Livingstone notebook: Optimism isn’t fading
By Nick Bowton
Lamonte Massie is the kind of coach who would say his Livingstone football team had a shot at McDonald’s breakfast if it left campus at 10:29 a.m., so he’s still plenty optimistic the Blue Bears can make the CIAA championship game.
Back-to-back losses have left Livingstone at 3-2 in the conference, trailing both Shaw (4-1) and Fayetteville State (4-1) in the Western Division. The Blue Bears’ next two opponents? Shaw and Fayetteville State.
“We had to revamp our goals,” said Massie, whose Blue Bears fell to 3-5 overall with a 28-6 loss to St. Augustine’s on Saturday. “We’re striving for a national championship. With five losses, that’s not going to happen. But the next-best thing is now we’re looking at a conference championship. We want guys to understand a couple things. One, it’s in our hands. Two, it’s in our hands. We have got to win both games outright in order for us to make it to Durham. Then, of course, with us getting there, we’re not going to just show up to be there and hang out and have a good time. That’s not the goal.
“The goal is then to go to whatever the next opportunity is. I don’t think a five-loss team that wins its conference championship is going to get a playoff opportunity, so the next-best thing would be the Pioneer Bowl. We’re always going to be positive.”
Massie’s positive outlook extended to the notion that Livingstone might be over-matched against a Shaw team that leads the CIAA in both total offense and total defense.
Shaw defeated Chowan 68-13 on Saturday, one week after Chowan earned its first-ever CIAA victory, 41-20 against the Blue Bears.
“And?” Massie said. “I’m not trying to say that in a facetious way, but and? We don’t turn the ball over against Chowan, different game. We don’t get a couple of (bad) breaks Saturday, maybe if I motivate them a little bit better, different game this past Saturday. Lincoln is in the game with us for a little bit, and then we pull away. You name it.
“Football is so funny. Shaw is a well-coached team, they have some good athletes, but they are just like any other team in the country ó they can be beat on Saturday.”
FINISH HIM: Massie said Livingstone’s rushing total ó 66 yards against St. Aug’s ó didn’t reflect his team’s inability to run the ball but, rather, its failure to finish blocks.
“We got to the right place, and when we got there we didn’t do anything,” he said. “We pulled the right way, put our hand placement somewhere, but we just didn’t finish. Anything you start in life, you have to finish. Definitely in football, you can’t just start a block and not finish.
“You can be in the right position, but if you don’t finish it with some leg drive, hand placement and just continuation until the play is over, you’re going to have problems.”
STILL SWITCHING: Massie said his quarterback competition will continue as usual this week.
After Bryan Aycoth replaced Steve Williams and threw two touchdown passes in the second half against Chowan two weeks ago, Aycoth started and played about three quarters against St. Aug’s. Williams then played the fourth quarter.
Massie said he’ll decide on a starter for the Shaw game by Thursday.
KICKING COMPARISON: Shaw has made 10 field goals this season, tops in the CIAA. Livingstone, meanwhile, has a good kicker of its own in Dominic Piscitello.
A freshman out of Florida, Piscitello has gone 4 of 5 on field goals and 11 of 14 on extra points. He also ranks fifth in the conference with an average of 35.1 yards per punt. Massie said Piscitello is “about as good as any other kicker in Division II” and noted that Piscitello even completed a pass on a fake punt against Chowan.
Piscitello said the most important thing for Livingstone’s kicking game is consistency. A couple of botched snaps have hurt Livingstone thus far.
“Especially on extra points,” Piscitello said. “The whole line has to block good, the kick has to be good, the hold has to be good.”
GETTING UP TO SPEED: Freshman tailback/slotback Jamel Moore is contributing more for the Blue Bears as the season goes on.
A former redshirt who had decided to not even play at Livingstone and instead focus on academics, Moore changed his mind and tried out for the team again this season ó thanks to some prodding from his mom.
Moore had a game-high six receptions for 48 yards Saturday. Against Chowan a week earlier, he scored on a 2-yard run.
“I was undecided,” Moore said of his football future before this season. “But I love my mom to death. She’s all about what’s best for me.”