For Greene County News
WILBERFORCE — Saturday’s game featuring the Central State Marauders and Concordia (Ala.) Hornets had a bit of everything including big plays, over 2,000 prospective high school students in attendance, senior recognition ceremonies, a 50-31 Marauder victory and a marriage proposal.
The events started a half hour prior to kick off as 17 senior football players were recognized. Gervell Morgan, a senior linebacker from Chattanooga, Tenn., concluded the pregame ceremony with a successful marriage proposal to his new fiancée Jasmine Dotson.
“It was an amazing feeling to share our moment with all our friends and family,” Morgan said. “It truly was an incredible day and an even better feeling when she said ‘Yes.’”
With a happy senior linebacker and excited group of players, CSU opened the game by claiming an early 14-0 lead. Clim Robbins delivered his first of two big plays on the day when he picked off his sixth pass of the season and ran it back 60 yards for the game’s first score at the 12:04 mark of the first quarter. On CSU’s next possession, two seniors connected as quarterback Julian Walker hit tight end Zach Thomas for a 38 yard pass down to the Hornets’ 5-yard line. Running back Jihad Rasheed scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on the next play to put the Marauders up 14 with 9:30 left in the 1st quarter.
“With the seniors playing in their last game and Gervell popping the big question, we knew our guys would be fired up,” CSU coach Cedric Pearl said. “I thought our guys did a great job of getting in the right mindset heading into the game and we were able to get off to a hot start.”
The Hornets responded with a five-play 74-yard touchdown drive to pull back within seven at the end of the opening quarter. A bad Concordia snap in their own end zone gave CSU a safety and a 16-7 lead at the 10:51 mark of the second quarter. On the free kick, Robbins struck again with a 70-yard touchdown return to put his team up 23-7.
“Clim had an incredible day and an All-American caliber season,” Pearl said. “He continues to impress with his playmaking ability and is capable of doing it on defense, offense and special teams.”
The Hornets remained as pesky as the school’s nickname, capitalizing off a fumble and a short field to pick up 10 points in the final seven minutes of the first half to pull within six at halftime.
Another Marauder turnover handed Concordia the ball at the CSU 35-yard line to begin the second half. The Hornets took advantage and the lead as quarterback James Crosby scrambled for the score to put his team up 24-23 with 11:08 left in the 3rd quarter.
Delivering big hits all afternoon, the CSU defense administered a blow to running back Dequan Martin to jar the ball out on the next Concordia possession. The newly engaged Morgan scooped up the loose ball and took it down to the Hornets’ 10 yard line before Rasheed picked up his second score of the day to put CSU back up 30-24 at the 9:24 mark of the 3rd quarter.
“We had a few lapses, but our defense picked it up in the second half and we were able to effectively move the ball on offense,” Pearl said. “Concordia came ready to play and we had to refocus in order to pull ahead.”
Late in the 3rd quarter, senior punt returner Jordan Howard showed his veteran knowledge picking up what Concordia (AL) had thought to be a downed punt. With Concordia (AL) players assuming the play was over, Howard picked up the ball and ran it back 50 yards for the score to put his team up 37-24 heading into the 4th quarter.
“I give Jordan credit for paying attention to the play and knowing the rules of the game,” Pearl said. “It was another big play and really helped to solidify our lead.”
CSU began to pour it on in the final quarter as Walker completed on a 49 yard strike to receiver Ronnie Fountain Jr to set up a 7 yard touchdown run from Deandre Grant to claim a 43-24 lead with 12:48 remaining. CSU surrendered a 65 yard touchdown reception to Markeis Levatte on the next possession to make the score 43-31. With 8:03 remaining, Rasheed responded for CSU with the longest run of the season on a 50 yard touchdown for his third score of the afternoon to put his team up 19. Nehemiah Coward picked off a Hornet pass on the next possession and CSU successfully ran out the clock to claim the 50-31 victory.
CSU totaled 264 yards on the ground with an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Defensively, CSU forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.
Jihad Rasheed finished the day with a season-high 121 yards to go along with three scores. Making his first start at quarterback in the final game of his collegiate career, Julian Walker was an effective 7-for-15 for 175 yards through the air with no interceptions. He also picked up 20 yards on the ground.
“We emphasized ball security this week and we did a good job of that to finish the game,” Marauders coach Cedric Pearl said. “I commend Julian for working hard and going out there and executing.”
On defense, CSU had a host of outstanding performances including Morgan’s 10.5 tackles. 2 sacks and fumble recovery. Deonate Gary eclipsed 100 tackles on the year with a game-high 15 on the afternoon. Justin Woods-West finished with two sacks to go with 11 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. Woods-West looks to finish atop the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with 13.5 sacks on the year.
“Today is a great win for our seniors and we had a lot of guys who put together tremendous individual performances this year” Pearl said. “With today’s win, we also show that our program is headed in the right direction. I think our fans and alumni have a lot to look forward to going into next season. The returning players and coaches continue to be dedicated to finding ways to improve as a team each and every day heading into next year.”
The 50-point performance is the most CSU has scored since the 2012 season. Finishing the year at 5-5 overall, the Marauders tie for the best overall record since 1995.