Alcorn, Thomas get badly needed win

Published 1:03 am Sunday, November 4, 2007

Somehow, Alcorn State picked up a win here in Lorman Saturday afternoon.

No, it wasn’t pretty. In fact, by the end of it, everyone everyone in the press box at Jack Spinks Stadium was either laughing or groaning of the ineptitude happening down on the field.

The two teams combined for a staggering 16 fumbles and 31 penalties. The Braves had 10 of those fumbles and lost four, not on a wet, sloppy track, mind you, but a perfectly dry, clear November afternoon.

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At least half of those fumbles were simple center-quarterback exchanges from center Justin Telemaque to quarterback Tony Hobson.

Yet after the game, it wasn’t how many fumbles or penalties the Braves racked up, it was the simple fact they found a way to win a game when so many times this year they have come up short.

“In the last four or five ballgames, although we didn’t play well throughout the course of the game, we always had a chance to win the football game,” head coach Johnny Thomas said. “Some we won, some we lost. Fortunately today, we won the game.”

It was a monumentally important win for the Braves, because as the losses have mounted this season, so has the negativity surrounding the team from fans and boosters.

Fans have been calling for Thomas to be fired all season and one Alcorn supporter has even started one of those Web sites in regards to Thomas.

Saturday, the fans showed their displeasure through an even greater means, their wallets. Only about 1,000 showed up for a rivalry game on a picture-perfect Saturday.

However, whatever negativity exists around the team is only that, says Thomas; around the team.

There’s not any negativity within the framework of our football program,” Thomas said. “That’s my role to keep everything positive, to keep my coaches and players motivated and positive. All the external negativity, we can’t deal with that and we don’t allow ourselves to deal with that. When we talk about negativity, that’s not associated at all with us. The external things we get negatively, we can’t control that. We don’t ever try to control that and don’t pay attention ourselves to that.”

Thomas is used to the criticism. The Braves had losing records in his first three seasons as head coach, including an 0-11 campaign in 2000. The most wins Alcorn has ever achieved in a season with Thomas at the helm is seven in both 2003 and 2004. That just doesn’t sit well with some Alcorn supporters who expect the Braves to compete for SWAC championships year in and year out.

The 0-5 start to this season just gave the Thomas bashers even more fuel, and boy, have they ever doused the flames.

However, the players seem to be buying into what Thomas is preaching about keeping the negative energy away from the practice field.

“There’s a lot of negativity on the outside, but what we try to do is stay together as a big family and keep everything between us,” Hobson said. “We’ve got to stay together, work hard and try to salvage our season right now. I think we’ve dealt with it (the negativity) really well. We’ve tried to stay close as a team and come out and work hard and just prepare for our next game.”

With all the cries from the Alcorn fans as well as the Braves having an interim athletic director and president, who knows what Thomas’ future holds with the football program. But, Saturday’s win was absolutely crucial to prevent the season from turning into a complete disaster and adding to the fire Thomas campaign.

Perhaps that’s why Thomas called it one of his greatest wins at Alcorn.

“This victory here is one of the most special victories I have had as football coach at Alcorn State University,” Thomas said. “We know what we’re going through as far as personnel. To be able to put together a victory today and do it in the fashion that we did was just very special.”

Thomas and the Braves won a big one Saturday. But he knows as well as anybody else; to be able to satisfy the Alcorn State fan base, that win needs to be the tip of the iceberg.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or