Looking at Future of Howard’s Football Team After Celebration Bowl Loss

Plus, an Inside Look at HBCU Flavor On and Off the Field

After losing 30-26 to Florida A&M in the 2023 Cricket Wireless Celebration Bowl, Howard is setting its sights on winning the Black College Football National Championship next season. (Photo: David Sierra)


By Gregory Lloydon Coleman

Howard University News Service

The Howard University men’s football team hopes to take it all next season after giving up a 16-7 lead over the Florida A&M University Rattlers and losing 30-26 in the 2023 Cricket Wireless Celebration Bowl in Atlanta.

The football team had an outstanding season that saw the Bison bounce back from losses to Hampton, Eastern Michigan, Northwestern, Harvard and South Carolina State University. It was especially a phenomenal season for a few graduate students such as quarterback Quinton Williams, defensive lineman Darrian Brokenburr, wide receiver Wayne Dennis Jr., defensive backs Ray Williams, Lance McMillan and Clayton Perrin, and defensive lineman Jevin Jackson, who was one of the energetic motors of the defense.

These graduate students were on the team in 2019 when the Bison were looked at as a laughing stock in the MEAC and stuck throughout their tenure just to be able to see the progression from worst place in the MEAC to first place. They built a foundation that other players are willing to follow.

At the quarterback position it will be a tossup, but it is looking like redshirt freshman Jay Scroggins will be taking the snaps next season in the 2024 campaign for the Bison. He will have a plethora of support around him with the return of Richie Ilarazza, considered a surehanded receiver who would make the big-time catches when they counted, and Nah’Shawn Hezekiah, who will look to replace the playmaking abilities of senior wide receiver Kasey Hawthorne if he does not come back for a fifth year. Hawthorne, by the way, was one of the leading scorers for the Bison this past season and made a lot of big-time plays in the passing game.

For the ground game, Eden James, son of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Edgerrin James, will be coming back for his junior campaign alongside Ian Wheeler, who has one of the most lethal spin moves in the game. It will be exciting to see how the Bison will fare on the ground game.

Expect speculation about the dreaded transfer portal as the Bison will not want to lose names such as Kenny Gallop Jr., who was outstanding for the Bison defense and was the leading tackler. Gallop would be a tough piece to replace. It is rumored that a plethora of other talent may be entering the portal to try their luck at another institution, perhaps with hopes of making it to the National Football League.

A recruitment class with talent is much needed with the transfer portal being a reality in collegiate sports and with the MEAC looking at the target on Howard’s back. Luckily for the Bison, they have already began making moves with the signing of recruits such as Ja’Quavion Smith from Forest Hill High School in Marshville, North Carolina, Rufus Ferguson II from Sickles High School in Tampa, Florida, running back Anthony Reagan Jr. from Woodbury High School in Woodbury, New Jersey, and defensive back Charles “CJ” Dale Jr. from Sebring High School in Lake Placid, Florida, just to name a few.

The Bison will need to shore up their talent for next season, because they will have the likes of NCCU looking for revenge for taking their MEAC championship and dropping 50 points on them. That is a rivalry that is starting to build up. Morgan State will also look to gain revenge.

Howard is also going to look to defeat Hampton for the first time since 2014 and avenge the 17 point blown lead the Bison had in their defeat to the Pirates in the Truth and Service Classic.

Finally, the Bison want to return to the Celebration Bowl next year —  this time with hopes of winning the Black College Football National Championship.

Gregory Lloydon Coleman is a reporter for HUNewsService.com.

Reporter’s Notebook: My Experience Capturing the Sights and Sounds of the Celebration Bowl

By Gregory Lloydon Coleman

Howard University News Service

I had a wonderful time and a wonderful experience covering the 2023 Cricket Wireless Celebration Bowl. I traveled from Washington to Atlanta not only as a graduating senior at Howard University, but also as co-founder and producer of Bison Burrough, a writer for the Clutchpoints x HBCU Pulse Content Creator Program and a sports critic on the outlook of Bison football for HUNewsService.com.

My responsibilities included interviewing people for Bison Burrough’s packages and social media page, as well as covering the game and Inaugural Band of the Year National Championships for the HBCU Pulse Internship.

My plan was to go down to Atlanta on Friday, cover the game on Saturday and fly to Las Vegas on Sunday for winter break and to celebrate the holidays with my family. I wish I had bought tickets to attend the Band of the Year Championships, because hearing the bands in person would have been such a life-invigorating experience.

However, I watched them on YouTube as soon as they were uploaded. From the perspective of someone who used to be in the Howard University S.H.O.W.T.I.M.E. Marching Band, the four bands impressed the crowd with their musical selections and the formations on the field. Jackson State arguably had the most well put together show with a theme centered around Usher’s music. The drum majors even dressed in suits unbuttoned at the top with shades on like Usher. The winners wouldn’t be announced until halftime of the Celebration Bowl.

On Saturday, I woke up bright and early to get to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in time for the Coca-Cola Fan Experience as there was food trucks, pop-up shops, DJs and finally a battle of the bands between two high school with the main event being Howard’s S.H.O.W.T.I.M.E. Marching Band versus The Marching 100 of Florida A&M University.

I captured many great moments from the tailgate as all of the bands were battling. Both bands from Columbia and South Cobb high schools really brought it, and it was a sight to behold watching kids enjoy their element in their arts.  It was a great precursor to the halftime battle. The Hundred sounded amazing in person, and Howard’s band did not waver, putting up a fight and playing extremely well, too.

The actual game was extremely fun. The atmosphere between the two fan bases lived up to the hype. The FAMU side was full of energy, while the Bison side had a lot of raw emotion, too. It was more raucous on Howard’s side, because the Bison were up early in the game and had a 16-7 lead. But FAMU is not a team to be underestimated. Once the Rattlers started coming back, it was a noticeable momentum shift in the game and between the teams.

Sidenote: The halftime show battle was phenomenal between both collegiate bands. S.H.O.W.T.I.M.E. and The Marching 100 each had their best hits. Howard played Usher and Glorilla, while FAMU played Annihilate with a picture of Spider-Man, a web and a picture of the Celebration Bowl trophy, which was interesting foreshadowing to say the least.

I interviewed a multitude of fans, including actor and Howard alum Lance Gross for the second time in the football season, and I got footage of quarterback Cam Newton doing card tricks.

Just the ability to capture the energy and emotion in person was truly amazing. The Bison lost the game, and I saw the energy for Howard leave the stadium. But my overall experience as a journalist at the Celebration Bowl was elating, because I got a true glimpse at what the professionals get to do for only the biggest of sporting events. And what I want to do in the future.