By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The top-rated team in NAIA, the University of the Cumberlands Patriots dropped into Bluefield Saturday afternoon and showed why they are the No. 1 team in the country as they defeated the Bluefield College Rams 56-14 in the regular season finale for both teams.
Cumberlands, 10-0, moves on to post-season play next week, while Bluefield College concludes the second year of its revitalized football program with an 0-11 record.
The visitors ran for 417 yards in the game and had 525 yards of total offense. However, early-on Bluefield’s defense keep the Rams within striking distance.
First quarter action saw the Bluefield D allow only 49 yards on the ground and two passing yards. Cumberlands lone score the first 15 minutes was a 26 yard run by D’Angelo Jordan on a third and long.
After a closely played first quarter Cumberlands scored four times in the second quarter to lead 28-7 at the break. Jordan added a seven yard score while quarterback Adam Craig ran two yards for a touchdown and passed 36 yards to Willie Gibson.
Bluefield’s score was a one yard run from Sam Bennett that capped a six play, 73 yard drive. Caleb Frye booted the point-after.
The Cumberlands offense kicked into high gear in the second half, wearing down the Bluefield defense.
The Patriots put the game away on the opening drive of the third quarter as they went 46 yards in six plays to take a 35-7 lead.
After Craig’s score at the beginning of the half, Jordan ran 10 yards for a touchdown before the Patriots’ defense rose to the fore when Core Washington rambled 56 yards on a fumble recovery for a TD. The team’s last score came on a one yard run by Zeke Eller. Al Merrick was perfect on all eight extra point kicks and missed a 52 yard field goal wide left just before the first half ended.
Bluefield’s second score came on a two-yard run by Adrian Pope late in the fourth quarter with Frye adding the extra point.
Defensively for the Rams Ernest Moore had 11 tackles while Robert Boatright and Frank Brooks recorded eight apiece. Michael McGrue brought down six Cumberlands ball carriers.
Offensively Pope carried the load for Bluefield with 85 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown. Bennett added 46 yards with a score and Rodrell Smith carried four times for 35 yards.
Rams quarterback Joshua Erby completed 11-of-18 passes for 159 yards. His favorite target on the day was David Gianesin who caught four passes for 53 yards. Richard Johnson had three catches for 47 yards.
Jordan led Cumberlands with 144 yards and three TDs. Hunter added 94 yards and freshman starting quarterback Craig completed 4-of-10 passes for 88 yards.
More than an hour after the game the Rams players, coaches and supporters were still on the turf at Mitchell Stadium participating in their “Afterglow” in which players, coaches and fans share their thoughts with each other.
John Bland, Cumberlands head coach said, “I thought those guys (Bluefield) don’t look like they haven’t won a game because I tell you, they were fighting. It was a tough game and it was exciting for us. It took us a while to get going and I’m proud of our guys.”
The Mid-South Conference is one of the toughest conferences in NAIA Division I and Bland said that is a help to his team as they head into post-season play.
“We’ve been in the playoffs six of the eight years I’ve been here and we’ve played very tough teams (in the league),” Bland said. “It’s exciting to know that playing in our league, the opponents we play every week prepare us to make a run at the national championship.”
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org