tampabay.com

Hurt Rattler steals spotlight

By IZZY GOULD
Published November 19, 2006


FAMU 35

BCC 21

ORLANDO - Albert Chester's right ankle was locked in a walking boot with the biggest game of the year just days away.

What a time for a bum ankle.

Fed up and hungry, Chester disobeyed the advice of experts. Nothing was going to keep him from the Florida Classic.

"I got mad and took it off Thursday," Chester said. "... I got sick of that (stinking) boot."

The second largest crowd in Florida Classic history - an announced attendance of 71,216 - watched Chester's gimpy ankle hold firm Saturday as he added a few more pages to his legacy. He sliced up Bethune-Cookman's secondary for 339 yards and five touchdowns and led a 35-21 victory march over his rival.

"I didn't realize it was five until the end of the game," Chester said. "That's a great way to end the season."

Chester followed up his 2005 Most Valuable Player performance with arguably an even stronger MVP night. Last season, he led the Rattlers (7-4, 5-3 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) back from a 17-point deficit for a 26-23 overtime victory. His father, Albert Sr., also led the Rattlers back from a 17-point hole in the inaugural Classic.

Chester strictly focused on airing it out, partly because of his ankle. He also didn't have to worry about rotating in and out of the game as he did last year with Josh Driscoll, which he said left him cold at times.

Some were likely wondering how Chester would respond coming off his worst game in a 59-7 loss to Hampton, in which he threw for just 53 yards. Chester showed he regained confidence and poise in a crucial series in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats (5-6, 3-5) climbed back to within a touchdown with 8 minutes, 46 seconds remaining. B-CC quarterback Jarod Rucker was doing all he could to keep the Wildcats in contention. He had rotated with Jimmie Russell, then stepped up once Russell was forced from the game after a crushing third-quarter sack by Rattlers defensive end Tyrone McGriff.

B-CC forced FAMU to punt on fourth and 2, which likely would have given the Wildcats good field position. Instead, they were called for offsides, giving FAMU a first down.

"It was a real momentum shifter," Rucker said. "We were still hopeful and full of faith we were going to come back and win this game."

Chester then took the Rattlers another 68 yards, capped by a 29-yard pass to Willie Hayward for the final touchdown.

"(Chester) was superb," Hayward said. "I would say this was one of Chester's best games all year."

The Rattlers scored on their final five drives. Chester threw a pair of touchdowns to Hayward, and one to each Derek Williams, Roosevelt Kiser and Ronald Wright.

When it was over, B-CC coach Alvin Wyatt stood in a tunnel and watched the Rattlers celebrate. This was the Wildcats' first losing season in nine years.

"They got momentum on their side and didn't let it go," Wyatt said. "They kept attacking, attacking, attacking. They hit us where we were weak, which was outside and inside with those receivers."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould @sptimes.com or (727) 580-5315.