Football Finishes Year with Blue/White Game

The Hawks’ football team wrapped up their spring practices with their annual Blue/White scrimmage on Sunday afternoon.

The star of the scrimmage was Lavon Chaney, a sophomore running back from Edgewater, Maryland. Chaney churned out 103-yards on 20-carries as the offense managed to accumulate 490-yards on the day. MU will need that sort of contribution from Chaney since last season’s leading rusher, Julian Hayes, was dismissed from the team because of a violation of University and team rules. On the other hand, KB Asante, who rushed for 1,080-yards with eight scores, will return to the Hawks roster. Asante did not play in Sunday’s scrimmage.

“He’s a guy that we knew last fall that he was going to be a dynamic back for us,” head coach Kevin Callahan said of Chaney. “Our objective today was to get him about 20-carries, and that’s right where he was, just to see how far we could push him. I thought he handled it very well, he did a good job with it and he showed that he’s somebody we can rely on in a game-situation.”

Chaney, who played in 12 games during the 2013 season, felt his true potential was finally tapped on during the Sunday’s game.

“I feel like I definitely made the most out of my opportunity,” Chaney said. “Transitioning from the winter, doing all these hard workouts and finally getting out here, I think I was able to really show the coaching staff what I’ve been working towards. Coming in here, even though Julian was gone, I still had to go out every day and earn my position as that second running back.”

One of the main objectives this spring besides replacing Hayes’s production of 1,111-yards and seven touchdowns, was installing a new offense and replacing three starters along the offensive line. The Hawks are faced with the task of finding alternatives for Mike Hunchak, Josh Patterson, and Brandon Maxwell; but do return Reece Johnston and Peter Ireland. While the offensive line is still a work in progress, there is a lot of optimism looking forward with the addition of guys such as Rotchill Medor, a 6’6″/325-pound behemoth from ASA College, a junior college in NY.

“We made steps in the right direction in each of the 15 practices this spring. They are a work in progress that continues to develop,” Callahan said about the progress of the offensive line. “There are seven or eight guys we’ve played with in the first group and I don’t know if there is a clear cut decision on which combination of those guys are the best five. That is something we are going to continue to look at and that question may not be answered until August.”

Romeo Harris, a freshman receiver, led all receivers in the Blue/White game with 96-yards while hauling in three passes. He also added a 70-yard touchdown grab, but a fellow freshman receiver added a long touchdown reception. Matt Choi hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass from Greg DePugh to get the scoring going for the scrimmage.

Neal Sterling, the team’s leading receiver, also contributed with 88-yards on four grabs, including a 44-yarder from junior quarterback Brandon Hill. If there is any lag in learning the new terminology from new offensive coordinator Kevin Morris, it did not show.

“The spring practices have been trending upward from day one. We knew everything wasn’t going to be in and all the terminology mastered at the first practice but the offensive players have done a nice job picking up on it and I like the direction we are heading there,” Callahan said.

With all of this talk about the offense, let’s not forget about the defense. Eric Macik, a senior defensive lineman, had five tackles for the Hawks while also adding 2.5 would be sacks. Zak Irizarry, another senior defensive lineman, also added two sacks for the Hawks’ daunting defense. Darnell Leslie, a standout defensive lineman, made a sensational play by blocking a field goal attempt, fielding it, and returning it 70-yards to pay dirt. The Hawks’ special teams managed to block three field goal attempts.

“You saw Macik, Irizarry, Leslie and O’Hara all come up and make plays today. If you have that type of depth and you can rotate and keep fresh bodies on the field it is going to be a great asset for the defense,” Callahan said of the defensive line.

In the secondary, the Hawks have vacancies at the safety spots and will look to fill those spots when practices begin again in August. Joe Johnson, a sophomore cornerback who had two interceptions in the first intrasquad scrimmage, will be the lone returnee since Tevrin Brandon graduates this spring. Aside from Johnson’s presence, the rest of the secondary is an open competition.

“The safety position is wide open; we are really pressed to see which two guys are going to be the starters this fall. The corner opposite of Joe Johnson is one that is very much up in the air,” Callahan said.

“A lot of it was about competition,” Johnson said to the Asbury Park Press two weeks ago. “We are both really naturally competitive people and at the same time we’re really good friends. So whenever (Brandon) made a play it inspired me to make the same play. And even in the weight room or in extra workouts, him being there when I was struggling a little bit, he told me to just keep my head up and just keep working. And that’s basically what it is, that hard-work ethic.”

“One of the things that Tevrin instilled in all the defensive backs is what it takes to be successful,” Callahan said. “Joe really picked up on that and he’s doing a good job so far this spring.”

Training camp will open on Sunday, Aug. 3 as the Hawks look to prepare for their season opener against Delaware State on Saturday, Aug. 30 at Kessler Field.

The Hawks now look to improve over summer practices before they begin their first season as a full time member of the Big South conference.