CIAA Football: Key word for Livingstone after spring game: Maybe
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Maybe.
That’s the only word you can use four-and-a-half months before the season-opener — and the one Livingstone football coach Elvin James used Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
“We still don’t know,” he said after the Blue Bears wrapped up three weeks of spring practice with their annual Blue-Black game. “But compared to where we were and what we’ve been through, I can sleep better. Maybe everything will be will be better.”
Now in his third year, James ran his team through an accelerated 60-minute scrimmage and offered a mixed review.
“We’re still inconsistent,” he said. “Still making too many mental mistakes. But the offense has definitely improved. We’re excited to watch the pieces of the puzzle come together. The foundation has been laid.”
Now comes the hard part — constructing a winning program from the remains of teams that lost 20 of 21 games the past two seasons and have been post-season DNP’s for 13 straight years. James started in February by hiring offensive coordinator Daryl Williams, an 18-year coaching vet with an impressive track record.
“Every team I’ve had finished first or second in its conference,” Williams said. “Rest assured, when we line up in September we’re going to be ready.”
Williams, who arrives from Texas Southern University —where he was part of two SWAC conference championships — brings a no-nonsense demeanor with him.
“He’s all about his business,” said left tackle Allyne Hall. “With him, we’re gonna find out what we’re made of. Execution is everything with him.”
As it should be. That’s why Williams wasn’t turning any cartwheels after LC’s offense scored seven touchdowns but committed seven unforced errors yesterday.
“Today,” he said, “was a very, very bad day.”
Added freshman receiver Avery Collins: “He’s going to push us — and that’s good. He’ll get everything he can out of us.”
There was, of course, some good news for the Blue Bears. Sophomore quarterback Jaren Troutman steered the offense to 65-yard touchdown drives on its first two possessions. Then in the second quarter he hooked up with wideout Carl James on a 38-yard TD play — Troutman’s third scoring pass of the first half.
“It took a while for the offense to buy in to what we’re doing,” he said. “But once we did, we clicked. If we can stay consistent and avoid mistakes, we can score.”
LC’s offensive woes were well-documented last year. The Blue Bears scored only six offensive touchdowns and were a miserable 3-for-12 in red zone scoring opportunities.
“That’s gonna change,” said Troutman. “We’ve increased our standards. It’s a whole new atmosphere, a whole new program.”
LC’s defense settled down in the second half after senior lineman Rufus Mosley sustained a neck injury. He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.
“We’re hoping it’s just a stinger,” James said.
Teammate Dorian Edwards offered a reflective response.
“Any time you lose a family member, it’s always a big factor,” the senior lineman said. “We hate that we lost him, but now we’ve got to step up and play better behind him.”
Pre-season All-American linebacker Tyheim Pitt — LC’s leading tackler in 2011 — was more impressed with his mates on the other side of the ball.
“Those guys on offense,” he said. “They hit the playbook. On defense, we’re still missing a couple of pieces, but we’re gonna get it this year.”
Defensive standouts included linebacker Adam Powell, a quiet sophomore who recorded a sack and recovered a fumble. Teammate Wesley Jackson had a sack while Isiah Simms and Anthony Smalls pounced on fumbled balls.
“We still haven’t put it together,” Powell said. “Over the summer it’ll be very important to get our work in. The work never ends.”
And there’s no maybe to that.
NOTES:Tevin Mishoe bolted for a fourth-quarter touchdown and was awarded the post-game Pride Hammer award. … Troutman threw his fourth TD pass in the closing moments. … Livingstone reconvenes for fall practice on Aug. 9 and opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Chowan. It travels across town to face Catawba a week later.[0x12]