CIAA Football: Livingstone 48, Lincoln 44
By David Shaw
SALISBURY – Elvin James had a simple request after Livingstone hung on for its first victory on Saturday.
“Don’t wake me up,” he said with a boyish grin outside Alumni Stadium. “I’m enjoying this too much.”
Who could blame the Blue Bears’ third-year head coach? A dehydrating 48-44 win over Lincoln University in its CIAA opener moved LC to the top of the Southern Division standings, but getting there wasn’t easy.
“It wasn’t pretty at all, but a win’s a win,” quarterback Drew Powell said after passing for 256 yards and four touchdowns. “Especially when you’ve lost your first three. You’ve just got to get it any way you can.”
Livingstone needed two fourth-quarter TD passes from Powell to avoid what would have been an embarrassing defeat. The Blue Bears rode a near-perfect first period, scoring three touchdowns and forcing three Lincoln turnovers, and an eventful second to build a 35-14 lead late in the first half.
“We’ve been working on doing that for a long time,” senior wideout Anthony Holland said. “We wanted to punch them in the mouth early, just to see what it feels like. Our coach (assistant Rodney Hughey) tells us if you let Rocky stay in the game long enough, he’ll knock you out. That almost happened.”
Lincoln (0-4, 0-1 CIAA) – which had been outscored 151-44 in three non-conference losses – ran 111 plays from scrimmage and racked up 547 yards in a losing effort. Livingstone countered with 490 total yards and scored on four of its first five possessions before rallying to regain the lead in the fourth quarter.
“We started out too late,” said Lincoln coach O.J. Abanishe. “But we’ve had to fight every week. Today our quarterback got hurt in the first quarter and missed about three series. Then we had a rash of injuries in the fourth quarter.”
Despite such adversity the Lions went ahead 38-35 on a bizarre scoring play that closed the third quarter. While the scoreboard horn sounded, LU quarterback Douglas Cook III (39-for-70, 463 yards) fired a quick bubble screen sideline pass to receiver Phillip Jean-Juste, who deked a defender and raced 30 yards down the left side for a go-ahead TD. Meanwhile, the rest of Livingstone’s defense stood around and watched the play.
“We have to watch the films to see what happened,” LC nose tackle Dorian Edwards said after recording 11 tackles, two sacks and recovering a first-quarter fumble. “But between these lines everything is live. That’s why football is a four-quarter game.”
Livingstone still trailed by three when it took possession on its own 31-yard line with 11:17 remaining. Powell, a 17-year old freshman who garnered the CIAA’s Rookie of the Week Award three straight weeks, calmly steered the Blue Bears into Lincoln territory. On first down from LU 41 he found Carl James for a 13-yard pickup, then connected with freshman Jalen Hendricks on a 28-yard touchdown, providing a 41-38 edge with 9:36 to play.
After forcing a punt, LC’s next drive was a well-crafted, 10-play, 87-yard march that culminated when Powell rolled out to his left and pitched a 9-yard touchdown pass to James, nourishing the lead to 48-38 – and securing the victory – with 4:33 to go.
“The offense had to come up big and Powell got it done,” Coach James said after the Stone survived a confusing final minute. “We got shaken a little bit, but we didn’t lose our composure. I was pulling my hair, but we got through it.”
Edwards, a 290-pound senior who has suffered enough, kept the win in perspective. “We can celebrate today,” he said. “But starting Monday we’ve got to start concentrate on Virginia Union. We’ve got to keep this train moving.”•NOTES: Livingstone’s Kenneth White (14) and Rufonda Moss (13) combined for 27 tackles and Justin Avery recovered a fumble.
… Holland returned a kickoff 95 yards for an early touchdown, but the play nullified when he pointed to band members before crossing the goal line. “A mental mistake,” he later said. “I’ll never do that again.”