The elements paid a surprise visit to Nokes-Lasater Field for Cumberland’s Senior Day and special teams were a big part of the Bulldogs’ 34-13 beating of Bethel.
Michael Green’s 65-yard return of the opening kickoff set up quarterback Broc Loveless’ 19-yard touchdown run on the second play. A missed extra point following a false-start penalty on the Bulldogs left the home team with a 6-0 lead.
Robbie Phillips’ 34-yard field goal cut the margin in half before wind and rain arrived for the remainder of the first half.
While Cumberland’s Tyler Emmetts had his first-quarter punts into the stiff breezed knocked down, it was the Bulldogs’ Austin Chaplin who blocked Phillips’ second-period punt which teammate Clyde Payne returned 13 yards to the end zone for a 13-3 lead.
“We hadn’t blocked a punt or come close all year,” Cumberland coach Donnie Suber said after his Bulldogs improved to 5-4 for the season and 2-2 in the Mid-South Conference West Division with a trip to division-co-leading Reinhardt on tap next Saturday in Alpharetta, Ga. “We freed up some guys on that one and made a big play and scored. It’s always good to get special team scores when you can.
“I think the clouds sat over the stadium. It got cold and the rain was blowing, which I wish we had two weeks ago against Faulkner.”
There was some specialness to Bethel’s special teams as well as Quincy Walden returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards to bring the Wildcats back within 13-10.
The rain continued for the remainder of the first half, but the wind settled down somewhat to produce a more normal game.
Mario Hill capped a crisp 69-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring pitch.
Phillips’ 39-yard field goal brought Bethel within 20-13 by halftime.
But the Wildcats got little after halftime as the skies turned sunny. Rebuilding Bethel dropped to 2-8, 0-4.
“They run some I stuff and they try to bang the ball on you,” Suber said of the Wildcats. “We loaded the box. We shoot a safety in there every once in a while to get in the box to help us against the run.
“They’re probably the most balanced team we’ll face all year. The big issue with them is they’re just young.”
Loveless recovered his own fumble in the end zone at the end of his 11-yard run. Caleb Blance, back after a five-game suspension for violating team and school rules, capped the scoring with a 2-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Blance’s score was set up by defensive back Devaris Mosley’s interception and 52-yard return.
Travis Smith led Bethel with 110 yards on 26 carries.
Cumberland also kept it on the ground most of the afternoon. Loveless, sharing time with Gurchiek at quarterback, ran for 83 yards on nine carries while former cornerback Fredrel Cross collected 65 on 14 and Blance 53 on nine.
Cross and Blance came through when needed as Mt. Juliet’s Michael Nwokoji, a fourth-year junior who was honored before the game with the seniors as he plans to graduate and not return for football next year, is out for the year with a foot injury which will require surgery.
Cumberland 34, Bethel 13
Bethel 3 10 0 0—13
Cumberland 6 14 7 7—34
Cumberland—Broc Loveless 19 run [kick failed], 14:25.
Bethel—Robbie Phillips 34 FG, 7:17.
Cumberland—Clyde Payne 13 blocked punt return [Beau Baker kick], 13:24.
Bethel—Quincy Walden 96 kickoff return [Phillips kick], 13:02.
Cumberland—Mario Hill 1 run [Baker kick], 8:56.
Bethel—Phillips 39 FG, 3:23.
Cumberland—Loveless fumble recovery in end zone [Baker kick], 6:47.
Cumberland—Caleb Blance 2 run [Baker kick], 14:58.
First downs 16 17
—Rushing 8 14
—Passing 6 2
—Penalty 2 1
Rushes-yards 40-152 47 247
Passing yards 109 62
Comp.-Att.-Int. 13-35-2 9-16-2
Total yards 261 309
Punts-avg. 6-29.0 6 42.2
Penalties-yards 3-15 11-88
Fumbles-lost 3-2 2-0
RUSHING—Bethel: Travis Smith 26-110, Logan Diebold 7-41, Devin Raymer 4-7, Quincy Walden 1-3, Wil Nicks 2-[-9]. Cumberland: Broc Loveless 9-83, Fredrel Cross 14-65, Caleb Blance 9-53, Reed Gurchiek 7-28, Mario Hill 6-13, Clyde Payne 1-6, Team 1-[-1].
PASSING—Bethel: Wil Nicks 13-35-2—109. Cumberland: Reed Gurchiek 3-8-1—15, Broc Loveless 6-8-1—47.
RECEIVING—Bethel: Cole Delano 6-74, Quincy Walden 2-6, Travonta Thomas 1-11, Skylar Haley 1-8, Jahron Reynolds 1-7, Logan Diebold 1-5, Travis Smith 1-[-2]. Cumberland: Courtland Styles 3-24, Cain Smith 2-21, Michael Green 2-10, Luke Jennings 1-4, Anthony Woodard 1-3.