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Norfolk State duo lead Spartans to top

If you have been watching football in the MEAC this season, you shouldn't be surprised that Norfolk State has clinched a share of the conference title. The Spartans (8-2 overall, 6-1 league) have been the most consistent team in the MEAC. Moreover, the Spartans have been terrific on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, they have quarterback Chris Walley and wide receiver Xavier Boyce. Walley is coming off a stellar performance last week, completing 20 of 25 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-3 win over Savannah State. He also had four carries for a career-high 72 yards while scoring two more touchdowns of 17 and 52 yards.

Walley was named the Football Championship Subdivision National Co-Offensive Player of the Week by The Sports Network. He was also named the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week.

Walley makes very few mistakes. A 6-2, 200 pound senior, he leads the MEAC in passing. He has completed 199 of 283 passes for 2,122 yards with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Boyce, a 6-4, 220-pound junior, has been his main target. Boyce leads the conference with 64 receptions for 729 yards and four touchdowns. The Spartans have the best passing attack in the league.

And when Norfolk State needs to pick up some tough yards on the ground, junior running back Taheem Hedgeman has been there to make some big runs. Hedgeman has 131 carries for 617 yards and two touchdowns. He averages 4.7 yards a carry.

The defense hasn't been too shabby either. Norfolk State does a great job of getting to the quarterback. The Spartans have been getting a good push up the middle from defensive tackle Joey Christine, a 6-3, 300-pound senior. Christine is tied with senior linebacker Hasan Craig for the team lead in sacks with 5.5 each.

Norfolk State plays the run extremely well with senior linebackers Corwin Hammond (99 total and 59 solo tackles) and Onyemechi Anyaugo (78 total and 39 solo tackles). It's hard to turn the corner on Hammond and Anyaugo with their quickness and nose for the ball.

Norfolk State will travel to Baltimore to face Morgan State (5-4 overall, 4-2 league) on Saturday. Bears Coach Donald Hill-Eley knows his team will have their hands full with the Spartans.

"[Norfolk State] Coach [Pete] Adrian does a good job of moving guys around," Hill-Eley said. "He puts those guys in great situations. You never know where they're going to end up. They have a good sound defense. It's based on linebacker play. You can have a good nose guard and a good D-line and it frees those guys up to make plays that they're making.

"On the offensive side, it's one of those situations any time you have a quarterback with a great running game that you have to defend. You have to defend the power. Then, you have to defend the perimeter. You have a 6-4 receiver on the backside that can get up the field on a post route it makes things real easy to stretch that field. They do a good job of getting the ball to the playmakers. Chris Walley makes great decisions. They have a real sound scheme and a real sound program."

This is a big game for the Spartans. If they beat Morgan State, they will secure their first outright MEAC championship and earn the league's automatic berth in the FCS playoffs. Adrian credits much of the team's success to experience.

"We have 20 seniors," Adrian said. "Fifteen of them are fifth-year seniors. They've been through the wars a few times. They understand the systems on both side of the football. They're playing with a lot of passion and a sense of purpose."

HBCU Notes

North Carolina Central cornerback Malik Cromartie has been named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week. Cromartie made six solo tackles with two interceptions to help the Eagles get their first conference win of the season. His two interceptions came inside North Carolina Central's 5-yard line against Delaware State. He also blocked a field goal and broke up a pass.

Grambling State running back Dawrence Roberts has been named the SWAC Offensive Player of the Week. Roberts rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries as Grambling State nipped Jackson State, 26-23. He had touchdown runs of 76 and 10 yards.

Alabama A&M defensive end Corey Hart has been named the SWAC Defensive Player of the Week. Hart finished with 10 total tackles (seven solos), four tackles for loss (29 yards), three sacks (21 yards) and a quarterback hurry as the Bulldogs topped Alcorn State, 28-14.

The top NFL prospects from the four historically black college and university conferences -- MEAC, SWAC, SIAC and CIAA -- will showcase their talents in the third annual HBCU All-Star Bowl on Dec. 18 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. For more information, go to www.hbcubowl.com/teams.html

Boxtorow HBCU Football Media Top 10 Poll

1. Winston-Salem State

2. Norfolk State

3. Alabama A&M

4. Alabama State

5. Jackson State

6. Albany State

7. Bethune-Cookman

8. South Carolina State

9. Morehouse

10. Florida A&M

SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll

1. Winston-Salem State

2. Alabama A&M

3. Bethune-Cookman

4. Albany State

5. Alabama State

6. Norfolk State

7. Jackson State

8. Florida A&M

9. South Carolina State

10. Elizabeth City State

HSRN Division I FCS Poll

1. Alabama A&M

2. Norfolk State

3. Alabama State

4. Jackson State

5. Florida A&M

6. South Carolina State

7. Bethune-Cookman

8. Howard

9. Hampton

10. Grambling State

Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. His HBCU Notebook on ESPN.com can be found here. Got a story idea for Hunt? E-mail him at dhunt37261@aol.com.