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Livingstone opens at Benedict today

Livingstone kicking off season

Armond Cox

LIVINGSTONE (0-0) at BENEDICT (0-0)

Palmetto Capital City Classic

Johnson Stadium — Columbia, S.C. — Today, 5 p.m.

Radio: Available www.kiss-1031.com

Live stats:  www.benedicttigers.com

2016 RECORDS: Livingstone, 2-8. Benedict, 5-6.

   COACHES: Livingstone — Daryl Williams’ record is 15-24 in four seasons. Four seasons prior to Williams taking over, the Blue Bears were 2-38, so progress has been made. Benedict — Mike White third year, 5-16, at Benedict after 15 years at Albany State (112-51, six SIAC championships).

    LAST YEAR: Bendict won the Palmetto Capital City Classic over Livingstone, 5-3. Both teams had trouble moving the ball on offense: The Blue Bears had just 119 total yards, including just 8 yards rushing; The Tigers managed 188 yards, most of which came through the air. Livingstone grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, but Benedict matched the field goal in the second period and also added a safety for the final margin. There was no scoring in the second half.

SERIES:   Saturday markes the 18th time since 1922 that Benedict and Livingstone have met on the gridiron.

The Tigers hold a 10-5-2 record in the series.

KEY PLAYERS: Sophmore quarterback Xavier Longerbeam returns as the starter and should grow with that experience. Williams believes that having a returning starting QB puts the team way ahead of last year.

“Longerbeam has matured and grown as a player and I like what I see, said Williams. “He understands the offense better and he looks ready to take it to the next level.”

The 6-2, 215-pound Longerbeam completed 59 percent of his passes (93-of-158) in 2016, averaging 140 yards per game. He passed for nine touchdowns and just six interceptions.

Senior running back Jarius Richardson returns for his third year as a starter. Last season, Richardson led the Blue Bears in rushing by far — 749 yards and eight TDs.

   The top two leading receivers also return — Everett Ransom (60 catches for 709 yards) and Spencer Ludin (42 for 415) — but Williams is also excited about junior transfer Jordan Cartwright from ASA Miami.

Guards Chris Whitley and William Odomes, and tackle Malik Washington are offensive line returners.

On defense, All-CIAA performer Armond Cox moves from defensive end to an interior position. Cox will be starting for the third straight year and was the team’s second-leading tackler last season with 60 stops, including four sacks.

Cox is the only Livingstone players selected to the pre-season All-CIAA squad.

Defensive back Gregory Hines, who led the Blue Bears with five interceptions a year ago, also returns.

Linebacker Jarod Richardson, Jarius’ twin, is back for his third year as a starter. “The Richardsons are playing very fast and both are bigger and stronger,” said Williams. “They bring a lot to the table. They’re team leaders as well, on and off the field.”

Another newcomer that Williams is high on is defensive rush end Devonte Adams, a 6-4, 240-pound junior transfer Garden City Community College.

The Blue Bears will also have newcomers in the kicking game, other than long snapper Jarrod Brown, a senior who returns.   

Reserve QB Thaddeus Bell will punt and John Jones is the new place-kicker. Ludin doubles as the holder.

“We’re excited and looking forward to this week and the first game,” added Williams. “We’ve got a bunch of older guys on defense that are ready to get after it.”

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