Blue Bears pick up first victory of season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 10, 2021

By Dave Shaw

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — For one festive Saturday afternoon, Livingstone’s football team skipped all the ugly growing pains and blossomed into something beautiful.

The Blue Bears, winless since September of 2019, scored three first-quarter touchdowns and held on tight for a 21-7 homecoming day victory over visiting St. Augustine’s.

“At the end of the day, the football gods shined down on us today,” first-year coach Sean Gilbert said after securing his first collegiate triumph. “We’ll take those gifts.”

There were many of them for Livingstone (1-5, 1-2 CIAA), which prevailed in its first Southern Division game. The Blue Bears recovered three fumbles, recorded four sacks and played with burst and energy, delighting the Alumni Stadium crowd of 2,700.

“It’s a feeling of satisfaction,” winning quarterback Miles Hayes said, measuring his words like a 2-0 fastball. “Being with these guys every day, seeing how hard they’ve worked in practice — and still seeing that zero in front of our record, that’s pressure. As a team we finally came together and put one in the win column.”

Livingstone was sneaky, like the Marx Brothers stealing the silverware while everyone else was listening to a speech. They beat St. Aug’s (0-4, 0-3) not with strength and unblemished execution, but with a wink and a smile. “When we play with this much energy,” nodded linebacker Jaden Echols, “there’s not a lot anyone can do.”

It was special-teamer Chance Landers who set the tone when he recovered a fumbled St. Aug’s punt with 9:20 remaining in the opening period. His mongoose-quick alertness gave the Blue Bears a first down on the Falcons’ 25-yard line.

“Honestly, I just outran the corner on the play,” reported Landers, a junior defensive back. “The returner kept backpedaling and backpedaling — and then he just muffed it. That was our first chance and we took advantage.”

Capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes is something Gilbert has spent many billable hours reviewing. “And I thought we should have had a couple more,” he told a post-game audience. “For the most part, we won the turnover battle and played pretty good on all sides of the ball. We still have things to work on, but we did enough to win.”

Two snaps later, LC was on its way. On second-and-7 from the 22, senior running back Tecorey Tutson accepted a handoff, sliced to the right side and hopscotched past a few defenders into the end zone. A sterling effort, one for the highlight reel, yet he was quick to credit a group of fast-improving teammates.

“The offensive line really played better today,” Tutson said after rushing for 76 yards on 19 carries. “Just getting off the ball, getting to that second level. If it ain’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. Every week I say to this team, ‘Don’t tell me you’ve got my back. Show me you’ve got my back.’ We win together and we lose together.”

By the middle of the first quarter, Livingstone took another step in the right direction. This time freshman defensive end De’Andre Robinson led a committee of charging bull-rushers and recovered a fumble by St. Aug’s starting QB Christopher Perkins. It provided another short-field opportunity for Livingstone from the SAU 48. After an illegal block penalty moved the ball from the18-yard line back to the 33, Hayes found Tutson along the right sideline. His spiral was tipped by defender Joseph Harris and fluttered safely to Tutson, who rumbled into the end zone for a 14-0 lead.

“The stats may look even,” St. Aug’s coach David Bowser said while perusing a post-game summary sheet. “But there’s only one you need to look at — turnovers. You can’t win when you lose two fumbles in the first quarter and three total. You just can’t win.”

But wait — as they say in infomercials — there’s more. The opening stanza had only 23.5 seconds to live when Livingstone’s Austin Brown-Dickerson settled under a punt, sidestepped a couple of would-be tacklers and busted a 56-yard touchdown return, extending the lead to 21-0.

“He went straight up the middle, breaking tackles as he went,” said Echols. “Their punter was the last guy who had a shot, and he lost his footing. After that (Brown-Dickerson) was gone.”

Livingstone never threatened again, but Hayes managed a clean game and the defense was stout, yielding only 73 yards rushing. St. Aug’s got on the scoreboard with 5:24 to play, when relief quarterback Donovan Brewington lobbed a 25-yard TD pass to Keasean Williams down the left sideline. The Falcons’ final drive stalled at the LC 13 as time expired.

“I knew we were going to win today,” said fourth-quarter reserve lineman Jo’El Hutchinson. “I could tell by watching from the sideline. We were finally doing everything right. There was chemistry out there. There were no bad penalties and no little mistakes. It all just came together.”

NOTES: The win snapped Livingstone’s 11-game losing streak. Its last victory was a 35-19 decision over Lincoln on Sept. 28, 2019. … St. Aug’s had won the previous four meetings between the teams and nine of the last 10. … Brewington completed 12 of 22 passes for 141 yards. The Falcons totaled 157 yards passing, 85 of them in the final quarter. …  Derrick Noiles supported Tutson’s backfield effort with 55 yards on just seven totes. … Echols led the Blue Bears with nine tackles, including three for losses. Teammate Malik Head had a fourth-period fumble recovery. … LC had a chance to pad its lead in the waning moments, but kicker Jose Gonzalez’s 26-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. …  Livingstone plays its final home game next Saturday afternoon when Shaw (3-3, 2-1) pays a visit. The Blue Bears close the season with road games at Winston-Salem State, Fayetteville State and J.C. Smith.