CIAA Football: Fayetteville State 31, Livingstone 8
By David Shaw
All the X’s and O’s in the CIAA alphabet couldn’t save Livingstone’s football season on Saturday.
There was no happy ending at Alumni Stadium, where the Blue Bears rushed for negative-21 yards and lost 31-8 to Fayetteville State, finishing 0-7 in league play and 0-10 overall for the second time in three years.
“It’s been the same pitch all year,” said interim head coach Eric Brown, who replaced Lamonte Massie four losses into the season on Sept. 21. “You’ve got to finish plays. You’ve got finish segments. I’m going to preach that until I’m finished.”
Livingstone said goodbye to four seniors ó including record-setting quarterback Steven Williams ó as well as receiver Kevin Shelf.
“It hit me as I was taking my uniform off,” Williams said after throwing for 153 yards and a touchdown in his final game. “I kind of kept my head down because I didn’t want anyone to see me not being strong. My memories of these past four years are all good memories.”
FSU coach Kenny Phillips was never a big Williams fan. “That quarterback’s been a thorn in our side since he’s been here,” he said. “I feel for him because he’s had three or four different coaches over the years. With that many changes, it’s hard to build continuity.”
The Broncos (7-3, 6-1) have no such problem. Phillips is in his 10th year and has FSU headed to next Saturday’s CIAA championship game in Durham. They spent much of yesterday taking batting practice against last-place LC.
“You always wish there was one more game, one more chance to prove yourself,” said Shelf, a receiver who made 13 catches for the Stone this year. “I wish I was coming back, but I’m not.”
Livingstone fell behind late in the first quarter when FSU drove 45 yards down a short field for a touchdown. Less than a minute later it was 14-0 when a pitchout from Williams to Linwood Jenkins pinballed loose near the end zone. FSU linebacker Marcos Esquivel scooped it up like it was a late-night snack and bulldozed over the goal line.
“He was checking off from the front side to the back side on an option,” said Phillips. “We read it and got pressure, and got ourselves in position to score. That’s something we work on every day in practice.”
Williams said he called an audible but the play failed because his pitch came out too late. “We knew we’d just shot ourselves in the foot,” he said. “But we were not out of the game.”
Teammate Omar McFadden agreed. “We could still see daylight,” the freshman wideout said after making nine receptions for 54 yards. “We still had to fight. Most of us didn’t even let it phase us.”
Fayetteville State continued humming along used a 2-yard TD run by Calvin Harris (92 yards and two touchdowns) and Austin Turner’s 34-yard field goal to build a 24-0 halftime edge.
“Even then,” Williams noted, “we weren’t done. We always preach ‘finish the deal.’ We’ve been down all season, but our thought process is ‘don’t give up.’ That’s what kept us going.”
LC got on the board with 12 seconds remaining in the third period, when Williams scrambled out of the pocket and found Shelf open on a 21-yard crossing pattern.
“I told my quarterback if he ever had to scramble to look for me on the back-side post,” said Shelf. “I knew I was faster than the guy covering me. I knew it would be there.”
In the end, it simply wasn’t for the Blue Bears this autumn. They scored 83 points and had only two rushing touchdowns behind a young-but-promising offensive line. Their defense, spearheaded by Anthony Earles, Devonta Harmon and Alkeem Deloatch, yielded 37.1 points-per-game yet oddly appeared solid.
“It’s all chemistry,” said McFadden. “We’ve just got to fit all the pieces into the right part of the puzzle. When we figure that out, we could be a championship team.”
NOTES: Williams longest completion was a 47-yarder to Chris Peoples, just one play before Shelf’s TD catch. … Deloatch, a junior safety, had 10 tackles and finished the season with 94.