Braves defeat Grambling to repeat as SWAC Champions
Two months after the Alcorn State University Braves suffered a gut wrenching 35-34 homecoming loss in overtime to the Grambling State University Tigers, the Braves avenged the upset by routing the Tigers 49-21 to win their second consecutive SWAC Championship.
With the win, the Braves became the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Tigers won three in a row from 2000-2002. The Braves also became the first team from the SWAC Eastern Division to repeat as champions since the championship game's creation in 1999.
"It's a great feeling, said Braves head coach Jay Hopson. "We're truly blessed to get this great win. I'm so proud of these guys because they withstood the struggles. This has been a blessed experience."
The first quarter belonged to the Braves. Darryan Ragsdale, who put the Braves on the board with an 84-yard touchdown run and was later named the Offensive Player of the Game, ended the opening quarter with 146 rushing yards on three carries.
"We have a good team," said Darryan. "I knew that coming into this game, we all had the same mindset of staying on the same page and executing when we had to. That's why we won the game."
The Braves' defense got involved when Warren Gatewood, who was named Defensive Player of the Game, picked off Tigers' quarterback Jonathan Williams for a 25-yard score that put them up by two touchdowns.
"This win is for Alcorn," said Warren. "This is such a gratifying win because as a team, we are so close. As a senior, it feels good for me and my fellow senior teammates to go out with two championship wins."
Both teams were evenly matched in the second quarter. Williams punched in a 14-yard touchdown scramble to give the Tigers their first score. The Braves would answer when Footman completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Marquis Warford to give the Braves a 21-7 lead. The Tigers would quickly respond when Williams found Verlon Hunter on a 28-yard touchdown pass to decrease the Braves' lead to seven. A few possessions later, Footman would connect with Warford for the second time in the game on a 28-yard touchdown pass to increase the Braves lead to 14 going into the second half.
The Braves' defense dominated the third quarter. Gatewood intercepted Williams for the second time early in the period. Eric Foster and Lamarvin Ashley went on to recover two fumbles by the Tigers, with the latter eventually setting up a 9-yard touchdown scamper by Footman to put the Braves up 35-14.
The Braves carried their momentum into the final quarter. Footman added another touchdown pass to his stat sheet with a 5-yard score to Corbin Johnson. Warford rushed for his third touchdown of the game on a 37-yard dart to the end zone, giving the Braves the game deciding 49-21 score.
The Braves' dominant offense accounted for 613 yards, breaking their record of 583 yards against the Tigers in 2005. Ragsdale broke a SWAC Championship game record with 191 rushing yards. Footman threw for 202 passing yards and rushed for 101 yards. Warford rushed for 120 yards and earned 58 receiving yards.
The Braves will represent the SWAC in the 2015 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) representative North Carolina A&T Dec. 19 at noon in the George Dome in Atlanta. The game will be televised on ABC.