Hawks come up short
Published 9:44 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009
MURFREESBORO – Almost.
Chowan University’s football team almost got their third win of the year for the first time in the school’s Division-II history; and they almost made it up to the third-place spot in the final regular-season standings for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association; but closeness only counts in horseshoes.
And — to quote Andy Griffith — ‘what it was, was football’.
And what it also was, was a 28-18 win by St. Augustine’s College over the Hawks on a combination of Senior Day and Hall-Of-Fame Day, dashing the Hawks’ (2-8, 2-5,CIAA) hopes of a tie with the Falcons (4-6, 4-3,CIAA) in the Western Division race.
“We wanted to win it for our four seniors,” said second-year coach Tim Place as the team gathered on the Garrison Stadium field together one final time. “And you know what, these seniors laid the groundwork to what we’ve started and they will always be a part of it because they got this thing going in the right direction.”
A victory would have given the Hawks three wins in their last four games. Instead, the 18 points they scored was their lowest offensive output of the season in the face of a Falcons’ defense not ranked in the top-five in any of the league’s defensive statistical categories.
C.J. Westler closed out his college career throwing for 269 yards and a pair of touchdowns; and though his final college pass was to the endzone, it became instead his fourth interception of the afternoon.
“This year we’ve come a long way,” said the Marion, Ohio native. “We wanted these last three wins for the coaching staff, but I think we’ve got things pointed in the right direction.”
Robert Holland was on the receiving end of Westler’s scoring tosses and finished with 147 yards receiving; good enough to be named “CIAA Receiver of the Week” as he surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark on the year with 1,078 yards receiving as a freshman.
Defensively, the Hawks also had their share of takeaways with a fumble recovery and four interceptions: two by Marcus Brown and two by Marcus Johnson, including an 80-yarder Johnson returned for a touchdown that gave Chowan it’s only lead of the game.
“We had a couple of busts,” said Johnson disappointedly, “but at the end of the day it was all about our seniors.”
“This game was for them,” said Brown, nodding toward the seniors who were gathered with family members and friends. “One day it’s going to be my turn and it’s going to be awful hard to replace those guys.”
St. Augustine’s got on the scoreboard first on their opening drive when quarterback Gerald Marshall hit Tyron Laughinghouse on an 80-yard strike just a minute and 15 seconds into the game. The Adison Daniels PAT kick made it 7-0.
Both defenses kept the offenses off their game all afternoon as the rest of the first-half featured six turnovers and three missed field goals, two by the Hawks’ Cory Cline.
Chowan finally broke through when Westler hit Holland in the corner of the end zone with six seconds left ’til halftime, but the missed extra-point made it 7-6, Falcons at the break.
After Westler was intercepted for a third time on the Hawks’ second series of the third quarter, Chowan took their only lead two plays later on Johnson’s ‘pick-six’.
Unfortunately, the Hawks’ try for a two-point conversion came up just short even with 335-pound senior offensive lineman Melvin Rogers lining up in the backfield. Rogers was stopped just short of the goal line leaving the score, 12-7, Chowan.
“I hope I’ve laid the foundation,” said Rogers after the game. “Next year I hope I’m watching these guys in the CIAA Championship game.”
The next series may have defined the game: St. Augustine’s was backed up to their own 45 and facing third-and-20, but Marshall and Laughinghouse teamed up on a 36-yard pass play down the sideline to the Chowan-19.
After a three-yard gain and an incompletion the Falcons again faced third and long, but the Marshall-Laughinghouse tandem worked magic again, this time down to the one-yard line before Marshall plunged over on the next play and the Falcons never lost the lead again.
St. Augustine’s picked up two quick fourth quarter touchdowns before Westler hit Holland again on a 15-yard strike on a rollout. But the 10-point margin, 28-18, was as close as Chowan would ever come again.
“Greg Palmer was the first defensive player named ‘All-CIAA’,” reflected Place. “Cory and C.J. are leaving as record-holders and Melvin Rogers is one of the best linemen ever to come through the program, so they left a heckuva legacy.”
Those guys set the tone for us,” concluded Johnson, “and now we’ve got 272 days between now and next August.”