Central State Back in Football World After Eight-year Hiatus
It’s a rebuilding year for Central State — rebuilding the entire program from scratch. Football kicks off later this month after an eight-year absence at Central State, which won three National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championships in the 1990s and sent such players as Hugh Douglas and Erik Williams to the NFL.
“It’s finally here,” said coach Theo Lemon. “We’re excited because we’re practicing. We’re excited that we have some big guys running around campus right now.”
Central State dropped its football program following the 1996 season after the NAIA banned the team from postseason play for two years for using academically ineligible players. Later in 1997, the Ohio Legislature required the school — plagued by financial problems at the time — to drop football for two years as a condition of continued state funding.
In 2001, the school’s board of trustees voted to restore football through private donations. School officials said a football program would boost school spirit and enrollment at the state’s only historically Black public university and increase financial contributions from alumni.
Lemon, a former assistant coach at Wake Forest and former head coach of the College of DuPage in Illinois, said he has been successful recruiting because his players know they will have a chance to play right away since there is no established team at Central State.
More than half of the 85 players in camp are either freshmen or transfer students.
“They don’t want to go somewhere where they’re going to be second or third on the depth chart,” Lemon said. “These young men who come here will have the opportunity to play now.”
He also said recruits have been attracted to Central State’s winning tradition — even though the tradition has been collecting dust on the shelf for the past eight years.
“People like the fact that you were a winner,” he said.
Lemon believes the strength of the team will be its running game.
“We’ve finally found some offensive linemen that we feel can help push some people back. And we have an excellent running back in Derrick Moss,” Lemon said. “On defense we’re going to continue to just run around, fly around and run to the football.”
Moss, a 210-pound sophomore running back from nearby Dayton, said the team is young, but gains experience from its transfer students.
“We might be better than what we thought we were going to be,” he said. “I’m ready to play football again and show everybody what I’ve got.”
One of the transfers is Ti-Mirr Horton, a 292-pound tackle from DuPage who will anchor the defensive line. Another is Ife Oyedokun, a junior walk-on from Chicago who transferred from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.
Oyedokun is competing for the starting quarterback job against Chris Clark, a junior from nearby Springfield.
“As long as I take care of business I should be the starting quarterback,” Oyedokun said. “I can run the ball very efficiently. On the college level, they expect you to make plays with your arm. I’m capable of doing that.”
The Marauders will play a six-game schedule this year, taking the field for the first time Aug. 27 in Topeka, Kan., against Lincoln University of Missouri. Their home opener will be the following weekend at Dayton’s Welcome Stadium against Saint Paul’s College of Virginia.
— Associated Press
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