VUU Panthers will kick off the 2022-23 football season on a Thursday night | Richmond Free Press


Virginia Union University is doing something a little unusual for the upcoming football season.

Instead of opening on a traditional Saturday, as they have for a century or more, the Panthers will start on Thursday, September 1 against the invasion of the University of Virginia in Lynchburg.

Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hovey Stadium on the VUU campus.

The game will serve as the annual Willard Bailey Classic, honoring Hall of Fame coach Willard Bailey, who coached VUU from 1971 to 1983 and again from 1995 to 2003.

Coach Alvin Parker’s Panthers were 6-4 overall last season and 5-2 in the CIAA. The team finished second in the CIAA North Division to Bowie State University.

There is a vacancy at VUU quarterback. Last season’s regulars, graduate students Khalid Morris and E’mond Caldwell, have moved on.

A newcomer to watch is Aajon Johnson, a transfer from Foothill College, a public community college, in Los Altos Hills, Calif. A native of Atherton, Calif., he should have at least two seasons of eligibility for VUU.

“We’ve been recruiting the Cal JUCO system for a while now,” said VUU coach Alvin Parker. “We’ve made great connections in the West.”

Johnson signed up for VUU in January and was one of four quarterbacks who took shots in the Panthers’ spring

Game. All have had their moments. “We’ll have a battle before fall camp,” added Coach Parker.

In just seven games at Foothill, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Johnson completed 85 of 153 passes for 1,449 yards, with 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Whoever VUU’s next quarterback is, he’ll have some formidable weapons. Returning are CIAA Rookie of the Year Jada Byers and All-CIAA wide receiver Charles Hall.

Byers rushed for 978 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Among the nation’s top deep threats, Hall has 33 receptions for 813 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 24.6 yards per catch.

The University of Virginia at Lynchburg, an HBCU affiliate of the National Christian Colleges Athletic Association, announced an exciting 10-game football schedule with all 10 on the road.

After their trip to Richmond on September 1 to face the Panthers, the VUL Dragons will travel to Presbyterian College in South Carolina; Delaware State University; Central University of North Carolina; Morgan State University in Maryland; Savannah State University in Georgia; South Carolina State University; University of the South in Louisiana; Webber International University in Florida; and The Citadel in South Carolina.


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