Drake Bulldogs make history in Africa
The fans lined up three hours before kickoff, awaiting their chance to see America's version of football played for the first time in Africa.
The locals in Arusha, Tanzania weren't quite sure what, when or who to cheer for during the game between the Drake Bulldogs and an All-Star team from Mexico. But the 12,000 or so who took in the college football game seemed to enjoy it.
Drake, a non-scholarship program from Des Moines, Iowa, beat the CONADEIP All-Stars, 17-7, in the Global Kilimanjaro Bowl on Saturday.
''It truly was a magical day,'' Drake coach Chris Creighton told The Associated Press by phone from Tanzania. ''I think everybody had the sense that we were part of something way bigger than ourselves, just bigger than a football game. It was emotional, kind of the realization of something very special to all of us.''
The trip grew out of a vision by Creighton and took more than a year of planning by Global Football, a company that's been taking U.S. college football teams around the world for 14 years.
The exhibition is part of a two-week trip organized by Drake that includes include youth clinics, a safari, an orphanage project and a five-day climb to the summit of the 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro.
Officials had hoped to fill the 20,000-seat Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial Stadium, which normally hosts soccer. But Creighton said tight security measures held up lines of fans and kept the stadium rather empty at kickoff.
However, the seats were quickly filled, and the game turned out to be entertaining even for those who didn't know what they were watching. It also proved turnovers will kill drives from Tijuana to Tanzania.
Jose Reyes gave CONADEIP its first and only lead in the fourth quarter on a TD run that put the Mexican team ahead 7-3. Drake freshman quarterback Nick Enis — making his college debut in Africa — answered with a crucial first-down toss to Joey Orlando and found Orlando with an 11-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a 10-7 lead.
CONADEIP quickly drove to Drake's two. But the Bulldogs defense raised its arms to pump up the crowd just like they'd do back at Drake Stadium. Bulldogs linebacker Tyler Moorehead said that got the fans as fired up as they'd been all day.
CONADEIP followed with its second botched field goal snap of the day to help Drake stay ahead.
''There were a lot of people there, but not a lot of people really understood the game,'' said Drake linebacker Tyler Moorehead, who led the Bulldogs with six tackles. ''It was interesting to see them kind of just examining. It was unique. What was cool after the game was just how excited they were to meet the people that were on the field.''
The Mexican all-stars fumbled once more for good measure, and Patrick Cashmore's touchdown run late in the fourth quarter sealed the win for Drake.
Reyes was the star of the day, rushing for 124 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
''No matter where you play, football's the same game. And these guys were good,'' Enis said of Drake's opponents from Mexico. ''When you're on the field . . . it's back to football, back to getting the ball in the end zone.''
Of course, the game itself was merely a footnote to the historical nature of the event. Creighton said he got emotional once the game was over, having seen his dream of taking the Bulldogs to Tanzania come to pass.
''Everybody has a dream. Everybody has a vision. But very few or seldom are reached,'' Creighton said. ''I felt as though we part of history.''