By John Bombatch
WILBERFORCE — His team hadn’t won a game, and Terraris Saffold hadn’t played a down all season.
But the Central State Marauders’ fortunes changed on Saffold’s very first time he touched the ball Saturday, during CSU’s 27-10 homecoming game win over the Lane College Dragons at McPherson Memorial Stadium.
On the very first play of the game, Saffold caught a pass from Marauders quarterback Lavon Meeks. The Haynesville, Ala. native then made the very most of his playing time. Saffold sprinted 70 yards down the CSU sideline for a touchdown.
“I’d dropped that pass all week, but when it was time to catch it in the game, I caught it. I had to make the best of my opportunities. It felt real good,” Saffold said. He later perused a copy of the post-game stats to make sure his catch was listed.
Central State coach Cedric Pearl broke into a smile when asked to recall Saffold’s catch.
“He dropped that pass every time during practice,” Pearl said with a chuckle. “But he caught it today when it counts, and that’s all that matters. I can show you the practice film, though. He dropped it every day.”
Not this time.
And Central State (1-6, 1-4 SIAC) wasn’t the team making costly mistakes or racking up tons of penalty yardage this time, either.
While the Marauders were flagged eight times, they had no turnovers and didn’t make any costly mistakes.
Lane College (4-3, 2-2 SIAC) couldn’t say that.
On its first possession of the contest, the Dragons were forced to punt. But when they snapped the ball, Lane punter Raul Martinez had to chase after an errant hike, and fell on the ball on the Dragon’s own 14-yard line.
On Central State’s second offensive play of the game, Meeks went back to pass, but saw lots of green turf and no defenders on his left side. So the CSU signal caller kept the ball and ran thohse 14 yards into the Dragon’s end zone and a score.
Cedarville High grad Everett Harding Jr. booted his second extra point for the day, and the Marauders were out in front, 14-0.
Harding, who played as a wide receiver in high school, had never kicked a football until he got to CSU.
“I’m not the best. Heck, I’m not even good at it. But I went 3-for-4 today, and I’m figuring it out. I’m very proud that I was able to do something to help my team,” Harding said.
Lane scored late in the first half on a Marquez Pickett 7-yard pass to Jamion Dunning. The other Dragons score came off the foot of Martinez, who booted a 37-yard field goal.
Meeks scored from a yard out and then CSU standout Nehemiah Coward turned a Lane missed field goal try into a dramatic 100-yard Marauders touchdown, in the third quarter.
In a matchup between the top two running backs in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, CSU’s De’Michael Jackson finished with 70 yards on 20 carries, while the SIAC’s no. 1 rusher — Marcus Holliday — was limited to 32 yards on 15 carries.
“That first play, we hadn’t run that all year and it worked today,” Jackson said. “We hadn’t been getting off to a good start on offense all season long, but we did today. And our quarterback, Lavon (Meeks), that’s our leader. He did everything he was supposed to do, and led us to a win.”
Meeks finished with 102 yards passing on 4-for-9 tries, and rushed for 55 yards as well on 13 carries. He had the TD pass to Saffold and his 14-yard TD run.
Defensive lineman Christian Lassiter said the defense was hungry to get a win.
“We knew it started with the defense. … Our defense is good at stopping the run, but this team overall just had a really good game,” Lassiter said. “We’re just happy to get that first ‘W’ and we hope to continue.”
CSU heads to Fort Valley, Ga. on Saturday, Oct. 22 for its next game. The Marauders will take on Fort Valley State at 2 p.m. for CSU’s final road game of the 2016 season. They’ll then close out the regular season with home games against Tuskegee (Oct. 29) and Southwest Baptist (Nov. 5).
Score by quarters
Lane College 0 7 0 3 — 10
Central State 14 0 13 0 — 27
CSU — Terraris Saffold 70 pass from Lavon Meeks (Everett Harding kick)
CSU — Meeks 14 run (Harding kick)
LANE — Jamion Dunning 7 pass from Marquez Pickett (Raul Martinez kick)
CSU — Meeks 1 run (kick failed)
CSU — Nehemiah Coward 100 missed field goal return (Harding kick)
LANE — Martinez 37 field goal