

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

Wingate jumped out to a 27-6 lead en route to a wire-to-wire 27-13 victory over Fayetteville State Saturday night at Irwin Belk Stadium. This is the fifth straight year the Bulldogs started a season 2-0.

“It was a good win. Fayetteville State was a much bigger, more physical team than what we faced last week. It was a step up in physicality, which will help us heading to next week’s game,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

In his second career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Shaw Crocker connected on 19-of-33 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns, with his primary receiver being BJ Muckelvene, who caught seven passes for 122 yards and a TD. Crocker now has 5 touchdown passes through two games this season. “Shaw continues to take steps forward, both in practices and during games, which is good to see,” Reich says.

Joe Kelly led the Wingate defense with 13 tackles on the night. Cardell Rawlings also contributed with two sacks and Juan Pagan-Gonzalez had three tackles and an interception.

But perhaps the biggest factor in Wingate’s victory was the special teams. “Our punter was a difference maker,” Reich says. “He got us out of jams. The kicker did a nice job as well. It was also good to see Ronnie Procopio break off a big return.”

Chris Birozes averaged 44 yards on six punts, with a long of 55 and another punt downed at the two-yard line. McLean Robertson was two-for-two on field goals, connecting on a 31-yarder and 42-yarder while also going three-for-three in PATs. Procopio had a 48-yard kickoff return to start the third quarter.

Wingate is back in action next Saturday, hitting the road for the first time this season and opening league play, traveling to Carson-Newman for a 7 p.m. start.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Shaw Crocker excels as Bulldogs signal-caller in first collegiate start

Heath Barringer, Staff Writer

Irwin Belk Stadium was the scene for the Wingate Football team on Aug. 30 as they opened the 2018 season on a Thursday night. Fresh off a 9-2 record and a SAC Championship in 2017, the Bulldogs look to repeat this year with a new quarterback under center. Shaw Crocker, the redshirt freshman from Greenville, S.C. made his debut for the Bulldogs and made it a memorable one.  

Shaw is an education major with a focus on math education, and with that, it brings pretty tough calculus classes that he brought up when I had the chance sit down and chat with him before the game. He said, “Having my redshirt year really helped me get settled into college with classes and all and not having the pressure of playing right away so I could get right in the classroom to start off was nice.”  

He also attributed to how comfortable with the Bulldog offense he was compared to his redshirt year where he did not play by saying, “I looked at it as a chance to grow and grow closer with some of my teammates. Our quarterback room is pretty tight and having that year to get comfortable really helped.”  

Shaw had a great football mind before he came to Wingate and this comes from having a father who has been in high school coaching for 30 plus years. Both of his parents attended Newberry College where Crocker almost ended up attending himself before making the decision to bring his talents to Wingate.

He talked about some nerves before his first start like anyone would, but he also talked about knowing the team had his back and trusting in the system. He was just ready to have some fun and play ball. And on opening night for the Bulldogs, that is exactly what he did.  

After the game I had a chance to catch up with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Long for Wingate. He summed up what everyone was thinking by just saying, “I thought it went really well.”  

Crocker ended the night throwing for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns on 14-22 from the pocket.  He also had a rushing touchdown on a nifty little keeper from the 2-yard line. He thanks his teammates for his performance and personally his center Hunter Jolly, who made his first career start as a redshirt freshman as well on Thursday.  

Jolly had confidence in his quarterback by saying, “I knew he was going to light it up before we ever stepped out on to the field.”  Crocker was happy with is first performance and I’m sure the rest of OneDog Nation was too.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Bulldogs start 2018 in dominant fashion, shutout Johnson C. Smith 36-0

Brendan Shriver, Sports Editor

In the first-ever Thursday night home football game at Irwin Belk Stadium, Wingate recorded 9 sacks and held the Johnson C. Smith University Golden Bulls to 123 yards in a 36-0 shutout.

“It was pretty cool to be part of the first Thursday night home game,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich said. “It was a good win and the defense played lights out. They played a great game and we are excited about what they did and we were hoping that would be the case.

The Bulldogs were up-and-down for much of the second half offensively after leading 10-0 at halftime.

In his first start, junior running back Domineke McNeill had 155 yards on 18 carries, including a 67-yard run. In his first appearance as a Bulldog, redshirt freshman quarterback Shaw Crocker went 14-for-22 with 201 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for a touchdown. Defensively, Davion Washington had a team-high eight tackles while Gabe Price got three tackles for loss and two sacks.

The Bulldogs are back in action Saturday, hosting Fayetteville State at 6 p.m.

Edited by Rachael Robinson and Brendan Shriver