The Cavaliers (1-1) will host Mars Hill (1-1) at Carl Smith Stadium at noon in UVa-Wise’s first South Atlantic Conference football game in school history.
UVa-Wise, a former member of the NCAA DII Mountain East Conference, began play as a member of the SAC with the start of the fall sports season. While other sports have already faced SAC opponents in conference play, Saturday will be the first time the Cavs will face a conference opponent in football.
It is a big day for the program.
“It’s a big game because it’s the first one,” said UVa-Wise coach Dane Damron. “It’s very important to the start of the conference season for us, and it’s very important to the school because it’s our first game as a member of the conference.”
LONG TIME, NO PLAY
The meeting between UVa-Wise and Mars Hill is the first since 2004 and the seventh in the two programs’ history.
Mars Hill is 6-0 against the Cavaliers, including a 47-13 win in the last game played between the two 15 years ago.
Both teams have had mixed results this season heading into Saturday’s contest.
UVa-Wise opened the year with a 40-22 win over Chowan before falling 31-14 to FCS Tennessee Tech last weekend.
Mars Hill opened the season against FCS opponent VMI and fell 63-21 before bouncing back last weekend to take a 46-14 win over St. Augustine’s.
Mars Hill will bring a potent offense to Wise, highlighted by consensus All-American and SAC offensive player of the year Craig Rucker.
“He’s really good. He’s definitely a player we have to be concerned about,” said Damron.
Rucker has recorded four touchdowns in the Lions’ first two games, including two touchdown receptions, a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown.
The Mars Hill offense also includes freshman running back Rolous Frazier, who has gained 146 yards rushing.
On the defensive side of the ball, Dexter Fitzpatrick, a freshman linebacker, has recorded 14 tackles for the Lions.
UVa-Wise counters offensively with a rushing attack that is led by Terrence Lambert, a transfer from Troy, and Glenville State transfer J’Quan Anderson.
In two games, the backs have combined to rush for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
The strength of the Cavaliers continues to be its defense.
Marcus Tarrer, a redshirt junior, leads the team in tackles with 18, while former Elizabethton standout and ETSU transfer Austin Hicks has 17 tackles for the Cavs.
Special teams have also been big for the Cavaliers.
Demetrius Mann had a punt return for a touchdown, while freshman Drew Vermillion continues to pin opponents deep, averaging just over 37 yards per punt.
WASPS FACE TOUGH CHALLENGE
After a weekend off, Emory & Henry (0-1) opens up play in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference with a road trip to Randolph Macon (1-1).
The Wasps will face one of the top Division III running backs in the country in preseason All-American Tre Frederick.
Last weekend, Frederick made ODAC history after rushing for 198 yards and one touchdown on 29 carries in the Yellow Jackets’ 30-27 win over Averett.
The performance gave Frederick 4,316 total rushing yards for his career, an ODAC record.
Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 1 p.m.