by Hunter Dawkins
With an attendance of slightly under 6500, the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils lost their opening home game to the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 22-6 at the legendary Rice-Totten Stadium in Itta Bena Saturday night. Despite quality performances from the Delta Devils (0-3) Linebacker Volme Swanier of Pass Christian and Running Back Dewayne Barnett of Gulfport, Valley was plagued with penalties, turnovers, and bad field position offensively.
As notable author William Faulkner called the Mississippi Delta, “The land that time forgot”, the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Delta Devils offense struggled for most of the game, producing only 244 yards of total offense and averaging just over two yards per carry on the ground. The crowd remained energetic and anxious, whereas the nostalgic stadium brought back memories of the offensive play between National Football League Hall of Fame Receiver Jerry Rice and current Delta Devils Quarterback Coach Willie “Satellite” Totten 35 years ago.
After both team traded possessions, the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats punted aggressively putting the Delta Devils in a tough field position at their own 5 yard line. With a bad exchange, Valley was tackled in the end zone for a safety at 10:04 left in the first quarter for a 2-0 Bethune-Cookman lead.
Following the safety, both teams were held up on offense before Valley put together their only scoring series on an eight play drive where Delta Devils Quarterback Dejerric Bryant found receiver Jarius Clayton for a 9 yard touchdown with only 25 seconds left in the first quarter. The extra point was missed left, making the new score 6-2.
Harrison Central Alum Barnett ran for a few short yards once the Wildcats drive was stalled, but the Delta Devils could not push the momentum with Bethune-Cookman safety and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Alum Tydarrious Peters breaking up a few passes. The Wildcats crossed the end zone for the next two possessions on a 57 and 21 yard runs to make the halftime score 15-6 Bethune Cookman lead.
The halftime show was dynamic, as the Delta Devils brought together a display of dancing and music talent with the town following along their renditions.
Both teams settled in defensively in the second half, stopping drives before they started. Pass Christian Alum Swanier was on the field throughout the game for Valley, wreaking havoc through an occasional blitz, forcing a few runs inside, and being around the ball on special teams.
A controversial call came in the final quarter after a lengthy drive by the Delta Devils was stopped and Swanier appeared to force a fumble from the Wildcats offense. The officials ruled the play to be an incomplete pass even though it was behind the line of scrimmage and Bethune-Cookman scored on a 38 yard touchdown run with 1:30 left in the game. Once the extra point was converted, the eventual final score was 22-6.
Swanier has 14 tackles in three games, including one tackle for a loss and a defensive breakup. Barnett’s only has 56 yards rushing, but with 18 attempts and a 14-yard run.
Mississippi Valley State (0-3) will play their first Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) game next Saturday on the road against the in-state rival Alcorn State Braves at 6pm.