Hawks have successful spring

Published 9:13 am Thursday, May 17, 2012

MURFREESBORO – Closing out on a good note.

Chowan University ended its spring football drills with their annual Blue-White scrimmage April 20 under the lights at Garrison Stadium.

While there were several touchdowns – both through the air as well as on the ground – no one, at least on head coach Tim Place’s coaching staff, was interested in any sort of final score.

The best word out of the playbook on that night was: progress.

“I thought it was okay,” said the coach, with a shrug and his usual sense of understatement. “We did some good things, but we can’t feel too good about ourselves because we have to have a great summer to accomplish the things we hope to accomplish.”

One of those accomplishments will be to post more than the three wins they’ve put on the board the past two football seasons (3-7 in 2010 and 2011).

“We can’t be satisfied with three-win seasons anymore no matter how good or bad we thought it was,” he said. “That process is done.  Now we need to start discussing expectations.”

However, last season did end on a high note with two wins in their final three games and their loss being to eventual Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) finalist, Elizabeth City State.

“You never want to be satisfied,” said Place. “The (spring) effort, for the most part, was there with the kids showing up ready to practice for all 15 practices.

“This is our fourth spring together as a staff and this was the best spring we’ve had because our numbers are better, our quality depth is better, and we’ve done a good job from a recruiting perspective with some kids coming in here we’re excited about,” he added.

Place stressed that the core of his 2012 team will be his returning players, which includes 19 seniors.

“We’re improving each day, we’re getting better,” said three-time All-CIAA receiver, rising senior and Newport News native, Robert Holland. “Leadership is going to have to come from both sides of the ball with the offense and the defense stepping up.”

Holland will be counted on big next season. He led the CIAA in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown grabs in 2011 with 69 catches for 943 yards and 13 touchdowns – three more than the school’s single-season record.

Holland already owns the Chowan career receptions and career receiving yards records, and broke the record for career receiving touchdowns.  He also became the school’s all-time leading scorer and broke the single-season record for points scored.

“The offense are our enemies in practice,” said rising senior linebacker Jason Ampy, jokingly. “We’re competing a lot and we’re always talking back-and-forth; but at the end of the day we’re all family and that’s what makes us go harder.”

Ampy won the team’s weight-room “Warlord” award this past season; sharing the honor with teammates lineman Ethan Reedy and running back J.R. Williams.  The Sutherland, Virginia native will be counted on to help anchor a defense that ranked 11th in scoring defense and total defense in 2011.

“The biggest thing we have to do this summer is get bigger, get stronger, get in shape, become a team, and win,” he added.

Also aiding the Hawks’ efforts this season will a couple of new faces hired in February as Associate Head Coaches.

On defense, Ricky Coon comes to Chowan after three seasons at Ellsworth Junior College in Wichita, Kansas.

Prior to Ellsworth, Coon was defensive coordinator and head strength and conditioning coach at Highland Community College in Kansas where his defensive units at HCC finished in the Top-20 20 among junior colleges for two seasons.

Coon also played in the Arena Football League for two years.

Also from the Midwest comes Mike Beagle, former head football coach for five seasons at Highland Community College. He will be Associate Head Coach for offense and work with special teams.

His 28 years of coaching experience include stops as head coach at North Dakota State College of Science where his Wildcats twice won the Graphic Edge Bowl and as the offensive coordinator at Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, Mississippi.

“Dr. White and Mr. Helsel provided us with this opportunity,” said Place. “They (both) bring a lot of new ideas, have an unbelievable amount of knowledge and experience and having them on staff will make our jobs easier and be more effective on and off the field.”

While Place has yet to see his full recruiting class, or walk-ons, some familiar faces from the Roanoke-Chowan area hope to make a mark with the Hawks.

Former Gates County High quarterback Graham Hobbs, who originally enrolled at N.C. State after finishing his prep career in 2010, is fighting for a spot on the team.  He played several series’ in the Blue-White as 2010 starter Cameron Stover was held out of the scrimmage.

Hobbs will be in competition with the incumbent, Stover, a rising junior, who earned the team’s season-ending “Most Improved Offensive Player” award.

After tossing a couple of touchdown passes during the scrimmage and talked afterward about returning to competitive football.

“It felt pretty good after being away from the game for a little while,” said the former Red Barons star. “It’s a little tough getting back into the rhythm of the game, but it’s awesome to be playing again and I appreciate the staff giving me the opportunity.

“I’m going to do whatever the coaching staff asks me to do, but I’m always going to compete and I hope I can bring some leadership,” he added.

Chowan’s 19 football seniors will be Place’s first true senior class.  Despite some heavy hitting, the Hawks had few major spring drills injuries and Place hopes health is another key to the team’s success.

“For the most part we came out okay,” he concluded. “Now is the phase of the summer where we need to continue pushing forward because we’re only as good as today and then only as good as the effort we put forth tomorrow.”