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Playoff Bound, Wildcats’ Football Heads to No. 4 Jacksonville State

by | Apr 22, 2021

In 2019 members of the Wildcats 1969 Football Team were recognized on the 50th Anniversary of their Southern Conference win and their appearance in the Tangerine Bowl. They are the last Wildcat Football team to play in the post-season. . .until now.


JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Davidson is set to compete in their first-ever Division I FCS Playoff Saturday at fourth-seeded Jacksonville State Saturday. Kickoff from JSU Stadium is slated for 2 p.m.

This is the first-ever meeting between the Wildcats and Gamecocks. 

Head coach Scott Abell was named a finalist for the 34th Eddie Robinson Award, given to the FCS National Coach of the Year. In just three years, Abell helped turn around a program that had one Pioneer Football League win its previous five seasons, to league champions, and gave the program its first postseason berth in 52 years. Abell was one of 16 finalists named by the organization Monday.

Davidson became just the fourth different PFL team to make the FCS Playoff since the league was given an automatic qualifier in 2013. San Diego has the most bids, earning five of eight AQ’s (2014, 2016-19), while Butler (2013) and Dayton (2015) have the other playoff appearances.

Jacksonville State (9-2, 6-1 OVC) earned the fourth and final seed of the Division I FCS Championship Playoff and was the only team in the nation to navigate both a fall and spring season. The Gamecocks, winners of the Ohio Valley Conference for the ninth time and sixth in the last seven seasons, feature the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, sophomore safety Nicario Harper, and 16 All-OVC players. Harper was named a Buck Buchanan Finalist, given to the nations top defensive player. JSU has limited a program record nine straight opponents under 100 yards rushing, including holding nationally ranked number 16 Murray State to a mere 26 yards in the season finale. Leading the offense is All-OVC quarterback Zion Webb. Webb made it eight consecutive years a Gamecock has been named to the all-conference team on the heels of a 1,500-yard, 11-touchdown campaign.

Despite a pair of touchdowns from running back Coy Williams, Davidson (4-2, 4-1 PFL) fell on the road at Presbyterian, 29-24. Williams posted his second multi-touchdown game of the season to go along with a freshman Mark McCurdy scoring scamper and a Caden Bonoffski field goal, but the Blue Hose found a way to hang on for the win behind Colby Campbell’s 25 tackle performance. Quarterback Tyler Phelps led the ground attack with 115 yards on 21 carries. Defensively, Davidson had three tackles post seven stops apiece in Jalen Jefferson, Cade Vela and Miles Davis. The ‘Cats turned over Presby once, a James Boyle force, recovered by Jonathan Hammond.

Davidson’s 19 seniors were integral in turning around the program, having a hand in 20 wins and counting – the most since the Class of 2010 registered 19 victories from 2006-09. #WE appreciate everything you all have done on and off the field, and look forward to what the future brings!

Davidson sits atop the FCS in rushing yards per games (293.0), just ahead of the 2019 statistical champions Kennesaw State (268.0). The ‘Cats feature a balanced attack of sophomore Dylan Sparks, 107 carries for 519 yards, and junior Coy Williams, 86 rushes for 459 yards. Four different ‘Cats have rushed for over 100 yards in a game this season, both Sparks and Williams, along with Tyler Phelps and freshman Mark McCurdy have reached the century mark at least once this season.

In response to the racial tension, social unrest and the prevalence of systematic racism in our country, Davidson football created P.A.C.E. (Progress, Advocate, Cooperate, Educate). The mission of P.A.C.E. is to lead the team, campus, community and country in promoting equality, unity and opportunity. In late August, the team hosted a gathering on the front lawn of Chambers to speak out against racism and actively fight for change.

Senior quarterback Tyler Phelps returns for his fourth season to lead the offense, while Jalen JeffersonChibuike Odo and Cade Vela captain a Davidson defense that soared to the top of the FCS in 2019. Junior Eli Turner Jr. also will don captain duties throughout the season.

Fans can connect directly with the Davidson Football staff on Facebook (, Twitter (@DavidsonFB) and Instagram (@DavidsonFootball). Head coach Scott Abell is on Twitter and can be found at @Scott_AbellFB.

Be sure to check out The Coach’s Corner with Scott Abell every Monday powered by Atrium Health. Coach Abell will discuss the previous week and look ahead to the upcoming opponent, giving fans an inside look into the Wildcat football program.

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