Miles College Wins Inaugural SIAC Championship
(ATLANTA, GA)- First-year Miles College coach Reginald Ruffin lived up to his promise as the Golden Bears defeated defending Black College National Champion and SIAC champion Albany State 20-17 Saturday in the inaugural SIAC Championship Game in Atlanta.
When Ruffin was interviewed at Miles, he told President George T. French that if he were given the full complement of scholarships available for Division II programs – 36 – and a coaching staff, he would make the Bears winners. His words rang true when Patton Chambers booted a 29-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining.
“I’m excited for what happened being a first-year coach,’’ Ruffin said. “This is real big for the program. It was our time, our turn.’’
The championship is the first-ever for Miles (7-4), which was 3-8 last season and has only had four winning seasons 1963. The Bears’ title represents a changing of the guard in the SIAC. They are the only team other than Albany State and Tuskegee to win the conference championship since 2000. Fort Valley State (1992 and ’99) is the only other school to win the championship in the previous 21 seasons.
Ruffin says team unity was the key to the Golden Bears’ championship game victory. On Friday night, the team captains requested that they be allowed to hold a players-only meeting. The gathering lasted more than three hours and prompted Ruffin to cancel the squad’s normal team and position meetings.
“I don’t know what was said,’’ Ruffin said. “I know they were in there quite a long time. and they all had tissues and were crying when they came out. I have no clue what was said, what was done. But from what I was told, they had a heart-to-heart about the team, the program and the coaching staff. It showed Saturday. They came together as a group.’’
Albany State, which came into the game with a four-game winning streak, was gunning for its 15th conference championship. But the Golden Rams (8-3), who defeated Miles 34-27 in September, were undone by mistakes. They had turnovers on two potential scoring drives, and Brandon Hamilton missed a 38-yard field goal that would have given them the lead before Miles mounted its winning drive.
Quarterback David Thomas completed a 26-yard pass to Vondragu Hudson on third-and-12 and scrambled 12 yards to the Albany State 12 on Miles’ winning drive. Thomas completed 13 of 23 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 16 times for 46 yards and another score and was voted Miles’ MVP.
Miles’ defense did a masterful job of controlling Albany State quarterback Stanley Jennings, the two-time SIAC Offensive Player of the Year. The Bears limited Jennings to 126 yards through the air while completing 11 of 23 passes with one interception.