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Bethune-Cookman Wins First Florida Blue Florida Classic In New Citrus Bowl Stadium

Story by Alvin Hollins (special to Florida Citrus Sports)

Bethune-Cookman quarterback Larry Brihm ran in a two-point conversion in overtime to lead his Wildcats to a razor-thin 18-17 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football victory over rival Florida A&M in the 35th Florida Blue Florida Classic in the newly refurbished Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium  in Orlando Saturday evening.

With Florida A&M leading 17-10 on Damien Fleming’s 13-yard scoring strike to Kareem Smith on their first overtime possession, and the Wildcat facing a fourth and 12 from the 27-yard line, Brihm connected with Jhomo Gordon, who sliced through the Rattler defense down to the one-yard line to set up Danny Dillard’s one-yard plunge to pull his club within one point.

Brihm then took the shotgun snap and ran in from two yards out for the game-winning points.

The game’s dramatic, sudden death ending couldn’t have been forecast at the start, as the two archrivals were locked in a first half defensive duel that produced the first scoreless half in the 35-game history of the intrastate Classic which dates back to 1978.

The game was scoreless at the break due to both teams missing field goals (FAMU, a 46-yarder in the first period. B-CU, a 41-yarder late in the second), and one FAMU goal line stand that slammed the door on Bethune-Cookman at the one-yard line.

The Wildcats drove 76 yards in 10 plays midway through the second period, reaching the FAMU three-yard line, only to gain two yards on four plays, getting stopped on fourth-and-goal by Danzel Williams and Romari Chisolm.

However, Bethune-Cookman running back Michael Jones broke the scoreless tie with his 10-yard, third down run with 1:16 left in the third period to vault the Wildcats into the lead at 7-0.

FAMU answered with their first sustained drive of the game, marching 74 yards in 12 plays, as senior quarterback Damien Fleming took a shotgun snap and vaulted over the scrum at the goal line for a two-yard touchdown with 9:51 left in regulation for a 7-7 deuce match.

Kicker Chase Varnadore booted a 29-yard field goal with 3:47 left in regulation to stake FAMU to a 10-7 lead, but Bethune-Cookman marched 50 yards in 10 plays, tying the game at 10-10 on Haden Hoggarth’s 32-yard fielder with 39 seconds left in the fourth, sending the game to the extra frame.

FAMU won the toss to start the overtime, and took a 17-10 lead on Fleming’s 13-yard scoring toss to Kareem Smith, who beat two defenders while straddling the near sideline to reach the end zone.

Unfortunately for the Rattlers (3-9, 3-5 in MEAC), they suffered a fatal coverage breakdown on fourth and 13, allowing the Wildcats (9-3, 6-2 in MEAC) to gain 26 yards on Brihm’s pass to set up the game-winning plunge.