WCU ALL-CAMPUS CHAMPS TO PLAY                                                                                                      

CULLOWHEE – As the top college football teams from across the country get ready for bowl season, a group from Western Carolina University will be among the squads vying for a national championship.

No, the varsity Catamounts haven't finagled an invitation to the post-season party. The Western gridiron squad in question is the university men's all-campus champion intramural flag football team, which goes by the name SMC. The squad won the right to play in the 26th annual national championship tournament in New Orleans beginning Tuesday, Dec. 28, after a second-place finish in regional competition.

SMC stands for Smoky Mountain Conference, a name selected because a majority of players on the team played high school ball in Western North Carolina. The team began playing in Western's intramural sports program about four years ago, said team captain Jacob Nelms of Robbinsville.

“We all really like playing with each other, and we consider ourselves representatives of the mountain region instead of just representatives of our individual high schools,” Nelms said. “We consider it an honor to represent Western Carolina, and we took great pride in going to the regional flag football tourney and doing such a good job for both the mountains and for our university.”

After winning the all-campus championship at Western, SMC played in the American Collegiate Intramural Championships South Atlantic tournament in Wilmington, N.C., the weekend of Nov. 19-21. In the regional tournament, Western's SMC beat a team from Fairmont State University and lost to a squad from the University of Florida before beginning a single-elimination playoff. The team from Western defeated squads from the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, Fayetteville State University, University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Liberty University before falling again to Florida in the finals.

In addition to Nelms, members of SMC are Jeff Baxter of Andrews, Luke Bicknell of Charlotte, Anthony Brown of Robbinsville, Jake Day of Sylva, Derrick Gaddis of Murphy, Jake Hunter of Brevard, Josh Kitchens of Hayesville, Jake Setzer of Hayesville, Michael Watson of Bryson City, and Caleb Williams of Robbinsville. Nelms and Watson were selected to the regional all-tournament team.

The team is seeking contributions to help fund the trip to New Orleans for the national championship tournament.

“All of us would love to go to New Orleans and represent both the university and the Western North Carolina mountain region,” Nelms said. “But it's going to be an expensive trip, and we're asking anyone who can to support us in our hunt for a national ranking.”

The team is hoping to raise about $3,000 to help meet the costs of competing in the tournament.

For information or to make a contribution, call Jacob Nelms at (828) 631-0264 or (828) 735-0766.

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Last modified: Friday, December 10, 2004
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