At 26, Salem product Zach Staton has established himself as a go-to media member on the topic of the FCS, which will crown a champion Saturday in Frisco, Texas.
Staton is a weekend sports anchor in Fargo, North Dakota, home to perennial contender North Dakota State. The Bison (15-0) will meet James Madison (14-1) at noon Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
“It kind of mirrors the Clemson-Alabama rivalry,” Staton said. “The fan bases respect each other; they know they’re the best and that sort of fuels them a little bit more. ”
Staton is a graduate of Bridgewater College, which is about nine minutes from JMU.
“It’s pretty wild because I was actually working at the radio station that broadcast the JMU games,” said Staton, who was in the studio when the Dukes defeated NDSU 27-17 in their 2016 semifinal.
“I remember that as a chaotic day because a lot of people in Harrisonburg didn’t think that JMU could beat NDSU. So, when they did, we were all sort of flabbergasted. It’s pretty crazy to see both sides of it.”
JMU went on to defeat Youngstown State 28-14 in the 2016 final.
In 2017, North Dakota State defeated JMU 17-13 in the title game.
Staton didn’t arrive in Fargo until the fall of 2018. He had been wrapping up a master’s degree at Syracuse, where he also became somewhat accustomed to the weather he would face in Fargo, which actually is located in the southern half of the state.
“Moving to the Midwest is something I never thought I would do,” said Staton, who was married this past summer. “The cold is one thing, but I lived in Syracuse, where it snowed 120 inches a year. I’ve learned to like it. Everybody loves their sports in Fargo.”
That includes football, which is also the first love of his hometown in Salem.
“When you grow up in Salem, which was on ESPN for many Decembers and the D-III championships, you tend to like it,” he said. “I was invested in it from the start.”
- The championship game will pit the No. 6 (James Madison) and No. 9 teams in the FCS in total offense. JMU is first in total defense and North Dakota State is second. … One of the few differences is at quarterback. The Dukes’ QB is Ben DiNucci , who began his career at Pittsburgh, compared to NDSU freshman Trey Lance, who has passed for 2,714 yards and 28 touchdowns this year without an interception.
The football draft portal is full of quarterbacks with ACC backgrounds, including Jamie Newman and Tayvon Bowers from Wake Forest, Anthony Brown from Boston College, Phil Jurkovec from Notre Dame and Lucas Johnson from Georgia Tech.
The list also includes ex-Hidden Valley QB Jonah Fitzgerald, who played in one game and had one passing attempt for Old Dominion this past season. He had attempted a total of three passes as a freshman in 2018.
- Pittsburgh has added a transfer, Arizona State’s 6-foot-4, 192-pound Joey Yellen, who passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns in his only appearance of the season, a 31-26 loss to Southern Cal during which he suffered a shoulder injury.
- Former Jefferson Forest High School offensive lineman Ben Trent, who played in a total of 13 games during the past two seasons at Virginia, has entered the transfer portal. Seldom-used defensive backs Myles Robinson and Nathaniel Beal III had been placed on that list earlier.
ODAC member Roanoke College announced on Wednesday it will add wrestling as its 22nd varsity sport. A search for a head coach is underway in advance of its first season in the fall of 2021.
“Our first challenge will be to find the right person to lead our program,” Maroons athletic director Scott Allison said in a press release. "Once we have our coach in place, it’ll be time to hit the recruiting trail … hard.”
Back in September, ODAC member Shenandoah announced it would add wrestling for the 2020-21 school year.
The ODAC does not currently sponsor wrestling and the two schools currently competing in the sport — Washington and Lee (Centennial) and Ferrum (Southeast Wrestling Conference) — are members of different leagues.