Atlanta, GA — Today’s Cricket Celebration Bowl was much bigger than people can imagine. However, before this column expands, it’s important to note: South Carolina State won.
South Carolina State dominated.
South Carolina State kicked Jackson State’s “butts,” as Tigers head coach Deion Sanders b.k.a “Coach Prime” stated unequivocally after the game.
Congratulations to South Carolina State for a incredible win in the Celebration Bowl. They flat out kicked our butts and we WILL learn from this and prayerfully return next year. God bless @SCStateAthletic
— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) December 18, 2021
The Bulldogs dominated the game in every single facet possible, showing that they were so much more than a throw-in or just the team that “Jackson State was playing,” as Celebration Bowl Defensive MVP Cobie Durant said: “Well at first, they said we weren’t going to score 21 points (on them) offensively, so we had to come out and prove them wrong…another thing I’d say is that we had a little free time to go around Atlanta.
“I was in the mall with my teammates, and the people were saying, “so ya’ll, the team that’s playing against Jackson State.” Like they had never heard of South Carolina State. So that was big to us because we already knew we were the underdog.”
Yet, there was something unique about this dominating win by South Carolina State. It wasn’t just another win; it showed something so much more: that HBCU football, the experience is top-tier; moreover, the quality of talent and coaching should not take a backseat to anyone.
That was the vision of MEAC Commissioner Dr. Dennis E. Thomas when he first pitched the Celebration Bowl to ESPN. Thomas, an All-American football player at Alcorn State who is retiring this year, spoke with such passion at the post-game press conference that it pulled at your heartstrings listening to this “good man.”
He spoke with such wisdom and passion that you found yourself hanging onto every syllable of what he was articulating—a man of profound character, strength, commitment, and sagacity. Thomas spoke at length that HBCU football has always been exceptional, that great players have always come from HBCU university; moreover, it was essential to cause a paradigm shift in the thinking of many parents, mentors, and younger players that the HBCU experience with football is remarkable—and always has.
Now, this was the first time I have ever been in the midst of Coach Prime, and if anyone who knows me knows that, I’m very skeptical of people. But his energy after the game showed me that his passion for HBCU’s is beyond sincere; it feels like his calling. Don’t let his confident bravado fool you; he clearly wants to elevate those around him while showing tremendous grace.
“I truly believe that HBCUs is what is now. Not what was, but what is now,” said Sanders. “I am tired of talking about yesterday, let’s talk about today. If we can just unite and do our jobs and do what we are paid to do … it will be a beautiful thing. I get sick of people talking about a kid as if we are not good enough. That is all of us, like we are not good enough.
“We are not good enough for a kid who has four of five stars, that makes no sense to me. We are more than good enough, more than good enough.”
A couple of four to five-star talents on the field today would have never gotten the exposure their skills warranted; however, because of the media attention on the Celebration Bowl and Jackson State’s hype, the Bulldogs were significant winners in other ways besides the end score.
South Carolina State has two bonafide NFL players: the aforementioned Durant and Celebration Bowl Offensive MVP Shaquan Davis. However, the 6-foot-5, 215 lbs unstoppable tsunami of a wide receiver was a problem all game long.
The Tigers had no answer for him. This is not hyperbole; there are not 15 wide receivers in the country, no matter what level, who have better talent than Davis. He’s got soft hands, unbelievable body control, is explosive, and runs excellent routes.
The catch was great…
and the celebration was even better 💯
— Cricket Celebration Bowl (@CelebrationBowl) December 18, 2021
Then there is coaching veteran, South Carolina State head coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough. A man who has been coaching 40 years had a look of joy by reaching the mountaintop that for so often had eluded him.
“Well, I was initially against it. I had to come to the conclusion that I was wrong as all get out, so it was something I was trying to support for the last several years, but we just couldn’t get here. But at the same time, it was a wonderful win for us. But I still have to give some credit to the entire Celebration Bowl staff.
“It’s been a good week for us, and we’ve had a wonderful time here and to cap it off with this win today was the cherry on top of the sundae. All our games have been close games in our league so for us to win this was awfully special.
Keep sleeping on the HBCU, but not only do you do that at your peril, but you will also live to regret it. The “time” is now for the HBCU.
Oh, as a quick aside, let’s look at the attendance of all the bowl games that have happened thus far:
- Tailgreeter Cure Bowl (9,784)
- Bahamas Bowl (13,547)
- LendingTree Bowl (15,186)
- RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl (15,429)
- New Mexico Bowl (16,422)
- The Celebration Bowl (49,000)
The time is not only now; it’s right now!