Former Raiders shining for Braves
by By Shawn Stinson
CHARLOTTE — Former Richmond Senior standout L.J. Stroman slowly walked off the field at Jerry Richardson Stadium with his University of North Carolina at Pembroke teammates with a big smile on his face.
And why shouldn’t he. Stroman and the rest of the Braves strolled into their locker room after the contest, just as they have done four other times this season — as winners.
UNCP moved to 5-0 on the season with a surprising 45-22 dismantling of Charlotte Saturday afternoon, ruining the 49ers’ homecoming festivities.
And two former Raiders — John Rich and Stroman — had a big hand in the win.
Stroman recorded eight solo tackles, had a pass breakup, blocked a field goal attempt and intercepted a pass in the end zone. He also averaged 11 yards on his two punt returns against the 49ers.
Not a bad way to fill his stat line. Stroman’s pass breakup came on a throw to Trent Bostick, another former Richmond Raider. Bostick had one catch for 20 yards.
Even though the season-opening victory over Winston-Salem State put UNCP back on the national scene, the win over Charlotte may mean a little more to Stroman. Against the Rams, Stroman was ejected from the game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on the first play of the second quarter. Stroman was around for all of Saturday’s contest and made the defensive play of the game to keep the Braves in front.
UNCP led 14-8 in the waning moments of the first quarter as Charlotte took over possession at its own 43-yard line. After a short run, a 26-yard pass play and an offsides penalty, the 49ers had a first-and-5 at the Braves’ 24.
Charlotte quarterback Matt Johnson attempted to loft a pass between Quentin Pate and Stroman to his streaking wide receiver. Pate appeared to have a bead on the ball, but bobbled it and Stroman was able to swoop in to make the diving interception.
“I thought he had it,” Stroman said. “I had to zone in on the ball when I saw it was tipped. I was about to turn around and block when I saw the ball was floating in the air.”
Rich had a solid contest as well, reeling in eight passes from Luke Charles for 82 yards. He had two dropped passes, including one his quarterback was quick to tease him about because it could have resulted in a big gain.
“He could have taken that one in,” Charles said laughing.
Even Rich was kicking himself for letting that one get away.
“I had my hands the wrong way,” Rich said. “I needed to have them up.”
The redshirt sophomore is becoming an integral part of the UNCP offense after struggling last season with 17 catches and no touchdowns. Rich has 21 receptions and a team-leading six scores this year.
“It’s all hard work,” Rich said of his breakout season. “I stayed on campus all summer and worked with the receivers and quarterbacks.”
Rich, Stroman and the rest of the 10th-ranked Braves will look to continue their winning ways when they travel to Salisbury to take on Catawba.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.
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