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Johnson C. Smith beats Miles in Pioneer Bowl XIII
Columbus, GA – The Johnson C. Smith University football team trumped Miles College 35-33 in the 13th Pioneer Bowl held inside A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon. JCSU finishes the season 6-5 overall with the victory over the SIAC champions. This is the first winning season at Johnson C. Smith since 2006; the Golden Bulls made their second bowl appearance in school history.
Miles managed to grasp a 10-0 lead before JCSU struck in the second quarter. The Golden Bears were forced into a 4th-36 situation with less than five minutes remaining in the first half. Freshman Devontae Stafford (Tittusville, FL) put JCSU in excellent field position off a 42 yard punt return.
With the ball on the MC 22 yard line, freshman quarterback Keahn Wallace (Homestead, FL) drove the team into the end zone in five plays. Wallace scored on a third yard run. After a successful PAT, the Golden Bulls trailed by three (10-7) with a little more than three minutes left in the quarter.
Defense stood up and earned another offensive possession for JCSU before the break. A potential game tying 37 yard field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a score by Miles as time expired. A personal foul penalty called on the Golden Bears wiped out the touchdown. Johnson C. Smith went into the locker room at the half only down 10-7.
JCSU ended up punting after a three and out to start the third quarter. Miles’ returner Jerromy Mardis fumbled the punt deep inside team territory. Freshman defensive back Charles Frantz (Miami, FL) recovered the fumble at the MC 16 yard line. Wallace crossed the goal line again from five yards out to give the Golden Bulls their first lead of the game (14-10).
The Golden Bulls put up another touchdown in the third quarter for a 21-10 advantage. On the next Miles’ offensive possession, junior linebacker Michael Coats (Greenwood, SC) intercepted a pass deep in JCSU territory to prevent a score. JCSU drove 81 yards in 12 plays for their third touchdown. Wallace once again scrambled for the TD with 1:23 on the clock.
It appeared Miles was out of contention after a 28-13 deficit in the fourth quarter. Sophomore running back Denzel Hartley (Lithonia, GA) sprung loose on the right side for a 23 yard rushing touchdown. However, Miles responded back with a quick score.
David Thomas found Antonio Pitts streaking up-field for a 52 yard TD reception. A two-point conversion attempt failed to account for a 28-19 JCSU advantage with 13:16 remaining in the contest. Miles would draw within one after scoring on their next offensive possession.
Jordan Lewis rushed for a 12 yard touchdown and the Golden Bears converted a two-point attempt for a 28-27 score.
The Johnson C. Smith offense wisely used the clock on their next possession. Starting the drive with 7:09 remaining, the Golden Bulls milked nearly six minutes off the clock with 12 plays. JCSU drove 72 yards and converted five first downs for the game sealing touchdown.
On third and 10 at the MC 24, junior running back Dedrick Anderson (Winston-Salem, NC) dashed up the middle for a 24 yard score. Down 35-27 with 1:22 to play, Miles refused to quit. The Golden Bears marched 72 yards in 10 plays for a final TD.
Thomas capped the drive with another TD toss to Pitts from 21 yards out and two seconds on the game clock. Lewis dropped a two-point conversion catch that would have tied the game on the right side of the goal line. The Golden Bulls recovered the onside kick and clutched their first Pioneer Bowl championship.
Miles College, led by SIAC Coach of the Year Reginald Ruffin, finished first in the SIAC West Division with a 5-2 record in conference play. The Golden Bears won their first SIAC Championship in school history. The SIAC still has a 9-4 series advantage in this bowl matchup. However, the CIAA has now been victorious the last two seasons.
Wallace was named Pioneer Bowl MVP with his three rushing touchdown performance. Anderson finished with 104 yards rushing off 15 carries and a touchdown. Seniors Darius Johnson and Quinton Toomer (both natives of Atlanta, GA) swarmed to the ball for a combined 19 tackles. Johnson earned Most Outstanding Defensive Player honors with his 10 tackles.