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Young Hawks learn

MURFREESBORO – Prior to the opening kickoff of their season-opener Chowan football coach Lorick Atkinson pointed across the field to the Catawba Indians on the opponents’ bench and reminded his players that theirs (Catawba’s) is a program the Hawks must try to emulate as Chowan enters it’s first full season as a member of NCAA Division-II.

Sadly, however, for Hawks fans this imitation will not be flattery.

The Indians, picked to contend in the South Atlantic Conference this season, &uot;schooled&uot; Chowan in the opening week of the school term. The Hawks learned their program has a ways to go as Chowan scored on its opening series, but then surrendered 55 straight points to suffer a 55-7 loss Saturday at Garrison Stadium. 

A season-opening loss made more disappointing for Chowan since it was the Hawks’ 16th consecutive football loss dating back to 2005, while it was Catawba’s 13th straight win to open their football season.

&uot;They’ve been D-2 a long time,&uot; said the ever-optimistic Atkinson after the game, &uot;and they showed it today.  I thought we saw some good signs, but they had a few more ‘Steve’s and Joe’s’ than we did and that proved fatal for us.&uot; 

As the opening-day crowd of more than 1,900 on a hot but gorgeous day in Murfreesboro settled into their seats the Hawks showed a lot of promise on their first drive.

Catawba kicker Cory Darnell’s opening kick sailed out of bounds at the 14-yardline giving the Hawks great field position to start the game at their own 35.

On the first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Josh Floyd scrambled thru the 4-3 defense for seven quick yards.  

Two plays later Spruce Lee gave the Hawks their first first-down of the season setting up what was to come at the 44-yardline.

Then on just their fourth play of the year, Floyd reared back coolly in the pocket and let fly a bomb to streaking receiver James Fox and the junior wide-out brought the crowd to it’s feet as he beat cornerback Trey Glover down the left side and made a spectacular catch and raced into the end zone untouched for the first touchdown of the day.

Cory Cline’s point-after kick made it 7-0, Chowan, with only a minute into the game and some fans still filing into the stadium.

Unfortunately, those late tailgaters who didn’t make it to their seats in time had missed Chowan’s top highlight of the day.  

On the ensuing kickoff, Catawba junior George Bell cradled it in at the 15, and raced 69 yards down the left side of the field past the Hawks defenders before being ridden down from behind in front of the stunned crowd at the Chowan 16-yardline by freshman defender C’Darris Wright.

Bell would then cap off the drive five plays later with a short one-yard plunge for six points and Darnell’s extra-point kick would knot the game at 7-all.

Chowan began their second drive from the 20-yardline after a touchback, but the drive stalled and the Hawks were forced to punt the ball away. Despite a high kick that never made it into Catawba territory it looked like fate might continue to smile on Chowan’s fortunes: on Chris Caither’s punt Catawba’s Lee Page was hit by Chowan’s Tim Hines and coughed up the football and after a scramble the Hawks’ Joey Burke fell on it, but a motion penalty had been whistled on Chowan before the snap, leaving it all for naught as the play would be negated and Chowan had to re-kick. 

On the second attempt, Page wisely chose to fair-catch the ball and Catawba began their second drive at the Chowan 43.  

Senior quarterback and Williamston native Brad Roach needed only two plays to get the go-ahead score, aided by a pair of penalties whistled on Chowan that helped set up a 39-yard touchdown strike to junior receiver Antwan Strong for six more and the Darnell PAT put the Indians in front for good at 14-7.

Chowan broke mid-field on their next possession, but Catawba’s defensive front began to assert itself and forced the Hawks to kick the ball away. 

Roach completed a pair of tosses on this drive, the last one a 16-yarder to Landon Gouveia on third-and-long that set up the Indians at the Chowan seven. 

Jamel Cuthbertson made a pair of runs around the right side, the last one from four yards out that pushed the lead to 20-7 and with the point-after gave Catawba a 21-7 lead after the first quarter of play.

It was 28-7 in the second quarter when Chowan put together their second-best drive of the day.

Floyd completed one pass to Fox for 40 yards and made another one of his spectacular scrambles for 45 more that took the ball down to the Catawba 29-yardline. 

However, Cline’s 46-yard field goal attempt was blocked and with the ball spotted at the 30, Bell got his second score of the day rambling 70 yards on the play after the blocked kick to give Catawba a 35-7 lead. 

As if things couldn’t go more wrong for Chowan, with under three minutes to play Floyd was later sacked in the end zone and Catawba recovered to make it 42-7 at halftime.

Chowan’s defense shined in the third quarter, including Kjell Cordero muscling through the Catawba line to block a Darnell field-goal attempt and keep the period scoreless midway thru the quarter.

Marcus Brown replaced Floyd at quarterback and reeled off a pair of rushes for better than 10 yards, but the Hawks could never find paydirt. 

Catawba tacked on a pair of meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter and sealed the 55-7 win.

Statistically for the Hawks, Floyd was 10-of-19 for 140 yards and contributed another 59 yards on the ground on 16 carries. 

On the receiving end, Fox only had two catches on the day but one was the touchdown. Freshman Louis Williams caught one pass for 40 yards and Brandon Myrick had a pair of grabs for 16 yards. 

Defensively, Jomo Brown had nine tackles and D’Angelo Goffigon had two of Chowan’s five sacks. 

For Catawba, it was quite a homecoming for Roach as the former Williamston High product completed 9-of-13 passes with one touchdown and 146 yards.  Catawba totaled 443 yards total offense, 203 of it on the ground led by Bell with 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

&uot;I thought our kids played their second team pretty good in the second half,&uot; said Anderson. &uot;We started 10 freshmen today playing in their first college game and as we build this thing we’re going to take some bruises.  

“The effort was there but we’ve got to work on the execution,” he added. “We held them scoreless in the third quarter so we know we can do it, it’s just a question of putting four quarters together.&uot;

&uot;The game speed was much different,&uot; said sophomore linebacker Greg Palmer. &uot;But it doesn’t get much easier. We’ve just got to man-up!&uot;

&uot;We’ve got an experienced team,&uot; said Catawba coach Chip Hester. &uot;Chowan hit us early with the big play and I think it woke us up, but we settled down and just started playing.  Coach Atkinson’s got a young team, but they’re going to be just fine. I see a lot of good things in Chowan’s future.&uot;

In the Hawks’ immediate future is a road game next Saturday against Newberry College. Gametime is set for 1:30 PM at Setzler Field in Newberry, S.C.  

The Indians are ranked 16th among Division-II schools in the American Football Coaches Association pre-season poll.  Next home date for the Hawks will be September 8th at 1 PM at Garrison Stadium against CIAA member, St. Paul’s College.