Ready or not, here we come!
Much like the quixotic game of tag, whether the North Greenville University football team is ready or not, it will open the 2011 season launching into the four-year scheduling alliance with the highly respected South Atlantic Conference (SAC) Saturday, September 3 at Newberry College.
Although not an official member of the conference, NGU will play every SAC team each season for the next four years and remain an NCAA Division II independent. Following a trip to Division I Presbyterian College on September 10, the Crusaders will make their home debut Saturday, Sept. 17 hosting Tusculum College at 7:00 p.m. The first home game will be broadcast live on WMYA (Channel 13/MY 40), an ABC affiliate based out of Asheville, North Carolina. Additionally, NGU’s home game against Lenoir Rhyne on Saturday, Oct. 1 will also be telecast live on WMYA.
North Greenville will play five home games and six road contests. NGU’s other home games are October 15 against Carson Newman, October 29 with Catawba and Nov. 12 against the College of Notre Dame (OH).
Third year head coach Jamey Chadwell’s Crusaders are coming off a record setting 2010 campaign where they achieved a 9-3 record and added the 2010 National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCCAA) Victory Bowl championship to their trophy room. NGU also sports an eight-game winning streak dating back to last season’s Sept. 25 34-17 victory over Presbyterian.
Chadwell knows all the elements of a successful year are in place in Tigerville, and he fully recognizes there is an air of expectation this year. “We certainly understand that the expectations are higher this season, and if certain things come our way, you feel like you have a chance for another good season,” he said. “We have a talented senior quarterback, a solid offensive line, good skills guys, a senior led defense, and some experience, and if things fall into place, we feel like we’ll have some success. The good Lord doesn’t control any of that, but I want our guys to carry over the confidence we gained last season to this year. I don’t want them to lose that. I want them thinking we can beat the best of the best. We know we must be prepared this year.”
Expectations Entering the SAC
The Crusaders have waited a full year to line up against the SAC, and Chadwell believes his team knows what’s ahead. “Our players know we’re heading into a tougher league and we will see it every week,” Chadwell explained. “It won’t be play tough teams like Mars Hill and Lenoir Rhyne, and then have a weaker team in between. As a coach, how do you prepare for that? This will be the toughest schedule NGU has ever played. Yes, we played North Alabama and several Division I teams two years ago, but week in and week out, this will be our most difficult schedule.”
Asked if it will be hard to prepare his team each week, Chadwell said that’s won’t be a problem. “I doubt motivation will be difficult because we know we’re in a great league and that a NCAA playoff berth will be on the line every week. That will be great for our guys. The challenge will be getting them ready every week in a physically demanding schedule. There are no weeks off.”
Traditionally, the SAC has had some of the nation’s most prominent NCAA II teams among its ranks. Wingate is ranked #15 in the pre-season NCAA II national poll, and Carson Newman, Tusculum, Newberry and Mars Hill have spent time in the Top 25 the last few seasons.
Chadwell looked back upon his first two years at North Greenville and exclaimed that he believes his players have bought into the changes he brought to the Crusaders. “I really feel we’ve turned the corner in a lot of areas,” he said. “We have recruited the type of kids who understand what we’re trying to bring to our program. Because of the progress we’ve made in that area, I really like the direction we are heading. But, it’s important for us to have guys around who can comprehend that this season is a journey, and that they know what the journey is about. My main goal for them is, no matter what, I want them to remember their playing days and be able to say, ‘I really loved playing there.’ It was hard at times, and sometimes I didn’t like it, but it was worth all the effort I put into it.”
Chadwell had his entire team list their goals for this historical season, and a winning record in the SAC schedule and a NCAA Division II playoff berth topped the list. “Our number one goal is to have another winning season, because no team has been able have consecutive winning years in the history of this program,” Chadwell stated. “The process of getting to the end of the year is vital, and it’s important for everyone to enjoy being around our team. If we can get the players in our program that don’t necessarily have the most talent to have a great year, we can have some success. It only takes one time to get them believing in themselves. Another objective that fits in with winning is developing a consistent program. If we have another good year and continue to make improvements, eventually we hope to become an annual contender like a Carson Newman.”
Offense Dictated by Willy Korn, Skill Players, Running Game
The day before classes began in the fall 2010, a very talented football player at any level trotted onto the Younts Stadium practice field. In the presence of Willy Korn, the fates of Crusader football pivoted and now rest upon his considerable knowledge and skilled arm. Korn will conclude his storied college career this fall in the familiar NGU red and black, but more importantly, his presence has moved the Crusaders into a different competitive bracket. “Willy realizes this is it and nothing brings him more pleasure than going and getting after it,” said Chadwell, a former quarterback at East Tennessee State. “There’s one thing Willy Korn really cares about, and that’s winning. He could care less if he throws two or three or 100 touchdown passes, as long as he wins. He’s our vocal leader on and off the field and the guys look up to him. He’s been a great one to work with, and obviously with him knowing the offense now, and adding in the intangibles he brings, like some of the checks he makes, he has allowed us to make a huge step toward success.”
Sophomore Aaron Seigler, who missed last season with an injury, returns to back up Korn. “Aaron does a lot of good things that Willy does not do,” Chadwell said. “He runs the ball better and he’s a very competitive kid. Freshman Joey Carter and redshirt freshman Nelson Hughes have done a lot of good things for us, and both have a bright future.”
“Our first objective will be to rush the ball,” Chadwell said. North Greenville has a wealth of veteran running backs like Idris Anderson, Marcus Wilson, Teryan Rucker, Eric Beeks and Kyle Peck. Anderson led the backs with 875 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2010. “Even though we have Willy who could score repeatedly through the air, we will try to run it first,” Chadwell said. “We also have experienced receivers in Sean Wright, Freddie Martino, Luis Hornedo, Kamrie Connell, Mychal Cannon and Daniel Adderley. Harold Small, a transfer from Campbellsville, has a chance to be really good at the slot position for us.”
Although NGU lost two talented players in James Thurn and Jordan Floro along the offensive line, NGU Line Coach Jim Beverly expects his O line to be very deep. The Crusaders boast experience in players like seniors Asa Wright, Jacob Farley, and Jonah Deuerling, who returns after missing last season with an injury. Junior Chancellor Hudson has stepped up to become a leader on the line and Cedric Proctor, a transfer from South Carolina State, has shown promise.
Crusader Defense Senior Dominated
The ‘Red Swarm’ Crusader defense will have the luxury of seven seniors returning as starters. Anchored by three year starters Nick Rosamonda, Jamarius Robinson, and Jereme Green in the secondary, Defensive Coach Chad Staggs’ defense should be rigid. NGU will also line up Mark Smith and Tyran Melvin on the defensive line, and veterans Nathan Batchelor and Carl Dukes at linebacker. “We’ll hang our hat on the leadership and experience on that side of the ball,”Chadwell offered. “All of our seniors have played a lot of football for North Greenville, some of them with as many as 30 games. We’ve always been able to rely on our defense to get a stop when we need it. Last season, we achieved some balance with the defense doing what they always do, and our offense moving the ball. Realistically, we want to be known as a team that takes advantage of what the opponent gives you.”
Kicking Game, Special Teams Young But Improved
Kicking was a huge challenge for NGU last year, but Chadwell expects two freshmen to solve some of those problems. “We have two freshmen in Justin Gravely and Parker Langford who’ll battle for that spot. They should shore up an area we need to get better in. Jacob Buckley is also back to compete for the punting position. Special teams star Isaiah Johnson, who has been among the NCAA II’s leaders in punt returns the last two years, also will be back with his versatility on returns and in the defensive backfield.
Chadwell Likes Team, Expects Success
“I like this team and am really enjoying working with them and watching their progress,” Chadwell concluded. “You have to go through adversity to get to a point where success begins, and if success was easy, from our perspective, it’d be hard to call yourself a Christian. There will always be peaks and valleys, but you always have the knowledge that the Lord is with you. The foundation of our football team has to be on the Rock! We talk a lot with our players about being the best, but you can’t do that without Christ as your solid foundation.”
I know that the students and our campus community are excited about this season, and our fans are expecting a lot of great things,” Chadwell said. “We have a lot positives going for us entering this season, and if we keep people healthy and get a few breaks early, we could be on our way to a good season. The schedule will be challenging, no doubt about that, but we think we’re ready for it.”
Ready or not …