A season centered on delight and perseverance earns S.C. State a visit to the Cricket Celebration Bowl — •

NORFOLK, Va. – When South Carolina State arrived at William “Dick” Value Stadium to face Norfolk State, they weren’t taking part in for the Mid-Japanese Atlantic Convention championship or a spot within the Cricket Celebration Bowl. The Bulldogs had already earned their eighth MEAC title and punched their ticket to Atlanta the week earlier than regardless of the loss to rival North Carolina A&T.

On Saturday evening in entrance of a handful of followers from Orangeburg, South Carolina, to Norfolk, they had been merely taking part in for delight of their 31-21 victory. Pleasure in themselves and delight of their program have been the bread and butter for the Bulldogs all season. Head coach Buddy Pough boasts concerning the legacy of this system, which incorporates present NFL gamers Darius Leonard (Indianapolis Colts), Joe Thomas (Baltimore Ravens), Temarrick Hemingway (Washington), Antonio Hamilton (Arizona Cardinals), and Javon Hargrave (Philadelphia Eagles).

“Effectively, we’ve acquired some nice individuals who’ve been by way of this program, and people guys, all proper now us and being proud and that sort of stuff from the NFL to the legal professionals, officers to medical doctors, and legal professionals, and all different kinds of individuals which were by way of this program. We’re all proper now proud as we may be,” Pough mentioned.

“He tells us daily it doesn’t matter the way you begin, however the way you end first by way of the sport. Our crew simply is aware of how one can end.” Quarterback Corey Fields

It was the crew’s major motivating issue to shut out the season with three convention wins, which had been determined by a single possession. Almost 50 years since his time as an offensive lineman for his alma mater, Pough isn’t a stranger to lofty expectations. Over Pough’s taking part in profession, the S.C. State Bulldogs claimed a MEAC title and back-to-back postseason appearances. Pough injects Bulldog delight into his gamers by passing alongside the teachings he’s discovered alongside the way in which and is the motor behind the crew’s success this season.

“He tells us daily it doesn’t matter the way you begin, however the way you end first by way of the sport. Our crew simply is aware of how one can end. He taught us all unhealthy isn’t unhealthy. All the great isn’t good,” mentioned quarterback Corey Fields. “It might look unhealthy, but it surely’s not as unhealthy because it appears. As a result of on the finish of the day, it’s only a small factor that prompted us to make errors. Then the great factor is you possibly can have a look at, we’re doing this and that. But it surely doesn’t matter when you don’t go do it subsequent week.”

Pleasure in this system was additionally the explanation Pough challenged his gamers to compete and earn a victory towards the rival Spartans in a sport the place a loss wouldn’t derail their postseason objectives.

They answered the decision. 

Fields related with Shaquan Davis for 3 touchdowns and completed 21 of 34 for 250 yards and one interception in his first sport again from an AC joint sprain that sidelined him towards N.C. A&T. Redshirt freshman again Kendrell Flowers rushed for 172 yards and defensive again Jaylen Evans picked off Juwan Carter ultimately zone to seal the sport as Pough appeared on with a smile after being drenched in an orange Gatorade bathtub.

“It feels good. We had been proper on the sting and never having a profitable season that was a tough nut to crack. I couldn’t determine precisely how one can spin that in a means that it sounded something apart from you had a shedding season,” Pough mentioned. “The actual fact is that we’ve now gotten ourselves to the purpose the place we’ve acquired that we’ve gotten over that hump. Now we’re going to see if we will get forward and see if we will end this final little piece off.

“I believe it was a kind of sorts of conditions the place we had been making an attempt to construct some momentum. We talked about going and taking part in the Celebration Bowl, the very last thing you wish to do is to go in with out the boldness that you possibly can truly go in and execute. What we did at the moment is what offers us a basis of stability that we will truly exit and play on the degree that we acquired to play at to have the ability to play with these groups which are coming from the opposite aspect.”

Their 2021 season began in February — the Bulldogs had been certainly one of two MEAC groups to take part within the spring soccer season, together with Delaware State. The Bulldogs completed 3-1, including extra put on and tear on their our bodies, but it surely gave a younger and promising offense an opportunity to develop up forward of the autumn MEAC season.

“That is the fifteenth ball sport that we performed within the final calendar yr. It’s a giant deal to do this a lot for that many occasions. So, you understand, we really feel very comfy with the truth that we did what was proper for our crew, however on the identical time, now that we’ve achieved it you bought to marvel concerning the put on and tear on our guys on about this,” mentioned Pough. “I believe we’re OK. We be ok with the event that we’ve had with our younger gamers. So, you understand, the truth that we acquired an opportunity to do some issues this spring gave us the prospect to truly develop a few of these guys in order that they are often the place they’re this fall.”

With the win towards Norfolk, the Bulldogs completed undefeated in convention play for the primary time since 2009, when the Bulldogs went undefeated within the MEAC two consecutive years and had been named the SBN Sports activities Black Faculty Nationwide Soccer champions. In 2019, Pough took residence convention coach of the yr honors and the Bulldogs earned a share of the MEAC title, however N.C. A&T earned the journey to the Celebration Bowl after the Bulldogs dropped the regular-season matchup in a two-point loss.

With N.C. A&T’s departure from the MEAC, Pough and the crew centered on the Cricket Celebration Bowl on Dec. 18 in Atlanta, and carrying out the objective is a prime second in Pough’s 20 years as coach.

“It’s one of many prime moments in my historical past, I assure it,” Pough mentioned. “I’m excited as I may be and searching ahead to carrying my college to Atlanta to play within the Celebration Bowl. It’s been a dream of mine for a while now. I assumed we’d be there sooner, however possibly this makes it even higher. So, I’m enthusiastic about the entire affair.”

Mia Berry is a 2020 graduate of Notre Dame College with a B.A. diploma in movie, TV and theatre. She is the HBCU reporter for •.

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