October 2021, Previous Issues, Sports

Football team off to rough start — COVID takes its toll

The Falcons are looking to turn around their season after four tough losses to open the football season.

With a new coaching staff and many newcomers and facing some strong opponents, the Falcons have suffered some lopsided losses. In Chowan University, for instance, the Falcons faced an unbeaten team averaging 41.67 points and 422.7 yards per game while only allowing opponents 27 points a game

Chowan won 59-12, ruining the Falcons’ Homecoming on Sept. 25.

In Tusculum University, the Falcons went up against a team that returned many players from its South Atlantic Conference title run in the spring. Tusculum handed the Falcons a 58-14 whipping on Sept. 4.

Some of the Falcons’ problems can be traced to the team dealing with COVID, coaches said. COVID benched many of the team’s players including many starters.

“COVID is starting to become the new normal and we have to prepare accordingly — who’s going to be available,” Head Coach David Bowser said. But he said the COVID precautions were necessary: “It was just a procedure of being cautious. I keep and continue to keep our children safe.”

The Falcons also lost 33-9 to Virginia State University in Oct. 2, and 21-7 to Livingstone College on Oct. 9.
But the team has showed promise. Defensive Coordinator Stephen Tate is optimistic about the defense. The team forced four turnovers in the Chowan game, he pointed out. “If we are able to force turnovers and keep their offense on the sidelines we’ll be perfectly fine on the defensive side,” he said.

The team also showed some fight. In the Chowan game, Quarterback D’Ontre Gilliard (So./Holly Hill, SC) found Deandre Proctor (Fr./Elizabeth City, NC) on a short pass, and Proctor outraced Chowan defenders to the end zone for a 92-yard score, thrilling the Homecoming crowd and pulling the Falcons within 14-6.When the Hawks fumbled a punt in the end zone and Joseph Harris (Jr./Jacksonville, FL) fell on the ball for a touchdown, the Falcons were back in the game, trailing 14-12 in the first quarter.

But that was as close as they got. Chowan senior quarterback Bryce Witt, who is averaging 183 total yards, took over and the Hawks dominated the rest of the game. The senior threw for four touchdowns and ran for four more.
The Virginia State University game was closer than the final score indicated. In an away game played in Ettrick, VA, the Falcons hung in with their opponent The was tied 9-9 in the second quarter and Virginia State led only 16-9 in the fourth quarter before scoring the final 17 points.

The Livingstone game saw strong performances from wide receiver Keasean Williams (Fr./Clinton, NC), who caught five passes for 112 yards and a score; and from quarterback Donovan Brewington (R-Fr./Hope Mills, NC), who completed 12 of 22 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown off the bench. The Falcons outscored the Blue Bears in the final three quarters but could not overcome a 21-0 deficit.

In the Tusculum game, Charles Crump (Fr./Monroe, NC) finished with 51 yards on nine carries for a 5.7-per-carry average. Cornerback Cornelius Booker (Fr./Kannapolis, NC), led the defense with seven tackles and three breakups.
Graham Hobbs, the wide receivers coach, believes the team will improve as the season goes on. “They’ll be fine. …They’re just young and need to grow up and mature and that will come with time,” Hobbs said. He added: “We may be one of the youngest teams in the country but you see freshman making plays all across America for big programs and we won’t and we refuse to use youth as a crutch.”

The SAU coaching staff aims to make sure their players aren’t just prepared physically, but also mentally and spiritually. Defensive Ends Coach Antonio Williams keeps in constant communication with lineman and sends them motivational messages.

“I want them to let go and just play free and just trust what the coaches are telling them and play the way they need to be able to win this game,” Williams said.

One positive noteabout the Falcons 0-4 record is that only two losses came in conference play. Despite their record, the goal hasn’t changed for Bowser and the SAU football program. The first-year coach said that the plan is still to improve each game and become CIAA championship contenders.

“I believe this team will come out and play the game with love and to the best of their ability,” Bowser said.

Brenton Chapple