Homecoming Hullabaloo

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, October 24, 2017

MURFREESBORO – It’d been two years since Chowan University had beaten rival Elizabeth City State in football, and for this team, 24 months was a long time to wait.

The Hawks picked up their first win in Central Intercollegiate (CIAA) Northern Division play thanks to a 28-18 win over the Vikings here on Homecoming Saturday at Garrison Stadium. It was Chowan’s second-ever win over ECSU.

Chowan rose to 3-5 overall and 3-2 in the CIAA while Elizabeth City State fell to 4-4, 2-3 in conference.

“It’s never easy, and it’s always an emotional game,” said Chowan head coach Tim Place. “So, whenever you beat them it’s always nice.”

The game had a ‘nice’ start for Chowan as the Hawks got the opening kickoff and on just their second play from scrimmage, Tyrell Freeman rumbled 74 yards to score the game’s first score. It was the second longest scoring run in the school’s Division-II history and after the Connor Killeen PAT, it was 7-0, Chowan.

The Vikings answered with a first-possession score of their own, but thanks to the Chowan defense, it wasn’t for six points. Instead, a 31-yard Josh Laverty field goal got ECSU on the scoreboard, but they trailed 7-3.

On the ensuing kick-off, Chowan got the ball at their own 30 and moved 70 yards in 11 plays – mostly on the arm of freshman quarterback Bryce Witt, who distributed the ball among three receivers. In addition to Freeman’s two runs, the last of which got the Hawks into the red zone, freshman Kourtney Johnson, on just his second carry ever in a game, rambled 12 yards to the ECSU 11-yard line before Witt found Torry Baker over the middle for the first of what would be a three-touchdown day for the speedster.

Chowan’s Torry Baker scores the first of his three touchdowns on the day, tying him for third-most touchdown catches in a game in the Chowan record book. The Hawks made it a happy Homecoming with the 28-18 win over rival Elizabeth City State. | William Anthony Photography

“It felt good to get out of my slump; three games where I wasn’t playing well,” Baker said. “I tell him (Witt) to keep his head up and that I’m his security blanket if he ever needs one. This is the best feeling in the world to beat them with a rookie quarterback.”

After another three-and-out for the Vikings, Chowan looked like the big-play would stick another nail in the visitors, but Freeman coughed up the ball after a six-yard run, the game’s first turnover.

But Elizabeth City could never capitalize because Chowan’s defense stood tall after a fourth down stop at the Chowan 16.

The Hawks got their third score – again on the big play – as on the opening drive of the second quarter, Witt found a streaking Baker down the left side, good for 72 yards and a touchdown that made it 21-3.

Elizabeth City made another attempt to keep a drive alive on their next possession, but on fourth down near midfield, Ahmond Gomez stepped in front of a Daquan Neal offering and the pick turned it back over to the Hawks. Chowan couldn’t capitalize, but got another takeaway when David Harden recovered a Viking fumble at the Chowan 34-yard-line.   Neither team scored the rest of the half and the Hawks went to the locker-room ahead, 21-3.

Neal changed back to his familiar number-3 jersey at start the second half and it must have been the fabric as he engineered a 13-play 82-yard drive to open the third quarter and rewarded the Vikings with their first touchdown that cut the Hawks’ lead to 21-10.

If Chowan fans were clamoring for the big-play again, they got it on the Hawks’ next drive as, two plays in again, Witt found Baker on a 58-yard crossing pattern to the left side for another six points. Killeen’s kick made it 28-10. That same score held through the end of the quarter.

To open the fourth quarter, Reggie Lee sacked Neal at the ECSU 25, giving the ball back to Chowan. But Witt – looking to make that record-breaking fourth TD strike to Baker – was picked off at the three-yard line, killing the threat.

Elizabeth City then went 97 yards to score and a successful two-point conversion made it a 10-point game, 28-18.

No one scored again, but the Vikings were driving with less than 75 seconds left when Harden pressured Neal and the quarterback fumbled. Antwuan Hicks recovered and the Hawks ran out the clock.

“Our coaches prepared us, because we knew they were just going to run most of the night, so we knew we had to stuff it upfront,” said linebacker Dakota Baer, who finished with 10 tackles.

Witt posted his second career 300-yard game with 313 yards passing and three touchdown tosses, all to Baker.

“I enjoy playing on this field, and the Homecoming atmosphere made it that much sweeter,” said Witt. “I hope I can keep it up, I feel like I got my mojo back now.”

“My family, my friends, everybody was here, man,” said defensive back Randy Allen. “I just wanted to show out because I don’t have many opportunities left.”

Chowan hosts nationally-ranked Virginia State next Saturday, Oct. 28 in the Hall of Fame Day game and final home game of the season.  Kick-off will be at 1p.m.