Phoenix play in Irma-soaked Jacksonville

Andy Reed • Updated Sep 16, 2017 at 8:30 AM

As Florida begins the arduous task of getting back to normal following the rampage through the state by Hurricane Irma, Cumberland’s football team is doing its part today by traveling to Jacksonville, Fla., to take on Edward Waters in a 2:30 p.m. CDT contest.

A week after the Phoenix played a day early to accommodate another Sunshine State school, Webber International, on the front end of Irma, the Edward Waters campus was closed until Wednesday of this week. The Tigers did go on the road last week to Bluefield in Virginia where they lost 19-0 to drop to 0-2.

“I don’t know if they got to practice on Wednesday or not,” Cumberland coach Donnie Suber said. “We didn’t get film until Wednesday, until they opened it back up.”

Suber said his coaching staff got video from Bluefield and was able to piece together a game plan.

“They had film from our Bluefield game and we got film from Bluefield,” Suber said. “We have no excuse for that.”

From the film, Suber could glean, “They’re very athletic. Coach (Alvin) Wyatt has been a Division I-AA (at Bethune-Cookman) head coach for several years. He’s very knowledgeable. They run the Georgia Tech option, then they’ll go four- and five-wide an sling it every down. It’s kind of a guess what they plan on doing against us.

“They have two really good players on defense and they got some good running backs and a good receiver on offense.”

Cumberland is off to its first 3-0 start (and receiving votes in the NAIA poll) for the first time since the turn of the century when the then-Bulldogs won their first five games. But injuries are starting to take a bite out of the Phoenix, especially in the secondary where freshman free safety Tony Bennett is out for the year with an ACL tear. Sophomore offensive guard Cooper Corley had the flu this week and Suber didn’t know at the end of Thursday’s practice if he would make the trip Friday.

“I’m not going to put him on the bus for 10 hours if he’s contagious,” Suber said.

Backup safety Terry Tiller injured his ankle on the last play of the Webber International game and will be available only in an emergency.

“We’re short in the secondary,” Suber said. “We got basically three corners and two safeties that have actually played safety and we have one (senior David Allen) that I kicked up who hasn’t played at all.”

Because Bennett is out for the season, by NAIA scholarship rules, Suber could add another player to the active roster and did so with Allen.

After this week, Cumberland will travel to I-AA Presbyterian College for its money game and visit longtime Mid-South Conference power Georgetown College before Bluegrass Division play kicks off.

“We’d like to be 4-0 going into next week,” Suber said.

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