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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Miles head coach Reginald Ruffin had not won a Labor Day Golden Classic in three previous tries. Through most of the first half on Sunday, it did not look as if he was going to be successful on try No. 4 either.

The Golden Bears spotted Fort Valley State 21 points due to a combination of offensive miscues and defensive mishaps. But Miles (1-0) dominated the entire second half on defense while riding an offense led by Jamarcus Nance and David Whipple to post a 34-21 win over the Wildcats in front of 12,438 at Legion Field. The victory was the first over Fort Valley State (0-1) since 2004 and the first Labor Day Golden Classic win since an overtime win over Stillman in the 2010 Classic.miles laborday classicMiles LB Emanual Ray (23) heads upfield with a recovered fumble
Miles Sports photo

Trailing 21-3 at halftime, turned to its defense to accelerate the comeback. On the third play of the second half, Jarmari Ford stripped the ball from Travis Richmond and Emmanuel Ray recovered the loose ball for Miles. Miles then drove 58 yards in nine plays, the biggest one coming on a 43-yard completion from Whipple to Earnest Bell for 43 yards. Four plays later, Whipple punched it in from four yards out to cut the deficit to 21-10.

After the defense forced a three-and-out on the next series, the Golden Bears again went to work. This time, Whipple found a streaking Trey Smith for a 49-yard scoring bomb that brought the Golden Bears even closer .Fort Valley was forced to punt again after three offensive plays and Whipple and the offense went back to work.

Sparked by a roughing the passer penalty that erased a thrid down interception, Miles would go 88 yards in just eight plays. Ger'Kerry Jackson did big work on the ground, rushing for 35 of his 41 yards on this drive. Whipple then used a 28-yard completion to Devin Brown and his own 16-yard touchdown scamper to complete the drive and give the Golden Bears their first lead, 24-21, with just less than three minutes left in the third quarter.

Miles then used its defense to seal the victory. Ray scooped up a FVSU fumble on the second play of the fourth quarter and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead. Nick Christiansen nailed a 33-yard field goal, his second of the game, on the next possession, which gave the Golden Bears points on six straight possessions to close out the scoring.

Miles looked strong on its opening drive, moving with ease into the red zone to start the game. But Whipple would float a ball into the flat and Brian Walker picked it off, returning it 91 yards for a score at the 9:51 mark of the first quarter to give FVSU an early 7-0 lead. That started a mountain of mistakes on both sides of the ball for the Golden Bears, who would switch quarterbacks on offense and tried to mix it up on defense but to no avail. When Otis Brown caught his second touchdown of the game with 8:04 left in the first half, the Wildcats led 21-0 and Miles' fans grew restless immediately. Christiansen, though, would get the Golden Bears on the board with a 27-yard field goal late in the first half to start the comeback.

Whipple threw for 231 yards and a touchdown and rushed for another 31 yards and two scores. Jamarcus Nance ran 20 times for 148 yards. Anthony Hardy (seven tackles) and Ray (six tackles, two fumble recoveries, two pass break ups, and a touchdown) paced the effort on defense.


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