The Commemorative Classic trophy finally gets to stay on Livingstone’s campus.
The Blue Bears rode a dominant third quarter to a 35-12 win against rival J.C. Smith Saturday in the CIAA regular season finale at rain-soaked Alumni Stadium. The victory, Livingstone’s first in the classic’s seven years, clinched a winning campaign for the first time since the 1998 CIAA championship season.
Livingstone (5-3, 4-3 CIAA) senior quarterback Drew Powell capped a stellar career by making three touchdowns as the Blue Bears beat J.C. Smith for the first time since 2008.
“It’s a great feeling,” said a mud-covered Powell, who completed 21-of-33 passes for 269 yards and a couple of touchdowns in addition to running for another. “To have a winning season and go out on top, I can’t explain it.”
A strong third quarter decided the outcome in Livingstone’s favor. The Blue Bears outplayed J.C. Smith (4-6, 3-4) in every phase, forcing three turnovers that resulted in touchdowns, punctuated by linebacker Marcus Nolan’s 55-yard interception return for the final score. Livingstone, which turned the ball over three times in the first half, had none in the second while the Golden Bulls coughed it up five times and gained only 67 yards.
“We’d been able to turn opponents over and capitalize on it. We were unable to do it today,” J.C. Smith coach Kermit Blount said. “Maybe it was field conditions, but at the same time there’s no excuse for us not playing as well as we’re capable of playing.”
Livingstone dominated the first half on offense, outgaining J.C. Smith 246-45, but the Golden Bulls countered with big special teams returns. Powell hit 13-of-19 passes for 180 yards with an 8-yard touchdown strike to Jalen Hendricks (six catches, 79 yards and two scores). He also ran for 22 yards, including a 9-yard scamper for the Blue Bears’ first touchdown.
The only spark of life for J.C. Smith was on special teams in the first quarter. Senior Fred Scott returned a punt 53 yards to set up Jordan Lane’s (2-of-8, 16 yards) 9-yard scoring pass to Eugene Holmes and dashed 89 yards on a kickoff return for a 13-12 Golden Bulls lead. After that, Livingstone’s defense kept J.C. Smith under wraps.
“We give up a lot of yards on defense, but we have a good defense,” Blue Bears coach Darryl Williams said. “It’s a total team effort. I couldn’t be more proud of the coaches, the players, the people involved.”