Wildcats shift their focus to MEAC play

Wildcats
PHOTOS BY KIM GIBSON/DAYTONA TIMES
Bethune-Cookman’s defense takes down a University of Miami Hurricane player during the Sept 14 game.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES 

The Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats are off to a 2-1 start to the 2019 season. 

In a sense, their real season begins on Saturday, Sept. 28, when they begin conference play in Washington, D.C. at Howard University. Kick-off is 1 p.m.; the game airs live on ESPN 3. 

The goal is always to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) title and play in the Celebration Bowl for a HBCU National Championship. 

“I think we’re in a good position heading into conference play. Our guys are upbeat and focused. We’re ready and excited for the opportunity to play football,” said B-CU Head Coach Terry Sims. 

Howard University (1-3, 1-0) has beaten the Wildcats for two consecutive years –41-35 in 2018 and 26-24 in 2017. 

The Wildcats’ defense has played well, including in their loss to Miami (63-0).

‘Our nemesis’ 

Howard features a talented squad led by junior quarterback Caylin Newton (815 pass yds, 6TD; 147 rush yds, 1TD), the younger brother of NFL quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. 

Running back Dedrick Parson (186 rush yards, 1TD) and senior wide receiver Kyle Anthony (29 rec, 305 yds, 3TD) are also weapons. 

Sims noted, “Howard has some athletes. You look at their coaching staff, which has been able to bring in some recruits. Howard is a school that can always recruit. You never look past or over a Howard team. They have been our nemesis in recent years.” 

Bethune-Cookman’s remaining eight games are against conference foes. 

B-CU was picked to finish second in the conference. 

Following Howard, the Wildcats return home to play Morgan State (0-3) on Oct. 5. 

Isaac Washington, a running back from Cape Coral, carries the ball for the Wildcats.

Stiff competition 

The MEAC is always competitive with a number of teams that can make a title run or play spoiler for others. 

The Wildcats play defending champion and favorite North Carolina A&T (2-1) on Nov. 16. 

They also play at 1-3 North Carolina Central (Oct. 10), hosts 2-1 South Carolina State (Oct. 26) and 2-1 Florida A&M (Nov. 23) in Orlando. 

Sims emphasized, “It’s no secret that you must show up ready to play each and every week in this conference. There is stiff competition week in and week out.” 

Although their speedway offense (19.3 ppg, 257 ypg) hasn’t hit its stride yet, B-CU does have weapons in quarterback Akevious Williams (262 pass yds;161 rush yds, 1 TD); running backs Isaac Washington (226 rush yds, 2TD) and Que’Shaun Byrd and wide receiver/returner, Jimmie Williams (346 ap yds). 

The Wildcats’ defense, however, has played extremely well, including in their loss to Miami (63-0).  They also have two defensive scores. 

Good defensive team 

Outside of the Miami game, the Wildcats are giving up 10.5 points per contest. 

Key B-CU defenders playing well are linebacker Untareo Johnson (15 ttkl, 1.5 sacks); defensive back Trevor Merritt (11ttkl, 2.5 tfl, 1 int, 1TD); defensive lineman Marquis Hendrix (23ttkl, 3tfl, 0.5 sacks); linebacker Devin James (21ttkl, 3tfl); and defensive lineman Jerome Howard (10ttkl, 1.5 sacks). 

“Our defense has been the key. It’s no secret that we look to be good defensively each year. We have had a good defensive team for some years now. Expect for us to continue to try to field a good defensive team always,” commented Sims. 

Assistance in Atlanta 

Bethune-Cookman has also faced adversity outside of football. Hurricane Dorian stranded the team in Atlanta following the MEAC/SWAC Challenge earlier this month.

Sims expressed, “Thanks to Georgia State and Clark (University), which helped us keep our season and routine as normal as possible with the support that they provided. We didn’t get off schedule.” 

The team fared well during that stretch.

Sims noted, “Our guys didn’t complain but kept working. In those situations, you are dealing with obstacles that you can’t control. I believe the guys bonded. We couldn’t do much else in that situation.” 

The storm also canceled BCU’s home opener with Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 8. 

“Both of our Universities administrations are looking into rescheduling. If it’s a possibility, I believe we will,” Sims added.

This week’s top high school games 

Spruce Creek (2-2, 0-1) at DeLand (2-1, 0-1); A critical district matchup for both teams; the loser is out of the district title race. The Bulldogs are deeper. Can the Hawks find a way? 

Rockledge (4-0, 0-0) at Atlantic (4-0, 0-0): It’s the district opener for two unbeaten teams. The Sharks have a big opportunity at home to position themselves for the district title race and postseason. 

New Smyrna Beach (2-2, 0-0) at Pine Ridge (1-3, 0-1): Not sure what to expect here, but this could be a sneakily good game. 

Mainland (1-2, 1-0) at Deltona (0-4, 0-1) The Buccaneers lost to playoff contenders. They have dominated district play for over 20 years and will be a tall task for the Wolves. 

Prep Sports Seven Pre-Season Rankings 

1. Flagler Palm Coast (4-0), 2. DeLand (2-1), 3. Mainland (12), 4. Spruce Creek (2-1), 5. Atlantic (4-0), 6. University (3-0), 7. Seabreeze (3-2). 

ABBREVIATION KEY

Pass yds = passing yards, Rush yds = rushing yards, Rec yds = receiving yards, Rec = receptions, TD = touchdowns, Ap = all-purpose yards, Ttkl = total tackles, Tfl = tackles for loss, Sacks = sacks.

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