CIAA Football: Livingstone 24, Virginia-Lynchburg 21

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2011

By Dave Shaw
SALISBURY — The CIAA gods don’t have Livingstone’s football team to kick around anymore.
With one swing of kicker Hillman Tabi’s right foot, the Blue Bears said good-bye and good-riddance to their 28-game losing streak Saturday night at Alumni Stadium.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful night,” winning coach Elvin James beamed after LC gained a 24-21 double-overtime victory over winless Virginia-Lynchburg, a school fielding its first team in 57 seasons. “Don’t wake me up. I feel like I’m in some dream, a dream come true.”
Not since an Oct. 4, 2008 win against J.C. Smith had the Blue Bears (1-3) outscored an opponent. In three previous games this season they’d been outpointed 133-28 and appeared to be on another treadmill to nowhere.
“Yeah, but in situations like this, you’ve just got to have faith in yourself and your team,” senior Michael Haygood said. “You’ve got to keep pushing. If we fell down seven times, we were getting back up eight.”
Defensive lineman Dorian Edwards — a three-year veteran who tasted the sweet nectar of victory for the first time — had an illuminating post-game comment.
“A great man named Vince Lombardi once said that if winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?” he offered following a round of bro hugs with jubilant teammates. “We had some ups and downs, but when adversity hits, what are you gonna do? Tonight Livingstone College stood up to the challenge.”
LC secured the win when VUL kicker Shane Woods pushed a 38-yard field goal attempt from the right hash mark wide-left on the game’s final play. Dragons’ coach Willard Bailey thought the officials may have blown the call. “I thought it went right through the middle,” he said after VUL’s fate was sealed with a miss. “I was ready to play on.”
LC linebacker Tyheim Pitt blocked an extra point, made a game-high 13 tackles and had a perfect view of the final play.
“When he kicked it it sure looked like it was good,” Pitt said. “I know our fans made a lot of noise. They may have rattled him a little. I’d say it was probably a foot away from being good.”
And a foot away from adding to the Blue Bears’ frustration. “You want these type of games,” sophomore receiver Anthony Holland said. “They make you understand why you compete so hard.”
Certainly one of Livingstone’s game balls should be awarded to first-year junior Terry Anderson. A Jersey native who was born to run, he returned kickoffs 100 and 91 yards for touchdowns and gave LC a 21-13 lead when he went coast-to-coast to open the second half. Afterward, he spoke of atoning for a lost fumble in last week’s lopsided loss at Bowie State.
“My first game, my first return and I muffed it,” Anderson said. “I felt like I owed the team something. I knew the only way I could help us win this game was to get on board and take it to the crib. I had to keep my fellas going.”
Anderson’s story is quite interesting. A two-time all-American in track who spent the last two years at JUCO Iowa Western, he hadn’t played football since ‘08. “My high school team hadn’t won a game in like five years,” he said. “But in my last game as a senior I scored four touchdowns and won. That day was all about believing we could do it.”
So was this one, especially after VUL (0-4) tied the score 21-21 midway through the third quarter. “We knew it wouldn’t be a cakewalk,” said Bailey, “but we didn’t think it would be this hard. We played an inspired team tonight and in the end, they were a little more disciplined.”
Livingstone squandered a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation after quarterback Jaren Troutman (72 yards rushing, 71 passing) navigated the Blue Bears from their own 20-yard line to the Lynchburg 22. The drive stalled with 5.8 seconds remaining when Tabi’s 30-yard field goal attempt drifted wide-right.
“I could the feel the pressure,” the freshman from Washington, DC revealed. “Then I hit the ball with my toe. I didn’t hit it right.”
VUL’s first OT possessionwas pure drama. A missed field goal was wiped out by an LC roughing-the-kicker penalty. Moments later West Rowan graduate Justin Avery made his fourth interception of the season to extinguish the rally. Livingstone took over and reached the 8-yard line before another penalty and a nearly fatal fumble almost cost it the game. Only a touchdown-saving tackle by running back Terrill Gourdine (103 yards rushing) and tight end Miles Harris brought down Lynchburg’s Marquevious Myers a few strides from the end zone and forced a second overtime series.
This time Tabi stroked a no-doubt-about-it 26-yard field goal that ended Livingstone’s three-year quest for victory.
“The losing streak is over,” declared Holland, Tabi’s holder on the game-winning kick. “You cou’dn’t hide from it — around the CIAA, the community, everywhere you went. Now the monkey’s off our back. I love how this night started and I love how it ended.”