CIAA Football: Fayetteville State 17, Livingstone 7
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Amid all the distractions and confusion surrounding Homecoming 2011 Saturday at Alumni Stadium, Livingstone’s football team made something perfectly clear.
The Blue Bears can, indeed, play competitive football.
“It would have been nice to end it on a positive note,” said nose tackle Michael Haygood, one of eight seniors honored before LC fell 17-7 to Fayetteville State in its home finale. “But for all the guys coming back, this should be a spark for the rest of the year. It was a well-put effort.”
On a day filled with microphone malfunctions, a banished clock operator, incessant marching tunes and the hodge-podge aromas of fried delights, the Blue Bears (1-7, 0-5 CIAA) found reason to soldier on.
“Defensively, we were really focused today,” linebacker Tyheim Pitt said. “Offensively, we’ve still got to get it together. But it’s nothing we can’t fix.”
Even head coach Elvin James found reason to applaud. “This was a step forward,” he said. “Much better than last year. We’ve got to keep our nose to the grindstone and keep pushing. Then we’ll start to see some results.”
FSU (3-5, 3-2) got what it came for by limiting the Blue Bears to eight first downs and 123 total yards. That was enough to overcome 14 penalties and three interceptions by freshman quarterback Chauncey Concepcion.
“I’m happy we won, but we weren’t very sharp,” coach Ken Phillips said after the Broncos improved to 3-1 in October. “Too many penalties. Too many miscues. It wasn’t the prettiest but we’ll take any game we can right now.”
FSU grabbed a 7-0 first-quarter lead when Concepcion orchestrated a 12-play, 76-yard scoring drive to open the game. He completed six of his first seven passes, including a 17-yard TD strike to tight end Xavier Molina-Williams.
LC’s first two drives produced no first downs and a pair of Hillman Tabi punts.
“It was kind of hard to adjust,” freshman LC quarterback Craig Murdock said after passing for 49 yards in his first start. “Everything was happening pretty fast.”
Murdock watched from the sideline as LC’s defense scored the game-tying touchdown with 9:33 remaining in the first half. As FSU lined up for a 31-yard field goal try, senior free safety Devonta Harmon was busy calculating a block attempt.
“I had a real good feeling because I had gotten a finger on their first extra-point,” he noted. “On the field goal I charged in from the left side and got it clean with my right hand. Next thing I knew I was face-down on my stomach and heard everybody going crazy.”
That’s because Pitt — the linebacker who made 11 tackles — fielded the popup in the end zone, broke for the left sideline and returned the block 100 yards for an LC touchdown.
Haygood threw a decisive block on the play.
“It looked like Pitt had an escort all the way down the sideline,” he said. “When I saw the space he had and blocking we had lined up, I knew he was going all the way.”
Fayetteville State responded with a long scoring drive, then added a fourth-quarter field goal to close the scoring. Livingstone advanced to the FSU 7-yard line midway through the final period, but came up empty when Tabi pushed a short field goal attempt wide left.
Murdock — who had passed for only five yards all season before kickoff — appeared more confident in the pocket on LC’s final drive. His final completion was a last-minute, 13-yard sideliner to Carl James.
“He held his own,” said Phillips, now in his 12th year at FSU. “When he got in trouble he knew when to throw it away. They weren’t gonna make a mistake on the offensive side.”
Another bright spot for LC was Harmon, who collected his first two interceptions of the year.
“All season I haven’t done what was expected of me,” he said. “And like everyone here, I could have just given up — but I didn’t. We all played our hearts out today.”
NOTES: FSU finished with 471 total yards held the ball for nearly 39 minutes. … LC junior Dorian Edwards had 11 tackles. … West Rowan graduate Justin Avery, Livingstone’s INT leader with four, missed the game with an injury.