By David Coulson
There is always something a little extra special about the opening game of the college football season and Saturday at 3:30 p.m., when Appalachian State takes the field at Kidd Brewer Stadium for its first contest against Howard, there will be some added inspiration.
App State will be honoring its newest athletic hall of fame class and will be recognizing players from the 1975, 1995 and 2005 teams during on-field presentations.
“You always want to put on a good show for the guys who built the program,” said senior defensive end Ronald Blair.
The hall of fame ceremony will honor legendary coach Jerry Moore and three of his former players, quarterback Armanti Edwards, running back Chip Hooks and tight end Daniel Wilcox. There will also be one special non-football inductee, cross country and track and field standout Leigh Cooper Wallace.
The 1975 football team was the most successful ASU team of its era, posting an 8-3 record and a third-place finish in the Southern Conference as the Mountaineers made the transition into NCAA Division I.
In 1995, Appalachian turned in its only undefeated regular season, going 11-0, winning the Southern Conference and being ranked No. 2 in the national I-AA polls. The Mountaineers won a 12th-straight game by beating James Madison in the first round of the playoffs before being upset by Stephen F. Austin in the quarterfinals.
The 2005 App State team is remembered for not only capturing the SoCon title, but for winning the first of three consecutive national titles.
“It will be good to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in years,” said Appalachian coach Scott Satterfield, who was a captain and the starting coach of that 1995 club and an assistant coach for all three national championship teams.
But Satterfield knows that of bigger importance is setting the proper tone for a new season after watching his team close last year with six consecutive wins to finish 7-5.
“We’ve got to get out to a good start,” said Satterfield, who has seen his first two ASU teams get off to 1-6 and 1-5 starts.
Helping in that pursuit will be a Football Championship Subdivision team in Howard that is expected to finish in the middle of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season.
The Bison were 5-7 last year in coach Gary Harrell’s first season. The Washington, D.C.-based team must also replace record-setting quarterback GregMcGhee, who has moved on to the Canadian Football League.
McGhee, the co-offensive player of the year in the MEAC in 2014, passed for 49 TDs and 7,589 yards and rushed for 2,579 yards and 26 additional touchdowns.
Even though Howard’s offense might be young, Blair said no one on the Mountaineer defense is taking the Bison for granted.
“They have some athletes,” said Blair. “They can spread the field.”
Receiver Matthew Colvin and tight end Myles Williams, both seniors, are two prime targets in the Howard passing game.
Toree Boyd, a junior tackle, and senior guard Nathan Lewis anchor a solid Howard offensive line.
Junior defensive back Kenneth Russ leads a Bison defense that utilizes its speed, but still gave up over 30 points per game last season. Senior linebacker Devin Rollins is another playmaker on defense.
“They are real aggressive on defense and will come at you with a lot of blitzes,” said Satterfield.
Howard also has a noteworthy special teams performer in senior punter John Fleck.
Special teams has been received a lot of attention in the off-season and preseason camp for App State and Satterfield is hopeful that his team’s improved depth and some schematic changes will help improve an area that has been a persistent problem for the Mountaineers in recent years.
That will be one of several things that Appalachian hopes make quick strides in this season.
“It is all on us,” Blair said of Saturday’s opener. “We want to take care of business.”