|Charlotte 49ers aim for ‘sweeter end’ at Bahamas Bowl|
|Players revel in December football|
|Published Tuesday, December 10, 2019 9:00 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|The Charlotte 49ers have much to celebrate in 2019 with the school’s first winning football season, a five-game win streak and a berth in the Bahamas Bowl against Buffalo – the first postseason game in program history.|
It is the first game 13 for the Charlotte 49ers.
Their 2019 season encompasses a lot of program firsts. They’re heading to the Bahamas for the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 20 in search of another first—a bowl victory. Will Healy, who was hired just over a year ago, has already produced the first winning season in program history as well as their first bowl appearance. Yet the first year FBS head coach emphasized all season the goal is not merely to participate in a bowl game but win it.
They’ll have to beat the Buffalo Bulls, a team they have never played, but who bears a similar resemblance, as both programs finished the regular season with a 7-5 record and 5-3 in conference. The 49ers play in Conference USA, the Bulls the Mid-American Conference.
“Finding a way to win the Bahamas Bowl sure would be a sweeter end to the story,” Healy said at Monday’s weekly media gathering.
Healy noted that taking the 49ers job came with a crucial task: “Making Charlotte football relevant in Charlotte.” The city paid little attention to the 5-7 49ers in 2018, and even less attention to 2017’s 1-11 team. Things have changed.
“I was talking to my twin sister a couple days ago, and usually around this time, Charlotte football gear was up in the closet,” senior offensive lineman Cam Clark said. “We were 1-11, 4-8 [in 2016]—we weren’t wearing our Charlotte football stuff with pride. Now, every time you go somewhere, and you have on Charlotte football, like I went and got my license two weeks ago, because I had lost it … and everyone was talking about the Bahamas, ‘I’m so proud of y’all. I’m rooting for y’all.’ In church, people you’ve never spoken to before come up to you and wish us the best. They tell us how they’ve been watching us this year. It’s been infectious. The brand is growing at a tremendous rate.”
Charlotte received a fair amount of exposure playing at Appalachian State and at Clemson this season (losing 56-41 and 52-10 respectively), but their program record five-game winning streak to close the regular season captured hearts and mind on the field, around town, and certainly in Club Lit—also known as the 49ers’ locker room.
During the win streak, quarterback Chris Reynolds has passed for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. He has proven versatile, rushing for 531 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s pretty cool to get all the exposure we’ve gotten,” Reynolds said. “I was home for the bye week after the Texas El Paso week [in mid-November], and I get to my little brother’s high school practice, and my old coach pulls me aside, and he says, ‘tell me all about that Club Lit. The coach seems like he’s having a good time.’ I get so many texts all the time now, people asking how things are. They all just want to be Charlotte fans and get involved. I’ve got family flying in from Texas, California [and] Florida, all trying to come to this game.”
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