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Hawks ready for trip to Livingstone

Published 9:37am Friday, August 31, 2012

MURFREESBORO – Bring it on!

Chowan University opens its 2012 college football season Saturday by traveling down I-85 to Salisbury to meet fellow Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) member, Livingstone College.

The Hawks will look to keep up an unblemished mark against the Blue Bears having won the three previous meetings between the two including last year’s 43-7 thrashing at Garrison Stadium.

In fact, Chowan won their first-ever CIAA game against Livingstone, 41-20, back in 2008.

Five years later fifth-year coach Tim Place can’t wait to see his players lace ‘em up, slap leather, and get the season underway.

“Practice is a daily process,” said the Hawks field-boss. “There are some good things and some not-so-good things.”

“But we have high expectations and goals and want to establish high standards,” he added. “We want to be as perfect as possible.”

The Hawks may not achieve perfection, but they do hope to achieve more than the 3-7 mark that has overshadowed their efforts the past two seasons.

In 2011, they were the third best scoring team in the CIAA, averaging 27 points per game, though they allowed 33 per game; and were number five in a 12-team league in total offense.

Chowan was number three in passing offense at 241.9 yards per game and third in red-zone efficiency while on special teams they led the league in kick-off return average at 24.6 yards per, and they were third in punt return average at 13.5 yards.

“Last year was last year,” said Place.  “Livingstone will have motivation, sure, but we’re not concerned about that.  We’re concerned about us.”

It’s also been a short preseason for Chowan.  Since players reported and drills began August 9 they’ve had only three weeks and two days to prepare.

“You’re never where you want to be,” said the coach.  “The quick camp wasn’t as long as we wanted, but we know we need to be disciplined, consistent and secure the ball.

The good news for the Hawks will be the 16 returning seniors.  A veteran group, counting the underclassmen who got a number of quality snaps last season, and that experience will need to pay off.

One thing that’s helped is that coming out of fall camp, everyone is healthy.

“I feel good about our depth,” said Place. “The kids are really pushing each other.”

Junior quarterback Cameron Stover is back to lead the offense. He did not play in the Blue-White Spring game, but Place has pronounced the Michigan native as ready to go.

“He has the skill set to be successful,” said the coach.  “He can run, he can throw and he’s aware that a lot is on his shoulders; but he and the team have high expectations.”

One of Stover’s targets will be senior wide receiver and Newport News, Va. native, Robert Holland. Holland  already owns the Chowan career receptions and career receiving yards records, and broke the record for career receiving touchdowns.  He also became the school’s all-time leading scorer and broke the single-season record for points scored.

Holland has also been picked for several pre-=season accolades: Preseason All-CIAA,  First Team USA College Football NCAA Division II Pre-Season All-American Team,  USA College Football NCCAA Pre-Season All-American Team.

And as of last week Holland was named honorable mention for the Collegiate Development Football League (CDFL) 2012 Division-II vs. NAIA Senior Bowl Pre-Season All-American Football team.

He’s also named as one of the team’s permanent captains for this year, and has changed his jersey number from the familiar “86″ he wore for three seasons to number “1″ for 2012.

“Don’t let that fool you,” cautions Place. “Robert wants the team to be successful first and wants to put them in a position to be successful.  We’re expecting big things.”

Nick Watts anchors an offensive line that Place says is healthy up front and one he hopes stays that way.  The running game will balance the air attack with J.R. Williams, Elliot Smalls, and 250-pound Adrian Ferns carry the pigskin along with juco transfer, Tim Hanson.

On defense, junior linebacker Jason Ampy has been named as the other permanent captain, anchoring a defense  that ranked 11th in scoring defense and total defense in 2011. Ethan Reedy brings what the coach calls a “lunchpail mentality” up front.

“We can roll eight kids in,” said Place. “But we need the offensive and defensive lines to remain healthy.”

In the kicking game Chowan’s returners were among the top-three in the CIAA last year. Place calls long-snapper, Austin Tallent his best special-teams player and a great ambassador for the program. Chowan will have a new kicker in true freshman Alex Noboa.

As for Livingstone, third-year coach Elvin James says he’s going to go back to the drawing board.

“We have to work on the plays we must execute to be successful,”  said the Goldsboro native. “It’s time to release the Blue Bear.”

Place says he’s hoping for a relaxed return bus ride back to Murfreesboro late Saturday night.

“If we play disciplined football, no turnovers, protect the quarterback, and eliminate the big play, I’m hoping I can sleep on the bus,” he said with a chuckle.

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