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Hawks fall on senior day

MURFREESBORO – Ten senior football players played their last home game Saturday at Murfreesboro’s James G. Garrison Stadium as Chowan hosted North Greenville University in the Hawks’ final appearance before their home fans for 2007.

While each player: defensive backs Ronnie Fields and Gabe White, center Aaron Rich, quarterbacks Emmanuel Jackson and Josh Floyd, running back Jake Thorne, and linemen Travelle Jones, Chris Linthicum, Jeffrey Williams and Will Harrell all contributed though it was in a losing effort as the Braves fell 56-14 to the Crusaders for their seventh loss of the season.

&uot;Proud of ’em, proud of em,&uot; repeated coach Lorick Atkinson after the game, &uot;(most) of them will graduate on time and they’re good kids. They stuck with us, they believed in what we were doing, and they’ve been through a lot.&uot;

Floyd passed for one score and ran for another accumulating 98 yards on nine carries while Thorne had another 79 yards on the ground as part of the Hawks’ 203 yards rushing attack.  White and Fields closed out their home careers as the team’s leading tacklers through the first eight games with 59 and 54 take-downs, respectively.

The Hawks’ defense flexed their muscle on the first series of the game as North Greenville marched from their own 46 to the Chowan 12-yardline.  But the Crusaders weren’t able to capitalize as running back Rashard Cummings was stopped on fourth down at the three yard line and the ball went over to Chowan. 

With freshman quarterback Josh Price getting his first start of the season the Hawks marched downfield as Thorne ripped off his longest run of the year as he galloped 53 yards to the NGU 29 yardline.  A penalty set the Hawks up inside the red zone at the 19-yardline, but the drive stalled and a Chris Cline 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the left to keep the game scoreless.

North Greenville then put together the first of their nine scoring drives of the day as Crusader quarterback Eric Moeller methodically marched his team downfield, completing 4-of-6 passes including a nine-yard scoring strike to Travis Talbert for the touchdown and a 7-0 NGU lead after the kick.

Chowan’s second drive stalled and, after a Cline punt and Curtis Dewberry return, put the Crusaders on their own 46,  Moeller passed the Crusaders into Hawks territory and five plays later hit Talbert for his second touchdown on a 15-yard completion with less than two minutes to go in the first quarter and a 14-0 lead.

The Crusaders opened the second quarter by getting their running game into high gear as Cummings had five carries on the drive capped off by a five-yard plunge and NGU’s third score of the day to make it 21-0 with under eight minutes to go in the half.

After scoring twice more in the quarter it was 35-0 before the Hawks got on the scoreboard.  Moving from their own 10-yardline, Thorne’s rushing and Floyd’s passing set Chowan up at the 19-yardline thanks to a circus catch by junior receiver James Fox. 

On the next play Floyd connected with Fox as he went over a pair of NGU defenders and hung onto the catch as he back flipped into the left corner of the end-zone to cap off the 74-yard drive.  A Cline PAT made the score, 35-7, going into halftime.

North Greenville put up another score on Cumming’s second rushing touchdown of the day to open the third quarter, and it was 42-7 when Floyd capped a four-play drive with a spectacular run. From the Crusaders’ 38-yardline, Floyd took a keeper, found a nice hole between the tackles and let his feet do the rest as he galloped 38 yards for the score.

A Cline kick made the deficit 28 points at 42-14 and that was as close as the Hawks came as NGU claimed their second win of the season with the win and dropped the Hawks to 1-7.

An additional 91 yards passing gave the Hawks 294 yards of total offense, most of it coming on big-plays by Floyd and Thorne.  Defensively linebacker Kurt Carlson had a game-high 16 tackles with one sack. 

&uot;We knew it was going to be bumpy,&uot; said an upbeat Atkinson afterward, &uot;(Moeller)’s the best quarterback we’ve seen. They (Chowan) played hard and the effort was there, especially with them (NGU) keeping their starters in for almost the whole game.  When they keep pounding us like that we run out of gas.  Congratulations to our kids for fighting, they fought a very tough fight.&uot;

&uot;We’re there,&uot; said sophomore Carlson, &uot;we can compete but it just all comes down to making plays.  He (Moeller) was one of the better offensive players we’ve seen this year.   We’ve just got to keep on moving and good things will come.&uot;

&uot;We left a lot on the field,&uot; said Floyd. &uot;Today was the best blocking we’ve had all season, but we just didn’t execute and that’s been our Achilles Heel all season. With this last three games we’re going to focus on winning and hopefully the execution will get better and that’s all we can work for.  We’ve got a good system, we just have to execute it much better.&uot;

On playing his final game before the home fans, Floyd reflected on his legacy in Blue-and-White. &uot;I hope they’ll remember me as a player who played hard and tried to make plays.  I played for my teammates and I played for the fans and every week I hope I gave them something to look forward to.&uot;

&uot;We’re going to be fine,&uot; said the optimistic Atkinson. &uot;We go to Florida next week and we feel like we’ve got a great chance.  We’re playing these teams to show folks what D2 football is all about.  It (the physical play) shows when you start playing these teams and their depth really shows.  I’m proud of the five games we had here at home, the crowds were great and we just gotta keep fighting.&uot;