Rattlers hit the road to face Norfolk

The Florida A&M football team will hit the road again to take on the Norfolk State Spartans after bouncing back against the Savannah State Tigers last Saturday in Bragg Memorial Stadium.

The Rattlers face another struggling team in week eight, but are not looking past the Spartans on the way to their eventual goal of winning a MEAC championship.

At a press conference Tuesday, head coach Joe Taylor stressed the importance of remaining focused on their challenges from week to week.

Norfolk State currently posts a record of 1-3 in the MEAC, but Taylor knows that his opponent would love the opportunity to rain on the Rattlers’ parade.

“Certainly they would like to play spoiler,” Taylor said. “We’re going to have to be able to match their running game. We’re going to have to put some extra people in the box because DeAngelo Branch is a good running back, and there is a pretty decent offensive line in front of him.”

Branch currently leads all Spartan rushers with 610 yards on the ground on 129 carries.

His yards-per-rush average is 4.7 yards, and he is totaling an average of 101.7 yards per-game.

Another offensive threat facing the Rattlers will be the Spartan signal caller Chris Walley.

Walley was a three-year letter winner and two-year starter at North Florida Christian for coach Casey Weldon, a former starter at Florida State.

This year, Walley is already approaching 1,000 passing yards with 831 yards on the year and three touchdowns.

Linebacker Demarius Folsom expressed Tuesday the defense’s strategy to stop the local product.

“We’re going to put heat in his face quick, make him release the ball quicker than he’s normally used to, and tighten up on our coverages,” Folosm said. “That way we can get a couple of tipped passes and some turnovers.”

The Rattler offense had a breakout game last Saturday after being shut out by South Carolina State in the previous contest.

Running back Philip Sylvester returned to his usual form against Savannah State with 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Sylvester said it was a big boost for his confidence to have a huge game before going on the road.

“It feels real good to get back out there and have a big game in front of the home crowd, and to bring some excitement back to Bragg Stadium. On top of that, having a shut out win,” Sylvester said. “This week we’re really going to focus on running the ball, and we should be able to exploit them by running the ball and working play-action off of that.”

Hungry to get back to the field is T.J. Lawrence, who had his first punt return for a touchdown called back on an inadvertent whistle.

The wide receiver has put the experience behind him, but is focused on getting his first against the Spartans.

“I have to, I’m overdue. I’m overdue for a punt return,” said Lawrence. “If I get the ball in my hands on that punt return, I can’t get tackled.”

The Rattlers will face the Spartans in Dick Price Stadium in Norfolk, Va. Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on WXBX 96.1 FM.