Hawks fall to ODU

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, September 8, 2009

NORFOLK, Va. – It was a game of ‘the foot’ and ‘the footprint’.

In the end, it meant a tough loss for Chowan University football as they fell to Old Dominion, 36-21, here Saturday night.

Chowan was the Monarchs’ first college football opponent in nearly 70 years as the school is bringing back football at the NCAA Division I-AA level for the first time since 1937.

The foot was that of Monarchs’ kicker Drew Hareza – who booted five first-half field goals – and the footprint may just be the positive imprint this could have on the Chowan program.

“I think our young men played hard,” said second-year Chowan coach Tim Place in the post-game press conference. “Unfortunately, we had too many turnovers, but you can’t question our desire and heart to play right to the end.”

The very good news for Place and his team is the whopping 341 yards of offense they racked up (to ODU’s 320), but a pair of lost fumbles and a trio of interceptions were the difference. However, only one of those miscues resulted in an ODU score.

Despite the three picks, pre-season All-CIAA quarterback senior C.J. Westler threw for 322 yards and last week’s CIAA ‘Receiver of the Week’, Kevin Robledo, nearly topped the century mark in yardage as he grabbed 10 catches for 96 yards.

“I’d rather have the win than the stats,” said a disappointed Robledo. “It was rough today, but I wish we’d won.”

Another bright spot for the Hawks was freshman defensive back Tony Goodman who had 178 yards in all-purpose yards, 170 of them on kickoffs including an exciting 49 yarder in the first quarter that set up Chowan’s first touchdown. His only miscue was a fumble he nearly coughed up in the second half.

“I was hungry after missing last week’s game,” said the Jacksonville, Florida native after the game. “Unfortunately there were mistakes, but you gotta’ have that to know what to do to get better. My faith and my team carried me through.”

After all the pre-game festivities, the 19,000 fans witnessing the inaugural sellout at S.B. Ballard Stadium saw Old Dominion get on the board first with the first of Haraza’s seven field goals on the evening, a 39-yarder. Haraza sandwiched another field goal between ODU’s first-ever touchdown, a 50-yard pass from DeMarco Thomas to Marquel Thomas and Chowan trailed, 13-0.

But the Hawks came back.

First on Goodman’s spectacular return across midfield to the ODU 46; then three plays later Westler hit sophomore tight end Eric Benton from nearly Franklin, Va. for Chowan’s first touchdown of the evening on a 37-yard strike to the end-zone that made it 13-6 because the extra-point was missed.

Hareza got his third ODU field goal of the half to push the lead back up to 10 points before Chowan kicker Cory Cline answered with a 35-yarder opening the second quarter that trimmed the lead down to 16-9.

ODU’s next drive culminated with Hareza’s fourth strike between the uprights to make it 19-9 before Chowan went to work again.

Chowan picked up two quick first downs as they began a drive from their own 40-yardline before Westler wowed the tiny, but vocal, contingent of Hawks fans with a 10-yard strike to Robledo that took Chowan to the ODU 37.

After a couple of J.J. Spates runs, Westler again went to the air and found Robledo again on a 20-yard strike that was almost the California native’s third touchdown of the season, but for an ODU saving tackle at the six-yardline.

Spates finished off the drive with a six-yard plunge and, after the Cline kick, Chowan was within four points at 19-15 and an eerie hush fell over the partisan Monarchs crowd.

However, on the ensuing kickoff, Mario Crawford got the crowd back on its feet with a 76-yard return to the Chowan 17 and six rushing plays later the Monarchs had scored again to make it 26-15 after the PAT.

Neither team could move the ball in the final four minutes and it looked like Chowan would enter the locker room down by just nine.

However, Westler — who had been intercepted once already — was picked again with just two seconds left and ODU coach Wes Wilder sent out Hareza again, who banged in his fifth field goal of the half as time expired from 31 yards out to make it 29-15 at halftime.

In the second half, ODU scored again late in the third quarter to push the lead out to 21 points at 36-15. Chowan then mounted a fourth quarter 13-play drive that ended with Westler plunging in from one yard out to make for the 36-21 final.

“You would’ve liked to have seen us correct some of the mistakes from last week,” said Place. “We turned it over six times against Albany State and only five times this week, but once again, that’s what hurt us.”

“Exact same score as last week”, said Westler, shaking his head. “We had a lot of positives, but anytime you lose it’s tough and we’ve just gotta learn from our mistakes.”

“We’ve got Brevard on the road next week,” he added, “and you know they’re going to remember last year (a 23-21 Chowan victory). With a couple more after that we’ve just gotta be ready on play on the road.”