Alabama State football ready to rebuild in 2021

The Hornets closed the season with a 38-14 loss to Alabama A&M in the Magic City Classic.

Alabama State football ready to rebuild in 2021
The Alabama State Hornets and Alabama A&M Bulldogs faced off in the 79th Magic City Classic Saturday, April 17. (Source: Lorenzo Walcott/WSFA 12 News)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WSFA) - A loss in the Magic City Classic isn’t how Alabama State football wanted to end their 2020 season.

“We knew that they had a high powered offense and we needed to match what they were putting up and it kind of got away from us at the end,” said Hornets head coach Donald Hill-Eley after the game.

But according to Hill-Eley, there was plenty to learn from this spring season as the team prepares for the 2021 season.

“We have some experience now going into the fall, and just to be able to them back and get everybody healthy and be able to build from this will help us as we move into the fall,” he said.

It was a game that had the makings of a great competition. Both teams were fighting for the East Division Title and a shot at the SWAC Championship, and when you mix in the biggest rivalry in all of HBCU football, it was bound to be a good one.

And, it was, at least for the first half, with the teams trading touchdowns in the opening quarter.

Trouble brewing for Alabama State, though when starting quarterback Ryan Nettles was injured right before the first score. He was sidelined and Hill-Eley later reported he was in concussion protocol after hitting his head.

His backup, Chris Scott stepping in and delivering his first touchdown of the season midway through the second, but once again, the Bulldogs had the answer, scoring just 48 seconds later.

Then in the final seconds of the half, things taking a turn that would ultimately change the momentum of the game.

“We just wanted to run the clock out but Ezra got a little too close to the sideline and they pushed him out, which stopped the clock,” said Hill-Eley. “Then we had a punt blocked which gave them a chance to go into the locker room with momentum rather than go in tied, so it was just a rough day all around.”

Alabama A&M would score 31 unanswered points and win their third straight Magic City Classic 38-14 to end Alabama State’s season. The Hornets finish the year 3-3.

Now the focus is on getting better for 2021.

“The great thing about this is we got an opportunity to get some experience, but now we gotta make sure that those guys that are injured have time to heal and recover and get back for the fall. And also, we have to find a way to get our guys stronger and faster as we get back into the offseason,” said Hill-Eley.

All of the players on the spring roster are eligible to return for the fall season.

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