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Livingstone Blue Bears come out of hibernation

SALISBURY ­­— They’re still talking about the standard at Livingstone’s Alumni Stadium, only now it’s a higher standard.

Because the men’s basketball team swept to the CIAA championship last month, the 2014 football team has set the bar on its top notch.

“It puts the pressure on us,” said all-conference linebacker Ken White, “to rise to the occasion. But that’s what we’re after.”

LC took its first step toward that end Saturday afternoon when it staged its annual Blue-White spring game wearing just shoulder pads and helmets. Second-year coach Daryl Williams put his team through a spirited 55-play scrimmage as the Blue Bears completed three weeks of spring practice.

“I’ve got a real good feeling about this,” Williams said. “You’re gonna hear me say that throughout this whole process. The standard is still the standard, but the level is raised because of what the basketball team did. Because of them, we expect more from ourselves.”

Yesterday’s sun-drenched exhibition was all about fundamentals, technique and avoiding injuries. It proved successful on all counts.

“Any time you practice you’re going to get better,” said quarterback Drew Powell, a rising junior who completed 15 of 28 attempts and tossed three touchdown passes. “Every little bit helps. And really, this was like a practice with more people watching.”

Powell’s numbers were a marked improvement over last spring’s — when the offense played with timidity and failed to score. It set the stage for a signature Blue Bears’ season, with disappointment scribbled all over it.

“The defense kept us off the board last year,” Powell said. “It felt good to get back at them today. Hopefully we can follow up on this.”

Powell, who passed for 2,129 yards and 16 TDs last fall, shook off a pedestrian 1-for-5 start before lofting a pair of touchdown passes to wideout Jalen Hendricks and another to Dequane Peyton. He played with savy and visible confidence, even when plays were blowing up.

“Drew did something he didn’t do enough last year — he threw the ball away a couple of times,” Williams said. “On purpose. Sometimes there’s not a play to be made. Giving us another down is giving us another play.”

Powell’s offense made five end-zone appearances. Running back Anthony Green scored the match’s touchdown when he took a handoff and busted a 36-yard run down the left side midway through the scrimmage. Receiver Brandon Bennett later scored on an end-around pitchout.

White anchored the Livingstone defense with a number of in-your-face stops. Linebacker Denard Mitchell and lineman Markell Harris recorded sacks and defensive back Andrew Fox had a couple of tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

“There was a lot of competition, a lot of getting-after-it,” White said. “We rallied to the ball and made some key plays.”

Williams was impressed with newcomers Troy Williams — a linebacker from Compton, Cal. — and Georgia native Zeke Coley, who ran the ball six times. North Rowan senior Cecil McCauley is part of a surprisingly strong signing class.

“We trying to simplify things,” said Williams. “We went back to what we were doing when I first got here (as offensive coordinator in 2012). It’s simple and fast, without a whole lot of thinking going on. I just want us to be efficient.”

Hendricks, who made four receptions, likes that approach.

“It’s definitely going to work,” he said. “The spring is mostly for learning plays and getting into the flow of things. I feel pretty good about what we have and what we’ve shown so far.”

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