Hawks to host Virginia State

Published 7:22 pm Friday, September 24, 2010

MURFREESBORO – As the late John Denver once sang, “Hey, it’s good to be back home again.”

Still, third-year Chowan football coach Tim Place cautions the Hawks fans to be patient.

The team will make their home debut and begin play in the newly-renamed North Division of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Saturday against, Virginia State, with a 6 p.m. kick off at James G. Garrison Stadium.

Prior to the game, the University’s Office of Development in conjunction with the Athletic Department will sponsor the first-ever Coach Herb Appenzeller Reunion: a celebration of all sports teams at Chowan from 1951-1956.

Appenzeller, a member of eight sports Halls-of Fame was football coach, athletic director and professor at the school during those six years. The reunion will take place Saturday at Tavern 125 on Main Street in Murfreesboro.

As for the game, Coach Place is glad to have his team back on its home field.

“It’s nice to be back,” he said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “It’s the first home game, but we can’t allow distractions to be an excuse.

“Let’s just compete hard for 60 minutes,” he added, “and see what happens.  It’s not about the opponent, it’s about us getting better because we can’t change what’s happened in the first three games.

Certainly the fans would like to forget the Hawks’ 0-3 start to the season.  They included tough losses to fellow NCAA Division-II opponent, Lenoir-Rhyne, of Conference Carolinas, then to FCS foe, The Citadel, and finally their CIAA opener a week ago against Winston-Salem State, all on the road.

“Lenoir-Rhyne was frustrating,” said Place, “but we showed up the next week at The Citadel and competed and played hard.”

Indeed, the Hawks trailed just 14-0 late in the second quarter at Charleston before the Bulldogs put up 35 unanswered points in the final five minutes of the first half with four of those five touchdowns coming on Chowan turnovers.

“We then went into Winston-Salem,” he added, “and they were coming off wins against two FCS opponents, and we struggled again.  It was just so frustrating.”

Nonetheless, the Hawks had superlatives in all three contests.  Sophomore running back, Elliot Smalls, finished the first game gaining 62 yards on the ground to lead Chowan’s running game.

After 83 rushing yards against The Citadel and 82 more against the Rams, the Raleigh native’s efforts over the first three games have moved him to sixth in the CIAA in rushing with an average of 75.7 yards per game.

“He’s a good back,” said Place, “and he got a lot of those yards on his own. He’s got tremendous talent and he works hard.”

On defense, freshman linebacker Marc McCadden was named CIAA “Rookie of the Week” after turning in a solid effort against Winston-Salem State this past Saturday night.  The Rocky Mount native led the defense with nine tackles, six solo, along with three tackles for a loss, and two sacks; he also forced a fumble.

“We’re going with a lot of both true freshmen and redshirt freshmen (on defense)”, said Place.  “This week we’ve been telling them to just worry about what you have to do; but they have a lot of talent and a lot of potential.”

The Hawks came out of pre-season drills knowing there were some challenges ahead: replacing CIAA “Offensive Player of the Year,” quarterback C.J. Westler, the most prominent.  They also knew they had a revamped defense, a young offensive line, and a new kicker.

“We felt good coming out of August,” said Place, “now we sort of look around and say, ‘What happened?'”.

Defensive back and return specialist Tony Goodman is tenth in the conference in all-purpose return yardage with 362 over three games and his average of just over 27-per on kickoff returns is fifth-best in the league.

“Tony had a few bumps and bruises coming off our off-week,” said Place, “but he ready to go for Winston-Salem.  However, they (WSSU) won the turnover battle so we’ve got to keep moving forward.”

“We’re not really good on changing field position.” he added, “and right now we’re struggling, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

All three first-year quarterbacks, Steven Carroll, Cameron Stover and Ryan Simpson have seen action this year with Stover getting two starts and throwing for Chowan’s only touchdown while Carroll got the other start.

Simpson, only 5-8, came on in relief Saturday in Winston-Salem and had 63 yards passing against the tough Rams defense, but more importantly, had no turnovers.

“All three are trying hard,” said Place, “but everyone knows it’s a struggle.”

Virginia State comes into Garrison Stadium with a 2-1 record, having won their two home contest before dropping a 51-28 decision to FCS opponent and in-state rival, Norfolk State of the MEAC.

In that game, sophomore receiver Corey Young had a career-best 103 receiving yards while fellow sophomore quarterback Jarred Battle, threw for a career-best 200 yards against the Spartans.  Running back Antoine Lyde is currently third in the CIAA in rushing for coach Andrew Faison’s team.

“They’re very good in the running and passing game,” said Place. “Their quarterback is accurate and he’s got the receivers who can go and get it.”

Still, Place is optimistic that Saturday’s game can help make the Hawks’ season for the better.

“We’ve got to compete for 60 minutes, play together, and most of all: come ready to play.

“If we bring the ‘Big-Three’,” he added, “we’ll be okay: Effort, Attitude, and Desire.”

(By Gene Motley, Sports Writer)