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Hawks move up CIAA ladder

MURFREESBORO – And the number is ‘three’.

Chowan picked up their third Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association win since joining the league with a 33-22 Homecoming victory over Johnson C. Smith Saturday night at Garrison Stadium.

They now also have three record breakers as kicker Cory Cline joined teammates quarterback C.J. Westler and receiver Robert Holland as new Hawks’ record-holders.

The win also vaulted the Hawks into a tie for fourth-place in the league’s Western Division and a win this Saturday in the season-finale against St. Augustine’s could move them further up the CIAA ladder and into third-place.

Not bad for a squad picked to be bringing up the rear of the CIAA.

The reward for guiding the team to the ‘W’ for second-year coach Tim Place was a Gatorade bath from his players as time expired.

“I was just telling Mr. (webcast play-by-play announcer Gattis) Hodges that we’ve got to win more,” said a still-drenched, but very elated Place. “That way (Gatorade baths) will become the rule rather than the exception.”

Not that the Hawks didn’t make it interesting, surrendering a touchdown to the Golden Bulls with four minutes left in the game to pull JCSU within eight before getting a late Cline field goal to seal the win.

“We can’t make anything easy around here,” said Place shaking his head, “but that’s what happens with a young team. We didn’t exactly put the proverbial nail in the coffin; but, hey, a win’s a win and you can’t complain.”

Westler continues to write his name across the Chowan record book: hitting 22 of 42 passes for 280 yards. The Hawks also exploited the league’s second-worse rushing defense as they pounded out 157 rushing yards on the turf while sophomore running back J.J. Spates rushed for 81 yards and a score to lead the ground attack.

“Coach just told us to pick it up at halftime.” said Spates. “The ‘O-line’ picked it up and started blocking and when they started moving people, I just started running behind them.”

Senior kicker Cline had a pair of field goals and booted three of four extra points. His total of 10 points made him the all-time leading scorer in Chowan Division-II history with 145 points, eclipsing James Fox’s 136. Cline can add to that mark with one game remaining on the schedule.

“I don’t know how long I’m going to hold onto this (record),” said Cline with a grin. “We’ve got a pretty good group of juniors coming up behind us, but for now I’m happy to have it while I’ve got it.”

While the defense did surrender 337 yards on 58 plays they forced two fumbles and recovered one, and had a key interception by last week’s “CIAA Rookie of the Week”, defensive back Tony Goodman. Goodman’s pick in the end zone midway through the fourth quarter might have been his second of the night, but a tipped pass he had late in the second quarter was hauled in by the Golden Bulls receiver for a score.

“I didn’t have my hands up far enough and It ricocheted off my face mask” said a sheepish Goodman after the game of the near-interception, “but I bounced back and used what coach taught me.

“Never give up,” he added. “This kind of constructive criticism makes me a better athlete, a better student, and a better man.”

Chowan delighted the Homecoming crowd of 2,100 by going 80 yards in eight plays on their second drive of the game, capped by Westler hitting receiver Josh Barrett from 43 yards out for a score. Barrett went up between two Golden Bulls defenders at the nine-yard line in what looked like a certain interception, but wrestled the ball away and then scampered to paydirt. Cline’s extra point made it 7-0.

It was the same score on the Hawks’ second possession of the second quarter. Twice during the 53-yard drive, Place opted to go for it on fourth down and 220-pound junior T.J. Batchelor, normally a defensive lineman, lined up in the fullback slot and produced a first down. Freshman Elliot Smalls finished of the drive by plunging over from the two-yardline to make it 13-0.

Just three plays later, linebacker Jeremy Bednardz-Gray sacked JCSU quarterback Ryan Carter and teammate Greg Palmer recovered the ensuing fumble for Chowan at the Golden Bulls six-yardline. It took just one play — a pass from Westler to Kevin Hodrick — to make the score 20-0 after another Cline kick.

Hodrick finished with eight catches for 123 yards and a score and on Monday was named “CIAA Receiver of the Week”.

Despite the late second quarter touchdown to erase the shutout, Chowan opened the second half leading 20-7. Marvin Payne replaced Carter at quarterback for JCSU and on the Golden Bulls’ second possession drove them 80 yards and a score to pull them within a touchdown at 20-14.

In the fourth quarter Cline capped a 70-yard Chowan drive with a 31-yard field goal. Spates added his touchdown five minutes later to push the Chowan lead to 30-14 with under 10 minutes to play, but no fans were headed for the exits.

Payne engineered the late JCSU score plus a two-point conversion to pull the Golden Bulls to 30-22 before Chowan iced it with another Cline 31-yarder through the uprights for the final score.

“The coaches had us prepared,” said jubilant senior co-captain and defensive lineman Greg Palmer, “and all we had to do tonight was just play. We could break another record with our third win in the CIAA next week, and that sounds real good.”

“We gotta have a great week of practice,” cautioned Place. “We’ve got four seniors (who’ll be) playing their last game that have been great for this program and we need to do everything we can to send them off feeling pretty good about themselves.”

The starting time for Saturday’s game with St. Augustine’s will be at 12:30 p.m. at Garrison Stadium as Chowan celebrates “Hall of Fame Day.”