The lights will shine just a little bit brighter at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium Thursday night as the Benedict College Tigers (6-0) showdown with the Fort Valley State Wildcats (5-1) will be on ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m.
Benedict College comes in undefeated on the year and takes on a Fort Valley State team that suffered a loss to start the year but has since won five straight. Benedict head coach Chennis Berry said he expects a battle.
“They’re a good football team. They’re doing a good job and Coach [Shawn] Gibbs has those guys playing hard,” he said. “We’ll have to play our best game. Our guys will be ready. They have some guys on offense, defense and special teams that can make some plays. So we’ve just got to focus on us and make sure we’re prepared and ready to go and I have no doubt in my mind that the Benedict Tigers will be ready to go at 7:30 Thursday night.”
Berry noted that his team developed some mental toughness after escaping Fairfield, Ala. with the 27-24 win over Miles last week. Benedict held a pretty comfortable lead throughout the game until Miles scored 15 points in the 4th quarter and threatened to overtake the Tigers. Benedict was able to hold on thanks to a complete team effort according to Berry.
“I think that win brought us closer as a team,” he said. “It’s not about offense, it’s not about defense, it’s not about special teams, it’s about the team and I think that was a team win. Everybody did what they needed to do at the right moment. Defense made plays when they had to, offense made plays when they had to, special teams made plays when they had to. So I think as a team, that win brought us closer together and we’ll see where it takes us in the end, but right now we’re focused on trying to go 1-0 against Fort Valley State.
Benedict College wants to keep that momentum going after getting what Berry described as a “program-defining win.” They’ll try to do that on the offensive side of the ball and put on a show for the home crowd on ESPN2. The Tigers are averaging a blistering 37.5 points per game as well as 399.7 total yards of offense. Berry said the Tigers must stay out of their own way.
“We’ve just got to take care of the football and win the effort battle, win the penalty battle, win the turnover battle and win the explosive play battle,” he said. “We talk about those four ingredients, regardless of who we’re playing and how we’re playing them, we don’t we don’t change that mission to win those battles. I think offensively, if we do a good job of taking care of football, don’t turn the ball over, take what the defense gives us, we’ll have an opportunity to move the ball. We’ll let those first downs turn into touchdowns and we’ll see what the score looks like in the end.”
At stake in this contest is first place overall in the SIAC. The Tigers have the top spot right now at 4-0 in conference play and that 6-0 overall record with the Wildcats right behind them at 5-0 in the SIAC.