This Saturday will be the last time the seniors on the Florida A&M football team take the field in Bragg Memorial Stadium as the Rattlers take on the Pirates of Hampton University. FAMU is in the hunt for a MEAC championship and post-season play, while the Pirates come to Tallahassee looking to play spoiler.
The road through the conference championship is paved through a win in Bragg, and a victory over Bethune-Cookman at the 31st Florida Classic. After head coach Joe Taylor explained the scenario for a potential conference championship, he was quick to emphasize the team’s one-play-at-a-time approach.
“It still comes back to taking care of each play, each game and not looking down the road,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to take care of business on a daily basis. The key is play to win, and that means taking care of your responsibility.”
Saturday will also be the last game at Bragg for tailback Philip Sylvester. The senior from Marianna, Fla., ranks fourth all-time among FAMU running backs, and only needs 284 yards to pass number three on the list, Rashard Pompey. He had 3,006 yards in his career from 2002-05.
Sylvester is trying to help his team avenge a 25-0 road loss in last season’s game that knocked the Rattlers out of conference championship contention. He echoed the sentiments of his coach, and added that there will definitely be an emotional component to this weekend’s game.
“The main thing like coach said is to take it one day at a time, but another factor that plays into it; they played with way more energy last year,” Sylvester said. “Now, it’s going to be one of the deciding factors despite the injuries. On Saturday we have to come out and play with energy and confidence, and do what we can do.”
Sophomore linebacker Brandon Hepburn said he was glad to have an opportunity to send the seniors out with a win, and he said the defense would be ready for the challenge.
“We’re looking to see them out with a win of course; they’re our brothers,” Hepburn said. “At the end of the day they’re really the captains of this team, and we follow them. They really pushed us to be our best. With that being said, we can offer them no less than our full effort to come full faculty and dominate the competition.”
The Rattlers will take the field at 3 p.m. after a ceremony recognizing the seniors. The group is led by Sylvester, and includes cornerbacks Qier Hall and Eddie Holcomb, quarterback Eddie Battle, tight end Max Purcell, offensive tackle Chris Sands and wide receiver Isaac West.