Bison, Maroon Tigers continuing their series

As a cornerback at Coolidge High in the District, Raynard Ware had grades good enough to attract an offer from Yale. He came up just short of qualifying but landed at another school with a stellar academic reputation, Morehouse of Atlanta.

When Morehouse plays Howard in the second annual Nation's Football Classic at RFK Stadium on Saturday, Ware returns home for a game that serves as a reminder of the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In an era when most schools in the south were closed to blacks, Howard and Morehouse gave eager minds a chance to thrive, becoming two of the elite academic institutions in the nation.

"When you think about it, you've got the No. 1 HBCU for academics in the north, and we're No. 1 in the south," Morehouse coach Rich Freeman said. "It's an opportunity for us to get together, have a good time and remember the important roles these schools played."

Howard won last year's game 30-27. Win or lose, playing the game actually hurt Morehouse as it came up short of qualifying for the NCAA Division II playoffs despite the same 8-2 record that got it in the previous year. In Division II, games against teams of other classifications don't count toward qualification.

But that won't keep Morehouse from continuing the series. Playing in a former NFL stadium and visiting D.C. is a rare opportunity.

"There's no other game like this," running back David Carter said. "And playing in that stadium on grass, it's a running back's dream."

Carter was imbued early with a sense of the importance of Morehouse. His mother is a graduate of its sister school, Spellman. The senior, who rushed for 122 yards in last year's game and finished the season with 1,495, expects big things this year as four of his offensive linemen are back.

Saturday is a big opportunity for Morehouse. Howard will be without up to 14 players who are serving suspensions as the school continues to investigate athletes who misused funds that were earmarked for textbooks. All the players will be back by Week 4 of the season.