Livingstone goes airborne
By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — Anthony Holland is jumping at the bit to rid Livingstone of its lingering pain from its 0-11 season in 2010.
The sense of urgency was transparent on the first play of 7-on-7 drills on Saturday at Livingstone’s black and blue spring football game. Holland, a sophomore receiver, snatched a rocket over the middle from the brisk, cool air and proceeded to the end zone 35 yards ahead.
It wasn’t the dawn of a new era at Alumni Stadium, but Livingstone can hope it was a sign of things to come.
“The Blue Bears are going to change,” was Holland’s declaration after the game. “It ain’t no more 0-10, 0-11. We’re going to change the program. You’ll see that first game.”
As the top returning receiver, Holland tried to energize a struggling offense that was outscored 494-48 last season.
“I like to not just talk junk to the other team, but uplift my teammates,” Holland said. “If you can get inside another player’s head, then you’ve won half the battle.”
The scrimmage format was composed of a 25-minute 7-on-7 session followed by an hour of 11-on-11.
The touchdown pass came from returnee Levon Stanley who led the team in passing yards with 406 last year. Stanley and St. Paul’s transfer Jaren Troutman got the bulk of snaps from behind center. Troutman’s on-field highlights included a John Elway-like leap into the end zone while absorbing the wrath of pair of linebackers, a play better suited for CIAA title game than a scrimmage in April. Troutman leapt arms-first over the goal line and came down with the ball across the pylon to ignite the offensive sideline.
“I just wanted to go airborne,” Troutman said. “I wanted to sell out for my teammates. I wanted them to know that when I’m out here, I’m going to give it all I got.”
Coach Elvin James went into the game searching for answers at skill positions. With months until the regular season, questions remained after game’s end especially behind center.
“We wanted to solidify a quarterback, running back and wide receivers,” James said. “Receiver-wise, we look pretty positive. [0x11]With quarterback, we still haven’t solidified who would take that position.”
Returnee Levon Stanley, who led the team with 406 yards passing as a freshman last year, threw the first touchdown pass to Holland and found Ahmad Arthur on an out route two plays later. In the program, Stanley was listed as the starter going into Saturday.
“It’s not in stone,” said James of the quarterback situation. “I’ll still need to see more execution from my quarterback running the offense.”
The defense overwhelmed the offense at times, at most when Justin Johnson forced a fumble on a sack of Troutman and Joseph Watson scooped the ball and ran 70 yards for a touchdown. They weren’t the only defenders causing hijinks. Defensive back Malcolm Childress also starred with a forced fumble shortly after breaking up a pass. Andrew West grabbed an interception on a tipped pass.
“I wanted to see them go hard to the ball and make things happen,” James stated.
West Rowan graduate Dewayne Smith caught a 30-yard pass over the middle from Troutman one play before Troutman helicoptered it into the end zone, earning points with his superiors.
“I like that aggressiveness about him” James said. “He’s strong. He’s quick. The thing about him is we want to get him more focused on the offense.”
“I feel like every play that I run, I have to make the most of it,” Troutman said. “I think I did pretty decent with the plays that were given today. I hope it propels me from No. 2 to No. 1.”
Smith spent time as kick returner and will see significant time at receiver this year. Ewin Holyfield, the son of famous boxer Evander Holyfield, was penciled in to start at wideout before tearing his meniscus, which will require surgery.
Terrill Gourdine and Tevin Mishoe are the top guns at running back with Salisbury grad Dario Hamilton also angling for carries. Each got rushes on Saturday.
“I liked Mishoe and I like Gourdine,” James said. “We try to give everybody a look and a fair evaluation so we can find the right guy.”
Livingstone will hope to snap a 25-game losing streak. The Blue Bears got their last win on Oct. 4, 2008 against Johnson C. Smith.
“Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to take a step forward,” James said. “We’re excited and we’re looking forward to doing some great things.”
Livingstone kicks off its season Sept. 1 at Chowan.