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Livingstone optimistic in spring scrimmage

By David Shaw
Salisbury Post
Lamonte Massie is sticking with the plan.
Now in his second year as Livingstone’s law-and-order head football coach, he remains intent on constructing a homegrown program that players, coaches, students and community members will be proud to call their own. So far he’s saying all the right things.
“We’re building it with freshman and selected transfers,” Massie said Sunday at Alumni Stadium, shortly before the Blue Bears concluded three weeks of spring drills with an intra-squad game. “We didn’t just go out there and find 25 junior college transfers and have an instant football club. We’re recruiting freshman and players who are going to help us be successful on a consistent basis.”
There wasn’t much of that in 2007. Livingstone lost each of its 10 games, averaged little more than 30 yards rushing per game and was outscored 430-83. The rest of the report card is just as embarrassing.
“Yeah, but that was a very young team,” said senior defensive end Ryan Reese, LC’s third-leading tackler a year ago. “Last year we got the learning curve out of the way. Now we know what (Massie) expects from us. He’s a dedicated coach who will do whatever it takes to win. It’s not like he’s just going around saying it. He believes it.”

Massie, who doubles as the school’s athletic director, began by signing off on a $70,000 up-to-date weight room. “Last year we weren’t strong enough,” he said. “We weren’t physical enough. This room going to change us from night to day.”
The weight room, located adjacent to Massie’s office and the players’ locker rooms, opened last October and includes a number of power stations and something called a “hack-squat” machine.
“Our offensive and defensive linemen hate it,” Massie reported. “I make ’em do 300 pounds for speed and competition, four sets of 25. They cannot stand it.”
Otherwise, the new facility is drawing rave ó and insightful ó reviews.
“Everything we need to win is in that weight room,” said Linwood Jenkins, a sophomore receiver/running back who played for Kent State a couple years ago. “As long as we’re willing to pay the price. That’s where we get stronger and quicker and better. Once it carries over to the field, we’ll have a swagger ó because we’ll know we prepared ourselves.”

The coaching staff has done its part. Massie expects 38 returning players and 32 new recruits when pre-season camp opens in August. Among them is former West Rowan quarterback Bryan Aycoth, who spent time at East Carolina. Another is Damon Pifer ó a 6-foot-2, 230-pound quarterback imported from the Air Force Academy who will push incumbent Steven Williams.
Returning linemen Yancy Fields, Kyle Blackwell, Michael Singleton and Charles Palmer have all beefed up, providing further reason for optimism. And Massie anticipates another dozen or so lineman to arrive this summer.
“We have the personnel and also the grace of depth,” Massie said. “We’re looking at 10 or 12 offensive lineman.”

It’s a nice problem to have. For a team that couldn’t run the ball in 2007 ó the Blue Bears had only three rushing touchdowns ó and couldn’t defend it (34 TDs allowed), nothing short of an overhaul is called for. Massie and his staff are on the case ó in more ways than one.
“We’re more accepting of what he’s preaching now,” said Fields, a senior OT out of Salisbury High who goes 6-foot-4 and 304. “After what we went through last year, we’re ready to listen.”
The message is loud-and-clear: pay the price, learn from your mistakes and don’t look back.
“Well,” Massie said, “I may look over my shoulder once in a while. But last year was a wash. When you go every bit of 0-and-10, you don’t want to look back.”
No one does.
“Nobody ever wants to see 0-10 again,” said sophomore quarterback Curtis Edens. “Not the coaches. Not the players. And not the people on campus. Period.”
Livingstone remains a work-in-progress, but here’s the good news: the Blue Bears never stop working.
“We have a plan,” Massie insisted. “And it’s working. We’re getting the right people in here to play the game the right way.”

Contact David Shaw at dshaw@salisburypost.com.

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