Rattlers set to face Jaguars in weekend showdown

As the Rattlers prepare to square off against the Southern University Jaguars Saturday, the team said it understands the importance of landing the first blow.

“We got to strike fear in their heart and let them know we’re not playing with them,” said offensive guard Anthony Collins. “Once we do that, we’ve got them the whole game.”

Florida A&M will open the 2007 football season against Southern in the 3rd edition of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge at Legion Field.

Redshirt junior, Jason Beach, said he is ready to line up against new faces.

“This is what you came to school for,” said the free safety from Pensacola. “All the work is out the way and now it’s game time. The lights on, you got to shine.”

Beach lit up opposing offenses last season as he led the FAMU defense with four interceptions. The all-conference performer was also the squad’s second-leading tackler with 70 stops during the 2006 campaign.

Collins said a win over the Jaguars would give the Rattlers momentum to carry through the season.

“You start off right, everything else falls into place,” Collins said.

With a win over Southern, head coach Rubin Carter’s squad would break a string of season opening losses that started in 2002.

Collins said he was confident the team would start a new streak this year. The redshirt sophomore from Miami is a returning starter for an offensive line that must replace departed standouts Daniel Parrish and Lenard Black. One of the chief responsibilities for the orange and green front is to protect redshirt senior quarterback Albert Chester II.

Chester, who has been bothered by an injury to his right shoulder, said he’s waiting on his body to catch up to his mind.

“I’m feeling all right from a mental standpoint,” said the signal caller from Jacksonville. “I just want my body to be all the way back. It’s not quite there yet but hopefully it’ll be there by Saturday.”

Chester was named to the all-conference second team after passing for 1,986 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2006. While running backs Anthony Edwards and Demitric Henry recover from injury, freshman Phillip Sylvester will carry the load.

Even if Chester is not 100 percent healthy, the FAMU aerial attack will look to find holes against a Southern squad that led the SWAC in pass defense. Jaguar senior free safety Jarmaul George led the unit that allowed just less than 140 yards per game last season.

The MEAC proved victorious in the previous editions of the challenge. In 2006, the Hampton Pirates knocked off the Grambling State Tigers 27-26 in overtime. In the inaugural match-up, the South Carolina State Bulldogs beat the Alabama State Hornets 27-14.

The Rattlers and Jaguars will renew a rivalry that began in 1941. But the familiar foes last met in 2001 and Southern won 17-14 in overtime. FAMU leads the series 31-24-1.

FAMU will work to improve on last season’s 7-4 record and fourth place finish in the MEAC.

Kick off is set for 3 p.m. Saturday and ESPN Classic will broadcast the contest. Fans can tune in to WHBX-FM to hear the game.