Towson punts on playoff talk

Tigers could reach first postseason since '86, but coach demurs for now

State Colleges

November 03, 2006|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN REPORTER

Two decades and one division jump have passed since Towson's football team reached postseason play, so there is understandable caution about the chances of ending that streak this season.

The last time it occurred was in 1986, when the Tigers finished 10th in the NCAA Division II national rankings and lost to Central State in the first round of the playoffs, 31-0.

They have since climbed to Division I-AA independent status, then played seven years as a Patriot League member before joining the rugged Atlantic 10 in 2004.

Now, there are murmurs about the possibility of making the field this season after two straight victories improved their record to 6-2, including 3-2 in the A-10.

"Not yet," coach Gordy Combs replied when asked if his team, ranked No. 21, was considering the idea. "We have to win three games before we even have a thought about it. I think we have to win out."

That won't be easy against the conference's Virginia trio. Up tomorrow is visiting William and Mary, which is winless in the league but has beaten the Tigers twice by a combined 85-29 score the past two years. That contest is followed by the final road game, at 15th-ranked Richmond, and then the closer at home, against No. 4 James Madison, which has won six straight and is 5-0 in the league to lead the Southern Division.

"Those scores against William and Mary got to get our team's attention," Combs said.

Combs said the postseason drought should have ended in 1993, his second year as the head coach. "We beat Delaware [32-30] and they were 8-3 while we were 8-2. I thought that was an injustice," he said.

That Towson team featured All-America running back Tony Vinson and averaged 38.1 points.

Baker's no brawler

Morgan State defensive back Everette Baker left Florida International more than two years ago, but he is still familiar with a number of players on the team who were involved in the ugly brawl against Miami.

"I'm a Bear now, and there's not much I can say about it," Baker said. "When you get action, there's reaction. You see your teammates get into something, you go to their defense. I wasn't surprised it happened. Everything is so close [between the two schools] and I'd been wondering when that day was going to come."

Baker transferred out in the summer of 2004 and wound up as a starter at Morgan this season. He finished the 99-yard touchdown run in overtime that defeated Howard three Saturdays ago, then watched the mess at the Orange Bowl on television after returning from Washington.

"I can't say I missed being there [in the brawl]," he said. "I probably would have been right in the middle of it."

Meanwhile, Baker and his current teammates will be trying to salvage a winning season in the final two games after Morgan fell to 4-5 when a controversial goal-line stand by Florida A&M preserved a 24-23 win last week.

Coach Donald-Hill Eley was still steamed at the officials who ruled that Chad Simpson had not crossed into the end zone. "It was decided by neither team, and I'm quite sure they enjoyed their homecoming and all that home cooking," Hill-Eley said.

Morgan goes to Norfolk State tomorrow in another trip home for Tidewater native Hill-Eley.

"Norfolk is the neighborhood university. A lot of that community went there. I think I get about 200 tickets every time we go back," the coach said.

Et cetera

Soccer devotees will find plenty of action this weekend at Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field, the site of the men's and women's championships in the Centennial Conference. Hopkins earned the No. 1 seeding on the men's side with a 16-1-1 regular-season record and on the women's with a 15-2 mark. ... Towson goalkeeper Christina Armer has been chosen to play in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I Senior All-Star Game Nov. 18 at Wake Forest. She is the second Tiger (Julie Lambi in 2004) so honored. ... UMES (seventh) and Morgan State (13th) have been ranked in the first poll of the National Tenpins Coaches Association, the arm of NCAA bowling. UMES is a three-time national finalist. ... UMBC senior Kevin Mezzadra (Loyola) was named to the America East men's soccer first team. He finished second in the league in scoring with nine goals and 20 points.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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