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Hawks ready for 07 By Cal Bryant 08/13/2007 MURFREESBORO – As is so often the case, life#8217;s lessons can be cruel. You don#8217;t have to tell that to Lorick Atkinson. Coming off a winless season i

MURFREESBORO – As is so often the case, life’s lessons can be cruel.

You don’t have to tell that to Lorick Atkinson.

Coming off a winless season in 2006, the Chowan University head football coach said the lessons he learned during that rocky ride would benefit this year’s version of the Hawks.

“Last year was a major disappointment,” Atkinson said during last week’s Media Day at Chowan. “2006 was a tough run, but we have put that behind us and are concentrating on the areas of our program that will make us more competitive.”

The coach said he stood at the top of the list when citing reasons behind last season’s 0-10 record.

“I quit coaching,” he stressed. “I put my trust elsewhere and it came back to hurt me. I got away from what I do the best and that’s coach football. It was a growing experience.”

Now as he enters the third year at the helm of Hawks football, Atkinson is excited over what is on the horizon for his program.

“This is our toughest schedule by far,” he noted. “We have a chance to play some very good football programs, ones we feel will help promote Chowan University as well as our recruiting effort.”

However, the biggest challenge, according to the coach, is instilling a winning attitude within his players and his staff, himself included. Chowan’s last win on the gridiron came Oct. 1, 2005 during a 20-0 shutout of visiting Southern Virginia College. Fifteen consecutive losses followed.

“We need to taste victory…this team does, this staff does, this university does and the community does,” Atkinson said. “Once you taste it, you want more.”

Atkinson didn’t hesitate when asked about the strengths of the 2007 Hawks.

“Our three returning defensive linemen are very important to the success of this year’s team,” noted the coach. “And only one of them is a senior.

Those players are senior Kjell Cordero (6-4, 260; Arlington, Va.), junior Kevin Cheek (6-0, 280; Virginia Beach, Va.) and sophomore Melvin Rodgers (6-3, 320; Margarettsville) who played at Northampton County High School-East. That trio combined for 112 tackles, 17 for negative yards, and exactly one-half of the team’s 10 quarterback sacks last year.

While the troops along the offensive line are young, Atkinson said he was very pleased with that area of the program.

“Our size and athleticism on the offensive line is a lot better,” Atkinson said. “Plus there’s a lot of competition for the starting jobs.”

Josh Floyd (5-10, 185; Chesapeake, Va.) will start at quarterback over a quality group of newcomers. The talented senior is coming off an injury as a junior wide receiver. Atkinson likes what he sees in Floyd’s leadership abilities, especially when calling the signals out of the Hawks’ single-back offensive set.

The starting role of that single-back falls in the hands of sophomore Spruce Lee (5-7, 200; Pikeville, NC). Lee came on strong at the end of last year and finished with 164 net rushing yards.

Meanwhile, Floyd will have a solid group of wide receivers in which he can distribute the ball. Atkinson said James Fox (5-11, 170, junior; Morehead City), Josh Lawrence (6-1, 160, sophomore; Weldon) and freshman Michael Brown of Hampton, Va. have thus far been the top receivers in pre-season camp. Fox was the club’s top receiver from a year ago, playing in nine of 10 games where he grabbed 27 aerials for 319 yards and 2 TD’s.

Two other key offensive weapons will not take a single snap during the 2007 season. Atkinson has brought in Perry Woolbright, a former Appalachian State University quarterback who went on to coach for the two-time defending NCAA Division 1-AA national champions. Atkinson has also hired Omar Nesbit, a former offensive lineman at The Citadel. Nesbitt will coach the offensive line.

“We’ve hired coaches who know what it takes to win,” Atkinson said. “That enthusiasm by our coaching staff will trickle down to the players.”

The coaching moves couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as Chowan is coming off perhaps one of its most dismal seasons offensively. Last year the Hawks average just over a touchdown per game while combining, on average, for a mere 228.1 yards of total offense per contest.

Defensively, Richard Lage returns to calls the shots from the sideline. Other than the big three on the line, coach Lage will rely heavily on four other key returnees n sophomore back D’Angelo Goffigon (5-11, 185; Edgewood, Maryland), junior linebacker Jomo Brown (6-2, 235; Port Charlotte, Fla.) and senior safeties Ronnie Fields (6-2, 225; New Bern) and Gabe White (6-1, 180; Windsor). White played his high school football at Lawrence Academy.

“We have some inexperience on defense, especially at the cornerback position, but we’ve got a great group of young men ready to step it up,” Atkinson said.

Chowan opens its 2007 football season at home against Catawba College at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 25. They also have home dates against St. Pauls College (Sept. 8), Methodist College (Sept. 15), UNC-Pembroke (Sept. 29) and North Greenville College (Oct. 20). Road games include Newberry (S.C.) College on Sept. 1, at Brevard College on Sept. 22, at Coastal Carolina (Conway, S.C.) on Oct. 13 and a tough three-game stretch to end the season at Webber International (Babson Park, Fla.) on Oct. 27, at Presbyterian University (Clinton, NC) on Nov. 3 and a Nov. 10 date in the 58th annual Oyster Bowl against longtime rival Newport News Apprentice School.

“This is a tough schedule to start off our first year as a full-fledged member of the NCAA Division II,” Atkinson noted. “We were able to use our D-II status to attract the attention of some big-time football programs, ones that would not have looked our way if we were still a D-III school.”

When asked how does that tough schedule break down in wins and losses, Atkinson closed by saying, “Right now, Catawba is the biggest game on this year’s schedule. We’ve got to get out of the gate on a positive note. We’ve got to get a win. Once we taste that win, we’ll talk about what we can be.”

Spoken like a coach who learned some valuable lessons last year.