Peoples photo

Wingate running back Nijere Peoples (9), a 5-foot-10, 220-pound redshirt junior out of Butler High in Charlotte, ranks third in the South Atlantic Conference in rushing with an average of 111.5 yards through two games this season. Peoples is already a two-time all-conference player for the Bulldogs.

WINGATE — The Wingate University football team is rolling early on. The Bulldogs are currently 2-0 and ranked No. 16 in the D2 Football Top 25 poll.

Up next for head coach Joe Reich’s team is a road trip to Jefferson City, Tenn. to face Carson-Newman in the South Atlantic Conference opener for both teams on Saturday, Sept. 18, starting at 1 p.m.. The Eagles are 0-1 after falling to No. 18 West Georgia, 45-7, in their season opener on Sept. 2.

The Bulldogs are 6-5 in 11 all-time meetings with Carson-Newman, including a 3-2 record on the road. The last time these two teams met was an entertaining affair, as a late field goal gave Wingate a 30-28 win back in 2019. The Bulldogs only gave up 45 yards of offense over the final two quarters after trailing by eight points (28-20) at halftime.

The last time Wingate visited Carson-Newman, the Eagles were victorious, 31-14, on Sept. 15, 2018. The loss was just the second in a 13-game span for the Bulldogs.

This season, Wingate has outscored its two opponents by an average of 21 points per game. Last Saturday, the Bulldogs dominated Fayetteville State en route to a 40-21 home victory.

The Bulldogs were led offensively by redshirt junior running back Nijere Peoples, who carried the ball 21 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns against Fayetteville State. Peoples — who now has over 2,000 career rushing yards — ran for over 100 yards in the first half to help Wingate build a 30-6 lead at the break.

Wingate also got a big game from redshirt freshman returner Kyron Thomas, who averaged 33.8 yards per return on four kickoff returns. On the final kickoff of the game after a Fayetteville State score, Thomas returned the ball from the Wingate 4-yard line all the way to the Fayetteville State 45-yard line.

Both Peoples and Thomas were honored for their performances this week — Peoples was named South Atlantic Conference Offensive Player of the Week and Thomas was named the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week.

Wingate went 2-2 during the spring 2021 season, winning its first two games before dropping back-to-back contests to Lenoir-Rhyne and Newberry. Lenoir-Rhyne is currently ranked No. 5 in the AFCA Coaches Poll and will travel to Wingate to play the Bulldogs on Oct. 30.