Written by Sean Dahlin
BUENA VISTA, Va.—Southern Virginia University Head Football Coach DeLane Fitzgerald today announced his 2012 schedule consisting of eleven competitions, including five home games.
Southern Virginia's complete 2012 schedule can be viewed on the football section of athletics.svu.edu.
The Knights are coming off a 2011 campaign in which they finished 4-7 overall matching the program's 2010 record for the second-most wins in Southern Virginia football's nine-year history. The Knights' back-to-back 4-7 seasons both came under Fitzgerald, who is entering his fourth year as head coach after joining the program in 2006 as a defensive backs coach.
Fitzgerald has gone 11-22 (.333) during his first three seasons at the helm of Southern Virginia's football program and is optimistic that the Knights' tenth football season will also be their first winning season since 2007 when the team finished 6-5.
"We have a great recruiting class coming this fall," said Fitzgerald. "When I picture the incoming class supplementing our core of returning skill players, I feel very optimistic about the upcoming season."
Steven Andreasen, Dewayne Beamon, Brenton Estorffe, Dylan Hall, Luke Herndon, Brett Murray, Jeff Waldron, Robert Williams and Cameron Williams are senior pillars from last year's club that will lead the Knights into their tenth season.
Southern Virginia's football season will open against a school from Kentucky for the fourth time in the past ten years when the Knights travel to Morehead, Ky., on Thursday, Aug. 30 to face NCAA Division I Morehead State at 7 p.m. EDT.
The Eagles, who compete in the Pioneer Football League, have defeated the Knights in both previous meetings with the most recent being a 61-10 lopsided win on Sep. 5, 2009. This year's meeting will be the third contest between the two opponents with all three games being played on the Eagles' home turf—Jacobs Field in Jayne Stadium.
Nine days later, Southern Virginia will host North Carolina Wesleyan—the first of two consecutive opponents from the NCAA Division III USA South Athletic Conference—in its 2012 home opener at Robert E. "Bobby" Williams Field on Sep. 8 at 7 p.m. EDT. Southern Virginia's home opener will also be its only night home game of the season.
North Carolina Wesleyan is coming off a disappointing 2011 campaign finishing 2-8 (2-5 conference) after going 21-10 (18-3 conference) from 2008-10, which also included back-to-back USA South Conference Championships (2008, 09). The Knights hope to get their first football victory over the Battling Bishops in 2012 after losing both of its previous matchups in 2005 (L, 36-15) and 2006 (L, 46-7) respectively.
The following week, Southern Virginia will leave Buena Vista and travel 92 miles south to Ferrum, Va., to face its second consecutive USA South-opponent Ferrum College on Sep. 15 at 1 p.m. EDT. Ferrum has won three of its four previous contests with Southern Virginia, however, the Knights took the most recent matchup in 2010 pulling out a close-fought 20-17 victory.
Ferrum had a banner year in 2011 as second-year head coach Dave Harper led the program to a runner-up finish in the USA South with an overall record of 7-3 (6-1 conference)—the Panther's first winning season since 2008.
After its game at Ferrum, Southern Virginia will embark on a three-game stretch against fellow-USCAA opponents—Ave Maria University (Ave Maria, Fla., on Sep. 22 at noon EDT), Virginia University of Lynchburg (Buena Vista, Va., on Sep. 29 at 1 p.m. EDT) and The Apprentice School (Salem, Va., on Oct. 5 at 3 p.m. EDT).
Entering only its second year as a program, Ave Maria is coming off an 0-9 finish in its inaugural season, however, the Gyrenes will begin this season with newly-appointed athletic director and head football coach Kevin Joyce at the helm.
In last year's Nov. 11 season finale, Southern Virginia pulled out a 27-24 comeback victory at home over Ave Maria, highlighted by a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from then-sophomore linebacker Dakota Winsor (West Richland, Wash). Winsor's momentum-swinging 90-yard return—the Knights' first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2004 and only the second in program history—came mid-way through the second quarter after Southern Virginia had fallen behind 10-0. The Gyrene's three-point loss at Southern Virginia proved to be their closest contest of 2011.
After returning from Florida, the Knights will be back at home to welcome their second straight USCAA opponent, the Virginia University of Lynchburg, who resurrected their football program last year after a 57-year hiatus.
Although Southern Virginia and Virginia-Lynchburg will be meeting for the first time in 2012, the Knights and Dragons both defeated the George Mason club football team in 2011 and they share two common opponents this season—Edward Waters and Concordia-Selma.
Following its matchup with Virginia-Lynchburg, Southern Virginia travels to a neutral site, Salem Football Stadium in Salem, Va., to finish the three-game swing of USCAA opponents against long-time rival The Apprentice School Shipbuilders.
Apprentice is the only school that Southern Virginia has faced every season since beginning its football program in 2003, with the Shipbuilders holding an 8-1 lead in the all-time series. The rivalry has been tight in recent years, however, as the past three games between these schools have been decided by a combined eight points.
Last season at Newport News, Va., Apprentice raced out to a 23-0 lead over the Knights and withstood a late Southern Virginia comeback for a 23-21 victory. The matchup in 2010 was another thriller as the Shipbuilders pulled out a late 20-18 win. Southern Virginia's only victory over Apprentice came in 2009 with the Knights prevailing 14-10, while claiming the program's first Oyster Bowl win.
The following week, Oct. 13, the Knights again travel south to take on the NCAA Division II Brevard College Tornados for the fourth consecutive season.
Entering its seventh season in existence, Brevard football finished 3-8 (1-6 conference) last year. Southern Virginia hopes to survive the Tornados this season after losing all three of its previous contests with Brevard, capped by a 41-21 homecoming loss for the Knights last season.
The following week, Southern Virginia will host its third USCAA opponent in four weeks, as the Concordia-Selma Hornets travel to Buena Vista, Va. on Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. EDT.
Hornets athletic director and head football coach Sheperd Skanes led his program to a 3-4 record last season and although Southern Virginia and Concordia-Selma will be meeting for the first time, both programs similarly have Virginia-Lynchburg on their schedules this coming season.
The Knights leave their friendly home confines for their only game north of Virginia on Oct. 27 in Alfred, N.Y., at 1 p.m. EDT to take on NJCAA-affiliated Alfred State College—the second straight opponent that Southern Virginia will be playing for the first time.
The Pioneers are coming off a 6-4 season in 2011 culminating with an NJCAA Region III championship. Southern Virginia and Alfred State share Apprentice as a common opponent in 2012.
For its final home game of the season, Southern Virginia will host familiar NAIA-foe Webber International on November 3 at 1 p.m. EDT at Robert E. "Bobby" Williams Field.
Webber International is coming off a 4-6 record in 2011 and will be looking to build upon last year in hopes of recording the program's second winning season—the Warriors went 7-4 in 2010. The Knights, who are also seeking their second winning season in program history are also looking for their first win against Webber International having lost to the Warriors during each of the past four seasons, including a 6-63 defeat in Florida last year.
The Knights will finish off their 2012 campaign by again heading south, this time to Jacksonville, Fla., where they will face the Edward Waters College Tigers on Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. EDT—Southern Virginia's second straight opponent from the NAIA.
Edward Waters went 4-6 last season, which was the Tigers' highest win total since 2007 when they finished 5-6. The Knights hope to redeem last year's 15-38 loss to the Tigers and finish the season on a high note, while increasing their all-time record of 2-1 against the Edward Waters.
"We're very much looking forward to our tenth season of football at Southern Virginia," Fitzgerald said. "We made great strides this past spring we look forward building upon that success this fall."
All Southern Virginia home football games will be played at the Parry McCluer High School's Robert E. "Bobby" Williams Field. Directions to Parry McCluer High School can be found at athletics.svu.edu.