It’s been a long time coming. In fact, many Columbia residents probably doubted it would ever happen.
But, with cars lined up on Pinehurst and Two Notch roads, with fans attempting to find their way into Charlie W. Johnson Stadium through the first quarter, the rekindling of the Benedict College and Allen University football rivalry began.
Now called the Carolinas Football Classic, Benedict earned a 45-12 victory.
“Wins are hard to come by,” Benedict coach Chennis Berry said after his first victory as the Tigers coach. “Whenever you get one, you have to be happy. I’m very proud of the coaches and players for the effort they put in.”
There was a bit of magic in the air all night, complete with a “fifth quarter” battle of the bands. Benedict’s ensemble, the BC Band of Distinction, will participate 2022 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. The Allen University Band of Gold also kept the fans in their seats at halftime.
Benedict won a hard fought 13-7 decision over Allen when the teams last faced off in football — in 1966.
What’s old is new again
Both teams have disbanded and re-established their football programs during that time. On the occasions when both competed in the sport since that 1966 meeting, there were other reasons the schools did not meet — playing at different levels and conference affiliation among them.
There is nothing stopping the teams from competing now, though. Playing within the guidelines of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the schools will now battle in most sports.
That’s a win for both institutions and their fans.
“This is great,” Berry said of the rivalry. “A great crowd. You’ve got two great fan bases. A lot of these people are families together, houses divided. We can’t wait until we get a chance to do it again.”
The Tigers were dominant on the ground, rushing for 221 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore running back Jayden McCloud led the way with 116 yards on 13 carries.
Freshman quarterback Eric Phoenix orchestrated the offense completing 16 of 21 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 45 yards in being named the player of the game.
Both teams were hampered by penalties, however. Benedict was flagged 14 times for 137 yards.
Allen was flagged six times for 35.
“The biggest thing was the penalties,” said Berry. “We’ve got to clean that up. I pride myself on discipline so we’ve to get on top of that. Once we clean those penalties up, I think we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good team.”
Allen managed 346 yards of its own, but struggled to get into the end zone.
Benedict scored the first points when freshman wide receiver Te’sean Pressley caught a 10-yard Phoenix pass in the end zone with 4:42 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers doubled that with 8:47 remaining in the first half when Phoenix connected with tight end Kyle Anderson Aldridge on a 25-yard play and took.
Coach Teddy Keaton’s Allen team went to the locker room facing a 21-6 deficit.
The win was a long time coming for Berry. Named Benedict’s football coach on February 11, 2020, his initial on-field leadership had to wait a year as the Tigers 2020 season fell victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re going to put this one to bed,” said Berry. “We have 24 hours to enjoy the victory and then move on.”
Keaton’s squad displayed the ability to potentially have an explosive offense, led by quarterback David Wright.
Benedict returns to action Thursday at 7:30 p.m. when it hosts Edward Waters, while Allen heads to Charlotte to take on Johnson C. Smith next Saturday at 6 p.m.