Hawks’ gridiron team picked ninth

Published 8:07 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

ETTRICK, VA. – Triskaidekaphobia.

The word had more than a few people dusting off the ol’ Merriam-Webster dictionaries Thursday at Virginia State University; especially on how it relates to Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association football.

“It means a fear of the number-13,’ explained CIAA Assistant Commissioner Jeffrey McLeod,at the press conference and luncheon to kick off the league’s new college football season.

That’s a reference to the number of teams in the conference with the addition in 2010 of Winston-Salem State and Lincoln University of Pennsylvania.

“Opponents better get ready,” said McLeod, “because we’re coming.”

Thirteen also marks the number of games the eventual league champion will have to play to reach the quarter-finals of the NCAA Division-II national football championship; unchartered territory where no CIAA team has ever been before.

But before we get that far there’s still the more than 100 conference games to be played among the league members. One of which includes the first-ever televised football game for Chowan University.

The Hawks’ 1 p.m. game on October 2 with Virginia Union at Murfreesboro’s James G. Garrison Stadium will be televised by Urban Sports and Entertainment Group and shown nationwide on cable and via satellite.

“It’s great,” said Hawks athletic director Dennis Helsel. “To be in the league for just three years and open the TV season for the CIAA is a great opportunity and great marketing for Chowan University. They wouldn’t ask us to play (the game) if we weren’t doing the right thing.”

That’s a credit to coach (Tim) Place, the players, the recruits, and his coaching staff,” he added. “Now we just have to quit talking, lace ’em up and go out there and beat somebody.”

Plenty of media members think the Hawks could beat a few “sombodies” this year. After two years of being picked to finish last in a 10-team race, Chowan has been tabbed in the pre-season poll to finish ninth in the league standings this season.

“Makes me feel better than I did at my first media day,” chuckled the third-year Chowan field boss Place, “but it’s not like we’re in the top half just yet.

“In my humble opinion the program’s headed in the right direction in other people’s eyes and that’s important,” he added. “As opposed to being competitive and leaving it all on the field we’ve now got to go out and win those games. If we work hard and continue to stay focused, we might have a chance.”

Place says he doesn’t feel any special pressure to be picked for the conference’s first televised game.

“I think it’ll be great and it’ll be great for the community” he said. “Hopefully people will understand the importance of it and come out and support not just football, but Chowan and the Hertford County region.

“The whole area will have an opportunity to tell people this is what we’re about,” he added, “and that we’ve got a good thing going here.”

2010 will also mark a move by Chowan from the CIAA’s previous East-West divisional format of five teams apiece to North & South Divisions; thus aligning the Hawks with their closest natural rival, the Vikings of Elizabeth City State, as well as new member, Lincoln.

The Lions, an original CIAA member in 1912 and now returning after completing a three-year transition from NCAA Division-III to Division-II, were picked for the cellar. They will also be Chowan’s Homecoming Day opponent in a 6 p.m. contest at Garrison on October 9.

“Naturally we want to get out of the basement,” said Lions coach O.J. Abanishe. “You always want your young men to play for the love of the game but it always means a little bit more when they can play for a conference championship.

“We didn’t expect to be picked last,” he said with a smile, “especially with the way we competed against some of these teams last year; so that’s created not just a chip, but a boulder on our shoulders.”

Meanwhile, Chowan will be the Homecoming Day opponent at Elizabeth City’s Roebuck Stadium on October 30 against the ECSU Vikings.

Coach Waverly Tillar’s team went down the final game of last year and a three-way tie before being edged out for the divisional title on a coin toss to Bowie State and finishing 8-4. They did represent the CIAA in the Pioneer Bowl game against the SIAC in Columbia, South Carolina but lost to Tuskegee, 21-7.

“We’re using that as a motivating tool,” said Tillar, who’s team also escaped with a 35-30 Down East Viking Classic win in Rocky Mount over Chowan. “We want to come back this year and take care of business.

“We like Chowan being in the division now,” he added, “and we looked at that when they first came into the league. It’s great on travel for the schools and for the fans.”

“Besides,” he said with a wink, “it adds to the competition here in the (North) division as to who comes out on top.”