Cheyney Gets Off to Hot Start, Holds Off Lincoln in “Battle of the First”
Led by a swarming defense and 207 yards of rushing on offense, the Wolverines spoiled Lincoln University’s first game at its new campus stadium with a 34-21 win Saturday afternoon in the annual “Battle of the first.”
“We were confident in what the coaches were going to do to get us in position,” said senior linebacker Thomas Stewart who recorded 6 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle, a sack and an interception on a busy afternoon. “They put us in the position to make plays and that’s what we did.”
“The defense was flying all around the field today and we expected them to,” Wolves head coach Kenneth Lockard said. “It means a great deal for us to get this win today.”
The Wolves marched down the field to start the game on an impressive 10-play, 73-yard drive capped by Justin Watkins taking a pitch from quarterback Blaze Wasserleben 8 yards to paydirt for a lead Cheyney would hold the rest of the game.
Touchdowns by Jay Journigan and Marcus Jones gave the Wolves a 20-0 lead going into the third quarter and senior defensive back Tristan Dillon-McCallum provided essentially the knockout blow with a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown two minutes and 22 seconds into the third quarter to make the score 27-0.
“I saw the ball come out and I was like ‘Where is it,’” Dillon-McCallum said of the fumble by Lincoln running back Gerald Swain. “I found it and you saw the rest.”
“We were two-for-six in the red zone today, you can’t do that and expect to win,” Lions head coach O.J. Abanishe said.
The Lions cracked the scoreboard on a 68 yard fumble return for a touchdown by Tyhair Mitchell and got scoring passes from starting quarterback Doug Cook (who threw for 345 yards) and Charles Green, both going to Matt Coston (11 catches, 125 yards), but the Lions weren’t able to make up the deficit.
“We’re a second half team and we showed it today,” Abanishe said. “We got down big early, but we kept fighting.”
Abanishe shouldered the blame for the tough loss, coming on the day when Lincoln opened its brand-new campus stadium after the program played at nearby Avon Grove for the first four seasons of the program’s revival.
“This loss is on me,” a visibly frustrated Abanishe said. “It falls on me as a football coach, so don’t blame the players. Critique me.”
As for the Wolves, to win for the second straight year against Lincoln was a big confidence booster. However, they refused to get ahead of themselves with a game against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference powerhouse Indiana University of Pennsylvania looming on the schedule.
“We started off 1-0 last year, but we lost focus,” said Jones, who led Cheyney with 85 yards rushing on 21 carries. “We’re not trying to lose focus this year.”
“This was a statement game for us,” Dillon-McCallum said. “We’re not playing any games this year, we feel like this a new era for Cheyney football.” And it started off with a win against their oldest rival for the second straight season.
“We have our inside joke about this game,” Stewart said as he looked around the empty Lincoln stadium. “We call this Cheyney South Campus.”
Chris Stevens is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, Delaware. He is also owner and operator of Stevens Communications & Consulting and host of the “All Subjects Everything” podcast.