Johnson C. Smith and Wingate played the made-to-order season opener here Saturday afternoon in a game that pivoted time and again on each team’s mistakes.
But in the end, the Bulldogs (1-0) survived a fourth-quarter rally by the visiting Golden Bulls (0-1), overcoming a pair of touchdown-producing turnovers to take a 38-28 victory at Irwin Belk Stadium.
Former Mallard Creek standout Lawrence Pittman’s 50-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game finally gave Wingate some breathing room in a game that saw Johnson C. Smith trim a 31-14 deficit after three quarters to three points.
Johnson C. Smith defensive back Carlo Thomas intercepted two passes in the fourth quarter, returning the second for a 48-yard touchdown with 9 1/2 minutes left.
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Three who mattered
Lawrence Pittman, Wingate: The former Mallard Creek standout rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. He scored on an 11-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Carlo Thomas, Johnson C. Smith: The junior defensive back’s interception at the Golden Bulls’ goal line and 71-yard return early in the fourth quarter set up a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Lane to Roderick Carter before his pick-six about two minutes later. He led the Golden Bulls with 13 tackles.
Kyle Johnson, Wingate: It was an up-and-down afternoon for the senior quarterback, who threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns. But his two fourth-quarter interceptions helped the Golden Bulls keep it close. Johnson also rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries.
▪ The game was a typical season opener for hiccups in execution, as the teams combined for 25 penalties for 230 yards. Johnson C. Smith was flagged 12 times for 102 yards in the first two quarters.
▪ The day’s longest play was an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Johnson C. Smith’s Desmond Dozier early in the fourth quarter. It was also one of the biggest plays, as Wingate had just grabbed its biggest lead at 24-6 on Pittman’s first touchdown run.
▪ Wingate freshman BJ Muckelvene, who played at Cuthbertson High, scored the Bulldogs’ first touchdown the first time he touched a football in a college game, finishing a double-reverse with a 36-yard run to the end zone halfway through the first quarter.
▪ Johnson C. Smith has never beaten the Bulldogs, losing in 1995, 2002 and last season before Saturday’s game.
Johnson C. Smith travels to Bowie State for a 4 p.m. game Saturday. Wingate hosts Shaw at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.