Hawks prepare for 2011 gridiron campaign

Published 4:56 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2011

MURFREESBORO – It may not be the game where everybody wins, but it is a game with no losers.

Chowan University wrapped up its spring football workouts with their annual Blue-White inter-squad scrimmage at Garrison Stadium on April 15.

And while the offense and the defense put together some great moments, it was the Hawks defense that was declared the winner.

Head coach Tim Place concluded his third pre-season and said he was looking for three areas of improvement: each individual player improving, each side of the ball, offense, defense and kicking game improving, and ultimately, the team improving as a whole.

With the defense decked out in white jerseys and the offense in royal blue, the respective squads took to the field under the watchful eye from the President’s Box of former coach Jim Garrison.

The 15th was also the day of the sixth annual Jim Garrison Golf Tournament held at Beechwood Country Club in Ahoskie.

“Coach Garrison means everything (to Chowan football),” said Place. “He’s a big part of what we do daily and we are honored to be around someone like that.”

As Garrison and some of his former players gazed on from above, neither side on the field could find the end zone on the first four possessions of the mock-game played that chilly evening.

However, on the fifth try, sophomore running back and New Bern native J.R. Williams was able to break off a couple of long runs on his defensive mates and set up the offense inside the red zone.

That’s where sophomore quarterback Cameron Stover connected with junior All-CIAA receiver Robert Holland for the night’s first score on a 19-yard post route.

Stover split time under center with fellow sophomore signal-caller Ryan Simpson who followed up the first scoring effort with a drive of his own that found the endzone.

Stover came right back to put another scoring strike to Holland on the board and give the offense a trio of scores on three straight possessions.

That’s when the defense tightened and held the “O” off the board for the rest of the game, which was three more possessions.

A roar went up from midfield where the players were all huddled together as Place declared the “D” the winner of the night.

“We did some good things at times,” said Place afterward, “and some bad things that showed we’re undisciplined with the penalties. You can’t play undisciplined football and expect to win.

“Now we’ve got to have a great summer,” he added, “and be ready when August 8 rolls around and what we do between now and then will determine how successful we are next season.”

The Hawks open the year with a Thursday night home game at Garrison against Livingstone College at 6 p.m. on September 1 before hitting the road for four of their next five games, including a September 10 matchup at UNC-Pembroke.

The Rams of Winston-Salem State University visit Murfreesboro for the first time ever on Saturday, September 17, for another night contest. Then the Hawks open CIAA play September 24 with back-to-back games on the road against Virginia State followed by Virginia Union on October 1.

Chowan hits the road again on October 8 when they travel to Lincoln University of Pennsylvania for a matchup with the Lions before beginning a three-game home-stand on October 15, as the Hawks host Saint Paul’s for Homecoming, and then Shaw on October 22.

The Hawks’ final home game of the 2011 season will be October 29 against Elizabeth City State University at 12 noon in the school’s annual Hall-of Fame game and they close the season on the road at Bowie State on November 5 in Bowie, MD.

“We’re done competing against each other,” added Place.  “Livingstone starts right now.”

Another factor that led to a lot of enthusiasm on the sidelines that night was that the Hawks had 80-plus players dressed out for the game.

“It helps when your numbers are good,” he said. “You can play fast and play loose, but we still have many miles to walk. We’ve also got to finish strong academically, keep our backsides out of trouble and have great summers.

“We were rolling a lot of people in tonight on both sides of the ball,” Place added. “A lot of people had a chance to show us what they could do this spring, so that’s always a good thing and a nice position to be in.”

Several players – maybe as many as 40 – will be around this summer and that has the coaches pleased.

“Coach Nesbit and Coach Henderson did a great job in the weight room (this off-season),” said Place. “Our kids’re buying in to what we have to do to be successful.

“If we have the line we anticipate having,” he added, “we should be okay. It starts up-front on both sides of the ball and playing hard and playing fast is critical. Two out of three phases of the game have to win each night: offense, defense and special teams for us to have a chance.

“If three out of three are,” he added with a smile, “then we’re really going to be good.”