It was the 2021 Labor Day Classic and the Golden Bears of Miles College taking on the Hornets of Alabama State. Alabama State came out hot with the offense driving down the field and quarterback Ryan Nettles scoring a 1-yard rushing touchdown to cap off the opening drive. Like most college stadiums across the country, fans are now allowed to attend games since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all in-person attendance. Head Coach Donald Hill-Eley mentioned the importance of a game-day atmosphere but wanted his players to stay focused. “The biggest thing I was saying at night was look….. Pay attention, Pay attention”. The Hornet defense sure did pay attention as they held Miles to 205 total yards, forcing seven consecutive three and outs. From there it became a defensive stalemate. Miles’ defense caused three turnovers though. One from Nettles as he attempted to scramble for a 20-yd gain but then fumbled, giving Miles great field position. The second fumble was caused by running back Ezra Gray as he attempted to cut to the outside on a run up the middle.
When asked about the ball security in this game Coach Eley responded, “We just gotta do a better job of taking care of the football”. Wide receiver Jeremiah Hixon had a good day as he caught eight passes for 97 yards, leading the team in receiving for the game.
Defensively the Hornets had some standouts. Defensive lineman Christian Clark lead the team in total tackles with 10 and a tackle for loss. Linebacker Austin Brundidge had two key tackles for loss which forced Miles to punt on back-to-back drives. Special teams had an impressive day with Freshmen Punter Aubrey Grace averaging 35 yards a punt, three going inside the 20, and two landing inside the five. This gave Miles tough field position more than once this game.
But the defense could only hold on for so long as they let running back Donte Edwards break loose for a 45 yd gain. This gave Miles the momentum and field position. They capitalized with a back-shoulder fade to wide receiver Marcus Lodge as he toe-tapped the corner of the endzone, sending the game into overtime.
After the Golden Bears scored the first touchdown but missed the extra point, it left the door wide open for Alabama State. On the final drive, Nettles went on to rush for 10 yards before running back Jacory Merritt dove in for a 1-yd touchdown. Cosmin Diancou ended the game with an extra point, making the game 14-13. The Hornets got the victory but won’t be able to celebrate much due to their next opponent…… Auburn.