Hawks participate in historic game
ELIZABETH CITY – Chowan didn’t exactly come into their first-ever Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference football game against Elizabeth City State with visions of David slaying Goliath, but for a while there Saturday night at Roebuck Stadium it did seem possible.
Then the experience factor took over.
When the final horn sounded following a 55-3 ECSU victory, the Vikings – who last season played for the CIAA championship – proved they are once again going to be a power in the league, and the Hawks know that they have much work still to be done.
Chowan made history in becoming the first non-Historically Black College & University to play in the CIAA, the oldest HBCU to play in the league, and they did it starting with a fumble recovery on the opening kickoff, which they quickly converted into a score and an early lead less than two-and-a-half minutes into the contest.
Hawks freshman linebacker Anthony Lyons put a crunching hit on Viking kick-returner Reggie Smith forcing the fumble at the ECSU 25-yard line, and as the ball popped loose, Lyons rolled over on it for the recovery.
Two plays later, a nine-yard pass from Chowan quarterback C.J. Westler to Eddie Coard had the Hawks in the red-zone on their first possession, and with a couple of running plays Chowan was inside the Vikings’ 15-yardline. However, the ECSU defense stiffened.
Chowan made one more run picking up a couple of more yards, but after three failed pass attempts into the end zone, they had to settle for a 30-yard Cory Cline field goal and a 3-0 lead.
ECSU struck back quickly as the Vikings marched 62-yards in five plays to take the lead they would never relinquish. Viking quarterback Curtis Rich completed a 38-yard strike to Dexter Manley, setting the Red-&-Blue up at the eight-yard line where Dennis Hamilton followed his blockers on a sweep to the right and had Elizabeth City State on the board with a three-point lead at 6-3.
On the next series it looked as if Chowan was marching to re-take the lead. Westler guided the Hawks 44 yards from their own 26-yard line to the ECSU 30 in eight plays, but on the ninth play Brandon Myrick ran between the tackles and appeared to be down by contact after a hit and the ball came loose with ECSU falling on it. But the play was ruled a fumble, the first of two Chowan would lose on the night, and the Hawks were denied.
Two series’ later Chowan got another gift courtesy of ECSU’s second fumble, putting the ball on the Vikings’ 36. Westler appeared to be sacked on the first play, but an ECSU penalty instead placed the ball on the 30. James Fox was then dropped for a loss and two incompletions later coach Tim Place made his first fourth-down call of the year. Westler found Spruce Lee open on a toss-sweep, but Lee couldn’t hold onto the ball and again, Chowan came up empty and the first quarter ended with the Hawks only down by 3.
On their second series of the second quarter, pinned inside their own 10-yard line after a punt, Westler went for Fox on a sideline route, but instead the Vikings’ Jeff Lynn stepped in front of him for an interception at the 13 and cruised untouched into the end zone for another Vikings’ score and a 12-3 lead. On the night the Vikings had four interceptions.
Chowan could do no better on its next drive just a minute later, as Westler was picked for the second time, setting up the Vikings at their own 38. It took Rich just one play to launch a 62-yard strike to Manley for their second connection of the night and with the conversion the Vikings lead 20-3, having scored 14 points in just over a minute.
But Chowan’s defense kept the Hawks in it for the rest of the half, and it ended with Chowan trailing by 17 at the mid-break, but still very much in the game.
Elizabeth City State wasted little time getting a quick score on their first possession of the third quarter for a 27-3 lead.
Chowan started their next possession on their own 20 and put together their best drive of the night. Midway through the drive, Westler appeared trapped for a sack, but scrambled away from defenders down the left sideline picking up blockers and ending very winded at the ECSU 20.
Following a timeout, Myrick then found a seam in the middle and took it down to the six-yard line, setting the Hawks up for chance at a score. On what appeared to be a busted play right after a loss of yardage, Westler made it to the two-yardline on a keeper and the Hawks had a pair of chances at paydirt.
Instead, the Hawks lost a yard on the next play, and on the night’s second 4th-down call, Chowan attempted a run up the middle but were stopped and thrown for a two yard loss as another scoring attempt slipped away.
For the rest of the night, Elizabeth City scored four more times and converted three more Chowan turnovers into garbage touchdowns as the Hawks never again found the redzone in the 55-3 final.
Despite the score, there were a few Hawks’ superlatives: James Fox nearly topped the century mark in receiving with 96 yards on seven catches and though he made his best impression with his scrambling ability, Westler finished with 181 passing yards on 17 attempts and was the team’s leading rusher with 81 yards.
Defensively, Marcus Johnson and Jaron Thorpe had six tackles each and five more players had more than two each. In the team-stats, the Vikings only outrushed Chowan by 5 yards, 147-142; and the Hawks were pretty disciplined in their home opener, being flagged just three times for 20 yards in penalties.
Chowan falls to 0-1 and are back on the road in CIAA territory next Saturday with a 1:30 p.m. kickoff in Lawrenceville, Virginia at St. Paul’s College. hey’ll play their home opener in Murfreesboro’s Garrison Stadium September 13 against Brevard.