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HBCU Football Roundup: Week One
Not even Tropical Storm Fay could slow down the Blazers (1-0) on the night as they scored a pair of touchdowns in the first three minutes of play, utilizing just four offensive plays in the process.
After Sherard Reynolds returned the opening kick off 44 yards to the Wildcat 47 yard line, Ronnye Nelson took a shovel pass from Tucker Pruitt and raced untouched to the endzone on the first play from scrimmage for the first score.
After a punt by FVSU, Pruitt threw an incomplete pass and then fell on a Nelson fumble, the first of five by VSU on the evening, before completing a 52-yard to freshman Kody Case for a 14-0 Valdosta State advantage with 12:03 to go in the first quarter.
Fort Valley State was once again forced to punt, but regained the ball in Blazer territory when Steven A. Jackson fell on a Pruitt fumble on the VSU 28.
However, two plays later Reynolds picked off a Garrett Williams passed and raced 94 yards for a touchdown to extend the Valdosta State advantage to 21-0. The 94-yard return set a new VSU record for longest interception return in school history.
The Wildcats got on the board with 7:18 remaining in the second quarter when Jake Grubbs kicked a 37-yard field goal, but Valdosta State responded with a touchdown on its next drive to push its advantage to 25 points.
After a nine-yard Pruitt-to-Cedric Jones completion, VSU picked up 42 yards on the ground, including 37 on three carries by Markus Manson, to move into Wildcat territory.
Facing a third-and-ten on the FVSU 34, Albert Dukes drew a pass interference call to keep the Blazer drive alive and two plays later made a diving catch on a Chris Hart pass in the end zone for a 28-3 VSU lead.
The Valdosta State lead grew to 35-3 just 14 seconds before the half when Pruitt connected with Kase for a second touchdown pass while Hart added two more scoring tosses in the third quarter.
The freshman’s first came on a nine-yard strike to R.J. Bastone just 3:15 into the half while Jones pulled down a 40-yard pass from Hart two minutes later to give the Blazers a 49-3 advantage.
Manson closed out the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run with 2:18 to go in the game, capping off a seven-carry, 76-yard rushing performance.
VSU tallied 283 yards on the ground on the evening while also throwing for 272 yards and six touchdowns. In addition to Manson’s team-high 76 yards, Derrick Harris picked up 57 yards on seven carries while Michael Brown registered eight carries for 57 yards.
Pruitt completed six-of-10 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns while Hart also threw three touchdowns while completing five-of-nine passes for 110 yards.
Bastone caught three passes for 72 yards to lead the Blazer receiving corps while Dukes had three receptions for 22 yards. Kase tallied 68 yards and the two touchdowns on a pair of receptions while Jones also had two receptions, for 49 yards.
Skylar Thornton led the Fort Valley State offensive attack as he picked up 71 yards on 17 carries while also catching four passes for 18 yards while Williams completed nine-of-26 passes for 47 yards.
Larry Dean led the Valdosta State defense with eight tackles, including a tackle for loss, as the Blazer defense extended its streak of holding Fort Valley State without a touchdown to 14 quarters, a streak that extends back to the second quarter of the 2005 contest between the two teams.
CONCORDIA 23, BETHEL COLLEGE 18
Concordia quarterback Ken Johnson hit receiver John Halman for a 47-yard touchdown that highlighted a milestone victory over host Bethel College at McKenzie, Tennessee on Saturday night.
Concordia started the game with a bang. Johnson showed he has fully recovered from a knee injury that ended his 2007 season with a 16-yard run and 33-yard touchdown pass to Halman on the Hornets’ opening drive.
Bethel tied the game at 6 in the second quarter. A 54-yard scamper by Justin Woodward put the Wildcats at the Concordia 5-yard line. Four plays later, Chad Lamping hit Joevaris Carter for a 10-yard touchdown. Like the Hornets, Bethel missed the extra points.
Concordia answered on its next drive to take a lead into the locker room. An 8-play drive ended with a 2-yard Johnson touchdown run, giving Concordia a 13-6 lead at the half.
The teams traded field goals, and then Bethel tied the game on a 3-yard Lamping-to-Jeremy Akins touchdown pass in the third quarter. Once again, the Hornets immediately fired back on a gamble.
With his team facing a fourth-and-4 situation at the Bethel 47 early in the fourth quarter, head coach Shepherd Skanes rolled the dice. He noticed in film study that the Wildcats went to a 46 defense on third downs, which leaves them vulnerable in the secondary.
Johnson and Halman hooked up to put the Hornets ahead 23-16. The Wildcats didn’t go down without a fight. Bethel pinned Concordia deep in its own territory, then Halman — who doubles as a punter/kicker — fell on a fumble in his own end zone for a safety.
Bethel got the ball back and drove to the Concordia 12-yard line. The Hornets’ defense held, and Johnson kneeled down to run out the clock.
NOTE: The Selma (Ala.) Times-Journal contributed to this story.