Hawks set four-year mark
MURFREESBORO – From ‘Little Big Man’ to ‘Big Man On Campus’ – as doing the little things made everything else come up huge.
Chowan closed out its 2012 football season with a 35-19 drubbing of fellow Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) member Lincoln University on Hall Of Fame Day.
In fact, fans who witnessed the game may have been watching the play of a future Jim Garrison Hall of Famer.
Senior running back Elliot Smalls – all five-foot-seven inches, 185 pounds of him – used the Lincoln defense as his launching pad and blasted his way to a Chowan football single game rushing record with 200 yards on the ground in the win.
Smalls’ accomplishment eclipsed the old record of 197 yards rushing in a game set by Jawarren Cowles in 2002 against Christopher Newport. Smalls averaged over eight yards per carry on 24 carries and also scored a pair of touchdowns.
“This is just an incredible dream for me and my fellow seniors,” said the exhausted Raleigh native and fifth-year senior after the game as he was mobbed by family, friends, coaches and teammates.
“We stuck to it,” he added with a smile. “All the time we thought about leaving, but we believed in the coaches and we believed in ourselves. We put in the sacrifice and it all paid off.”
Junior quarterback Cameron Stover was 15-of-26 in passing for 153 yards. The Michigan native passed for one touchdown to receiver Antjuan Randall and ran in another score from one yard out.
Jermaine Wade accounted for the Hawks’ other score.
“I feel good for the kids,” said a drenched but happy coach Tim Place, who’d been doused with a Gatorade shower by his players as the clock was ticking down.
“We talked this week about the seniors having an opportunity to leave a legacy and that’s what we did,” the coach added. “They had approached me this off-season and we talked about expectations as opposed to the process.
“They came up with some goals and I emphasized to them that if that’s what we were going to do, to make sure we backed it up,” he added.
The Hawks were backing the Lions up almost from the opening snap. Lincoln’s second play after the kickoff was a tackle for a loss by Tevin McGougan and Anthony Joffrion and their third was an interception right into the hands of another fifth-year senior, David Fulton.
“I told the boys that I was going to get three (picks), and take one of them to the house (end zone),” said an emotional Fulton after the game. “I’m just so proud of how we built this thing from the ground up.”
After the interception at the Lincoln 45-yard line Stover completed a 30 yard pass and Smalls then finished the drive with a 15-yard run. An Alex Noboa kick made it 7-0 just a minute-16 into the game.
Lincoln tried to answer back, driving 68 yards after the kickoff to the Chowan two-yard line. But, on second and goal, the Lions fumbled and it was another fifth-year senior, Brandon Harris with the recovery.
Chowan then drove 98 yards for their second score. Highlights of the drive were a 45-yard option pass from Damian Ellis to Wade and a 16-yard run by Smalls right before Stover plunged over for six. The point after made it 14-0, Hawks.
Lincoln got a great kickoff return into Chowan territory and their first play from scrimmage put them in the red zone; but from there, the Hawks’ defense held, stopping the Lions on fourth down at the 20.
Four plays later and Chowan was in the end zone again. This time it was Smalls scampering between the tackles and sprinting 64 yards to paydirt. Another kick and it was 21-0, Chowan.
Pinned deep in their own territory, the Lions again went four-and-out thanks to a tackle-for-loss and T.J. Batchelor’s NCAA-best 11th solo sack. Chowan then got the ball back on the Lincoln five-yard line.
Stover was incomplete on a short pass, but his next toss found Wade on an out route in the corner of the end zone for six more points. Add the Noboa kick and Chowan had posted 28 points in just the game’s first 12 minutes.
By then, Smalls had already surpassed the century mark with 116 rushing yards and barring injury there was a sense that something special was coming.
Lincoln would get their first score early in the second quarter making it 28-7. Chowan turned the ball over on their next two possessions and punted on their next three, so that same score held through halftime.
Chowan got their next score late in the third quarter on a six-play, 73-yard drive that was capped when Stover hit Radall on a six-yard post-pattern. The kick gave the Hawks 35 points on the afternoon.
For the fourth quarter it became ‘record-watch.’ Chowan ran the Wildcat on two series, snapping the ball to the upback, senior Adrian Ferns who picked up 21 yards.
“This was just amazing,” said Ferns afterward. “I’ve seen this team since it was in a pit, but today we brought it out.”
Lincoln collected two more scores: one on offense and another by recovering a Smalls fumble. The miscue seemed to have left Smalls’ shot at the record in doubt at 154 yards on the day.
Instead, in workman-like fashion, on Chowan’s next possession, he rumbled, bumbled and stumbled his was to 41 more yards; even overcoming a late five-yard penalty. His last carry, a four-yard dive up the middle, put him in the record book.
“Finally we turned it around,” said grinning senior lineman Nick Watts, who threw the block that sprung Smalls for his last run. “I couldn’t ask to go out with a greater group of guys and going out making history.”
Saturday’s victory pulled the Hawks to 6-4 overall and 5-2 in CIAA play on the season. It’s the first winning season for the Hawks since 1999 when the then-Chowan Braves posted a 5-4 mark.
2012 is also the most successful in terms of wins and conference finish since the school transitioned to a four year school in 1993.
“Moving forward we’ve got to make sure we don’t go back,” said Place. “It’s a tough conference and you never know what’ll happen; but we found a way to put ourselves in position and with the exception of one game, we played hard in nine games this year.”
Finally, he added, “Young people have to learn from this and we gotta continue to recruit; bringing in high-character individuals who understand what it takes to be successful on and off the field.”