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Offensive woes hurt Vikings against Hawks

Chowan 44 ECSU 20

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Elizabeth City State (ECSU) wide receiver Jaquarious Bellamy (10) fumbles during the football game against Chowan, Saturday, October 20, 2018 at Roebuck Stadium. Chowan's Marquise Baldwin (21) recovered the fumble.

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By David Gough
Sports writer

Sunday, October 21, 2018

In the midst of a four-game losing streak, special teams play was generally the aspect of the game that haunted Elizabeth City State football the most.

In Saturday’s home game against CIAA Northern Division-rival Chowan, however, early special teams success happened to be the main reason the Vikings had a fighting chance in the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t enough though as the Hawks defeated ECSU 44-20, extending the Vikings’ losing streak to five games. It was also the first win for Chowan at Roebuck Stadium.

“Started off good,” ECSU coach Anthony Jones said. “Just couldn’t finish and couldn’t compete up front. We have to be better there.”

After the Viking defense forced Chowan (3-4, 2-1 CIAA) to punt the ball for the second time in as many possessions to open the game, junior Dajuan Greene reeled in the ball, made a couple moves, and was on his way for an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown.

ECSU (1-5, 0-4 CIAA) took the early 7-0 lead with 8:10 to go in the first quarter as its defense then forced another punt on the following drive.

Later, in the beginning minute of the second quarter, the Hawks’ attempt of a 32-yard field goal went awry as ECSU junior Shawn Bridges ended up returning the ball for a touchdown after sophomore Greg Williams blocked the kick.

“Special teams play has been kind of our Achilles’ heel the last four weeks, but this week it helped us significantly,”Jones said.

The return made it 14-2 Vikings at the time. Chowan’s only two points came from ECSU’s only special teams miscue of the day, when the ball was snapped over punter Jason Monastra’s head and into the end zone for a safety.

Those two special teams touchdowns were dearly needed for the Vikings to be within striking distance by halftime, as the offense was never able to muster up a productive drive in the first half.

ECSU achieved just one first down in the first 30 minutes, as it went back to the locker room with four three-and-outs, a lost fumble and a turnover on downs.

The battle at the line of scrimmage just didn’t go the Vikings’ way.

“Offensively, we couldn’t get anything going and left our defense out there too long,” Jones said. “We lost the battle up front. Their quarterback had a lot of time to throw, ours didn’t. They had room to run, we didn’t. We have to get better in that area.”

It was much of the same theme in the second half for ECSU as Chowan’s offense started to get in rhythm before halftime came and dominated the rest of the way.

With the 14-2 deficit, the Hawks answered with an 11-play, 65-yard drive ending in a one-yard score from running back Brandon Hughes.

Their next possession was much shorter as Paul Gooden scored on a 39-yard throw from quarterback Bryce Witt on the third play of the drive. Chowan grabbed a 16-14 lead, its first lead of the game and the Hawks kept their foot on the gas in the second half.

“(The game) didn’t start off too well, but our young men continue to compete and continue to fight through the adversity.” Chowan coach Tim Place. “You always have to fight through any adversity you face and we did a decent job with that today.”

Running back Tyrell Freeman, who finished with a game-high 157 yards on 26 carries, ran for short touchdowns in the Hawks’ first two second-half possessions to increase their lead to 30-14 ten minutes into the third quarter.

Hughes, who came in for Freeman after a minor injury in the first half, ran for 51 yards on the day as the sophomore quarterback Witt rushed for 52. Chowan finished with 265 total rushing yards in its win.

Witt also threw for 285 passing yards, adding his second touchdown throw late in the game to Brian Hopper from 17 yards out. The touchdown cemented the 44-20 final score.

The lone-offensive touchdown for ECSU came on its undoubtedly best drive of the game. Down 30-14 with 11 minutes remaining in the fourth, the Vikings went 85 yards on just five plays.

Freshman quarterback Kedrick Patterson finished the drive hitting freshman Zion Riddick for a 14-yard touchdown, but the two-point conversion fell incomplete keeping the Hawks up by two possessions before they pulled away in the end.

Patterson finished 9-of-16 for 114 yards and the Chowan defense sacked him seven times.

“We didn’t quit,” Jones said. “We kept fighting and that’s something to build upon. We’re still growing and we’re going to continue to grow.”

ECSU hosts first-place Virginia Union next week. It is not only homecoming, but also the last home game of the season for the Vikings.

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