Hawks win second straight
MURFREESBORO – Three weeks, three games, three different quarterbacks.
Freshman Ryan Simpson switched from tailback to calling signals under center and led a second half comeback with a pair of touchdowns to Robert Holland as Chowan University won back-to-back football games for the first time since 1999 here Saturday.
The Hawks took the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association football game over Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, 30-27, before a near-capacity crowd of over 1,200 raucous fans at Garrison Stadium on Homecoming night.
“My hat’s off to these kids,” said smiling third-year coach Tim Place after the game. “We struggled at the beginning, but we found a way to finish and that’s critical.”
With the Hawks trailing, 20-16, Simpson – subbing for injured starter Steven Carroll – directed a late third quarter drive for one score and then engineered another at the beginning of the fourth.
The 5’-8” California native even led the fans in cheers after the game.
“We’ve just gotta adjust,” he said catching his breath and accepting congratulations from fans and admirers, “We’ve got to be able to make changes on the run and I think tonight we did a good job of that.
“I played quarterback in high school,” he added, “so it’s not new and I knew I could do it. And it’s not only I, but the line stepped up and the receivers, too. They all helped me out a lot.”
Lincoln’s high-powered offense, which finished with 425 total yards for the game, scored on their second series to take a 7-0 lead. The Lions then drove 75 yards on their next possession to score again and take a 13-0 lead just seven minutes into the game.
Nothing seemed to go right for Chowan as the Hawks picked up just two first downs in their early drives, fumbled twice, but held onto the ball, and Carroll was intercepted late in the quarter.
Then came the second quarter, and things changed.
Dekoria Desamme forced a fumble on a punt and Patrick Charles recovered for Chowan at the Lincoln 15-yardline. Carroll then drove the team to the one-yardline before hitting Sherman Ratliff in the back of the endzone for Chowan’s first score and it was 13-7 after the Derek Embree point-after.
The Hawks had another shot in the red-zone on their next series, set up by a 59-yard Tony Goodman punt return.
“I held it up a little too long,” he said after the game, “and the kicker didn’t get blocked, but I wanted to put us in position to score.”
Despite the great field position, Embee’s field goal attempt from 28 yards out sailed wide left.
But Chowan got renewed life with less than a minute to halftime when another Goodman punt return set them up at the 35. On the drive, with time winding down, Carroll sprinted to the nine-yard line and though two attempts at six points failed, Embree came through this time with a shot through the uprights as time expired to leave the Hawks trailing just 13-10 at the break.
Six minutes into the third quarter Chowan defensive back Anthony Hooks collected off his CIAA-leading fifth interception and fifth pick in three games at the Lincoln 40 and took it into the green-zone at the 25.
A Lincoln penalty later moved the ball to the 16 where Carroll connected with a wide-open Ryan Murphy and, despite the blocked point-after, the Hawks took command, 16-13.
But it was short-lived as Lincoln struck right back as LeQuan Williams connected with a Lions receiver down the seam, who then broke a tackle and scampered 71 yards to the endzone to put Lincoln back in front, 20-16.
Carroll suffered a shoulder injury on the next Chowan series and, with the other quarterback, Cameron Stover, inactive for the game, that’s when Place called on Simpson.
“My adrenaline was definitely going,” said Simpson, “I wasn’t tired and I just wanted to make a play.”
He got his chance quickly as Marcus Johnson intercepted Williams at the Chowan 37. Simpson guided the team across midfield before hitting Elliot Smalls out of the backfield to get to the Lincoln 24. From there he hit Holland in the endzone for the go-ahead score, 23-20.
On the next series, Simpson hit Holland on a quick out, and Holland surprised the Lions defense by passing downfield to Murphy who hauled it in at the 15-yardline as the third quarter expired.
Simpson opened the fourth quarter by rushing to the four-yard line before connecting with Holland again and a 10-point lead, 30-20.
Lincoln (1-4, 0-3, CIAA) made a quarterback switch and Steven Torres directed a scoring drive that got the Lions within three, 30-27; and there were still over 11 minutes to play.
That’s when the Chowan defense stepped up only allowing 31 yards the rest of the way with five incompletions and Johnson collecting his second interception.
“We had a gut-check talk at halftime,” said Johnson, “and we knew we had to bring it, just cover your man and do your job.”
“It was hard,” added Desemme. “but we added that extra push.”
“I thought we had ’em on their heels,” said Lincoln coach O.J. Abinashe, “but we just ran out of time.”
After three at home, Chowan (2-4, 2-1, CIAA) takes to the road for its next three games beginning Saturday in Lawrenceville, Virginia against St. Paul’s College.
(By Gene Motley, Sports Writer)