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Spring Game Provides Needed Shot of Football

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Kind of out of nowhere, my wife asked me a couple of weeks ago if I missed football.

Well, yeah.

Some of that thirst for football was slated April 10 when I attended Coastal Carolina’s spring game in Conway, SC, just outside of Myrtle Beach. Under bright sun and pleasant temperatures, a nice crowd turned out for festivities that – in addition to football – included a home game for the Chanticleer’s nationally ranked baseball team and an attempt at creating a record-sized sushi roll. The football crowd also got to see a brief, half-field touch football game featuring former CCU players.

As for the spring football game, the Chanticleer offense demonstrated progress, but a long road remains. Coach David Bennett clearly stated after the game that CCU has to improve in both the mental and physical aspects of the game.

“We’ve got a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “We’ve got to get in better physical shape, number one. Then mentally, we’ve got to realize that it takes a lot of work to be a champion. I got a text message from Bill Stewart (Bennett’s counterpart on September 4 when Coastal Carolina plays at West Virginia) the other day, and it said, ‘You want to win championships? You’ve got to win everyday.’ There’s a lot of truth to that.”

The Chants face a difficult schedule in 2010, opening on the road at West Virginia. They visit a pair of CAA teams, Towson and Richmond, while hosting Georgia Southern and Delaware State.

Senior quarterback Zach MacDowall leaves spring practice at the starter. He completed 11 of 24 passes in the spring game for 146 yards with one interception.

Junior quarterback Jamie Childers (8 of 16 for 110 yards and two picks) led the only touchdown-producing drive of the day. He hit tight end Myron Rogers on a four-yard touchdown pass after Andrew Stephens’ interception put the Black squad on the Teal 13. The scoring pass gave the Black its 9-3 win in the game.

If Childers doesn’t overcome MacDowall in the quarterback race, expect to see the 6-5, 240 player on the field in another role. “Jamie’s a very talented guy,” Bennett said. “Big, fast, strong. I told our coaches we’re not a very good coaching staff if we’ve got him standing on the sidelines. If he’s not our starting quarterback, you will see him on the football field an awfully lot this fall.”

University of South Carolina transfer Aramis Hillary is expected to be in the quarterback mix come August as well.

To me, Coastal’s offense needs playmakers and consistency. The offense could also use a boost from its running game, once a strength of this team. In the spring game, the running attack generated little yardage.

The defense remains the strongest part of this team for now. Cornerback Josh Norman and safety Dominique Davenport lead a solid secondary. Norman forced a Teal fumble at the Black one-yard line in the first half of the game. The Black then drove for a field goal to tie the game at 3-3.

Coastal is hoping that players such as defensive linemen B. J. Jenkins and Johnny Hartsfield and linebacker Brian Harrison will step up as defensive playmakers. “That was a big-time play,” Bennett said of Harrison’s interception for the Black squad in the second half. “He ran with the running back and dove right in front of him and made a phenomenal pick. Hopefully, he’ll make a lot more plays like that in the fall.”

In summary, Bennett said his team has much more work to do. “We’ve got to be a lot better football team in the fall than we are right now. We’ve got to be in better shape in the fall than we are right now. But, we’re making steps. We’re heading in the right direction.”

The touch football game wasn’t the only place to see former Chanticleer players. In the press box, I had the opportunity to meet Josh Hoke, the placekicker for Coastal Carolina in the early years of the program. Hoke is now a sportswriter covering the Chanticleers for The Myrtle Beach Sun-News.

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