Benedict, Fort Valley State square off in City Classic

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The Fort Valley State Wildcats will try to stay undefeated in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference as they face the Benedict Tigers in today’s Augusta City Classic/Capitol City Classic.

The game is set for 2 p.m. at Laney Stadium.

The Wildcats (1-2, 1-0 SIAC) snuck by Clark Atlanta 12-6 in their conference opener in double overtime, but head coach Donald Pittman said the first real conference test will come against Benedict.

Benedict enters the game with a 2-1 overall record but lost 59-6 to South Carolina State last week.

“Any win in the SIAC is going to be tough to get, but Clark maybe is not one of the better defensive teams in the league,” said Pittman, whose team will play its fourth consecutive game away from home. “They were exactly who we needed to play last week because we were pretty beaten up after the first two games. We have been able to come back this week and get some guys healthy, and we feel like we are ready to play. Benedict will test us in all areas. They have that combination of being quick and fast but also very physical.

“South Carolina State handled them pretty good last week, but the score did not really tell the whole story. They are a very good team.”

Offensively, the Wildcats will look to veteran quarterback Eugene Smith to lead the way.

Smith has thrown for 592 yards so far but has also thrown five interceptions.

Benedict is led by quarterback Marcus Graham, who has passed for 628 yards and six touchdowns, while adding 195 yards on the ground.

The Tigers will be facing a Fort Valley State defense that gave up only 188 yards of total offense against Clark Atlanta and 243 yards in a loss to Savannah State.

“We feel like we are starting to play as good as we expect to,” said linebacker LeRon Furr, who had 12 tackles in the win over Clark Atlanta.

“We have had to have some guys step up because of injuries, and we are just now starting to get comfortable. Keeping Clark out of the end zone in both overtimes was a big confidence builder for us, and we know that Benedict will be a great challenge for us. But really every game is a big challenge. We just want to come out with the ‘W.’ ”

Fort Valley State has been plagued by penalties this season.

After being flagged 22 times for 190 yards against Savannah State, the Wildcats cut that number down to 13 penalties for 111 yards against Clark Atlanta.

“That’s way too many penalties if we want to be successful this year,” Pittman said.

“That has been something that we have focused on this week, and hopefully those numbers will continue to go down. We are expecting a hard-fought, defensive game this weekend, and it is very important that we limit our mistakes.”

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