HOMECOMING BATTLE: King Vereen, Jimmies ready to battle Briar Cliff
University of Jamestown homecoming king Anthony Vereen is in the business of making people happy.
The night before the 290-pound senior offensive tackle was scheduled to protect Jimmie quarterback Jordan Mann's blind side, Vereen was putting smiles on the faces of those in attendance for Friday's University of Jamestown wind ensemble homecoming performance at Reiland Fine Arts Center.
Vereen, who calls Las Vegas, Nev., home, has been playing trombone longer than he's been playing football. The business management and music performance major also plays in UJ's jazz band, orchestra and spring pep band.
"Music for me just kinda brings a stress relief," said Vereen, who said he picked up the trombone in the sixth grade. "In football we get to hit people, but that's a different form of stress relief.
"Music is just a really big part of my life. Whenever I get to go on stage and make other people happy, it makes me happy."
A homecoming football victory today, Oct. 6, against Briar Cliff University would also make a lot of people happy. The Jimmies (1-4, 0-3 GPAC) and the Chargers (4-1, 2-1 GPAC) take Rollie Greeno Field at 1 p.m.
Briar Cliff appears to have cleared a hurdle over its past two seasons. The Chargers went 0-11 in 2017, and were 1-10 the year before that, prior to winning four of five so far in 2018.
"They're a completely different team from where they were last year; in the preseason polls, on film and all those types of things," Jimmie head football coach Josh Kittell said. "They've got some guys who can run around and play ball."
Briar Cliff senior running back Noah Ylagan has averaged 4.3 yards per carry this fall and posted 129 yards on 29 carries during last week's 20-13 win against Dakota Wesleyan. Ylagan is leading the team with 463 rushing yards.
On the outside, the Chargers have 6-foot-3 junior receiver Elijah Brown, who has 19 catches on the year but six for touchdowns. Junior Jacob Diaz was under center last week for BC and completed 14 of 21 pass attempts for 275 yards, three TDs and two interceptions.
The Chargers are averaging 387.6 yards of offense in 2018, but are also allowing 349 per game to opposing offenses, 232.4 per game through the air.
"We just have to see more improvement on our side of things," Kittell said. "Take care of the football and score when we've got opportunities. Defensively we need to get off the field and hopefully our offense can play keep away from these guys a little."
It's hard to place a finger one why the Jimmies didn't pick up its second win of the season last weekend against Midland University in Fremont, Neb. UJ scored four touchdowns in five trips to the red zone during a career afternoon for Mann (22-36-0, 234 yards, 4 total touchdowns). But ultimately the Warriors held the Jimmies out of the end zone in overtime to edge the orange and black 35-28.
The Jimmies turned the Warriors over four times, once on downs from the Jimmies' 1-yard line in the third quarter. But Kittell said Jamestown needs to find more success or plays that seem to make or break games.
A 58-yard Midland punt return to the UJ 16-yard line late in the first half last week was crucial. The Warriors dove into the end zone three plays later to tie the score at 14-14 at the half.
"We executed at a much higher level in all phases," Kittell said. "But there were a couple of those moments where good teams like (Midland) are able to stay in the game."
The Jimmies did, however, pile up 417 yards of offense and both sides of the ball found success, which suggests improvements are hitting home.
"Not winning is frustrating, but it's encouraging," Kittell said. "The first key is putting yourself in position to win the game in the fourth quarter. Now the next step is finding a way to get it done when we get to the fourth quarter."
Vereen echoed the coach's take.
"We hadn't been in that situation. We're still a young team," Vereen said. "It's an experience and the more times we put ourselves in situations like that things will start swinging our way."
Jimmie senior linebacker Caleb Ellingson is ranked eighth in the NAIA in tackles per game (11.2). Mann has tallied 729 yards and six scores on 70 of 147 passing attempts on the year. Running backs Jimmy Hatch (3.8 ypc) and Allen Jevning (4.5 ypc) have recorded 156 of Jamestown's 269 rushing attempts, with Jevning yet to find the end zone.
"It's always good to see improvement as a team, but we're not going to be satisfied until we get that 'W' on the board," Vereen said. "(Today) we'll be sticking to our guns and playing Jimmie football. Whoever we play against, that's what we do."
Vereen is sharing his homecoming king throne with homecoming queen Allie Hill.
"Walking around campus, everyone has been calling me king and praising me for some reason," Vereen said. "It's kinda weird."