BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Football season is upon us as most youth football leagues have begun or are about to begin.
High school teams in Florida play preseason games this week with the regular season beginning next week.
The NFL is in its preseason and college teams are practicing.
The Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats began their quest for a successful 2019 season when practice began on Aug. 2.
New Smyrna practices
The Wildcats practice nearly every day at the New Smyrna Beach Sports Complex.
The venue has been the team’s preseason home for the past few years.
“It’s just a matter of privacy that the venue provides,” said Terry Sims, the Wildcats’ head football coach.
Sims has led the program since 2015, going 27-17 overall and 229 in the MEAC. He has been with the program since 2010. During Sims’ tenure, the Wildcats have won a MEAC title and two MEAC second-place finishes.
Right now, there is excitement in the air with the team being back on the gridiron.
“It’s just great. There is a lot of energy the guys are enjoying being out there and doing what they do,’’ Sims related.
‘It’s a grind’
In 2018, the Wildcats went 7-5 overall, including 5-2 in the MEAC. It was good enough for second place in the conference.
B-CU has high expectations this season.
The goal is always to win a MEAC title and play in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl for a chance to win an HBCU National title.
B-CU was picked to finish second in the conference this season. Two-time defending HBCU and MEAC champion North Carolina A&T was elected by MEAC to finish first.
In addition, The Wildcats have 11 players named to the All-MEAC Preseason Team, including five on the first and third teams as well as one on the second team.
“For now it’s we’re basically in camp. We have a lot of meetings and walkthroughs. We can only practice once a day now, but the players know it’s a grind. They are willing to do what it takes,” said Sims.
Sept. 2 opener
Bethune-Cookman opens the season against the Jackson State University Tigers in the MEAC/ SWAC Challenge on Sept. 2 at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta. The game will air live on ESPN at 3 p.m.
With weeks of practice left before the first game, there’s still plenty of time to get prepared for the season.
“It’s enough time. It has to be. You’re not going to get any more. You have to prepare and make the time work,’’ Sims noted.
Injured players returning
The Wildcats also have time to address any question marks they may have.
“I think the ones that we may have had to do with our offensive line and secondary, which had more to do with depth. We signed a lot of new guys and have some new guys that came in at camp. They are stepping up and I think they are answering those questions,” noted Sims.
Bethune-Cookman also has several key players back on the field who missed significant time last season due to injury.
Senior quarterback Akevious Williams, junior running back Que’Shaun Byrd, junior cornerback Sam Marc and senior offensive lineman Maglya Ramirez are just a few players that will return after missing significant time last season with injuries. All had season-ending injuries.
“All injured players are back; we have no injuries,’’ Sims confirmed.
Coming soon: A Wildcats football preview.