Stating that this will be a good week to concentrate only on honing in on an opponent, The North Greenville University football team and Coach Jamey Chadwell have begun preparations for their season opener Saturday, Aug. 28 at 1:30 p.m. at Mars Hill College.
The North Greenville – Mars Hill game will be played at the Ammons Family Athletic Center and Meares Stadium north of Asheville, NC. The Lions edged past NGU 28-0 in the season opener for both teams last year in Tigerville. NCAA Division II All-American candidate Jonas Randolph rushed for 181 yards on 21 carries and had one touchdown to lead Mars Hill in 2009.
The Crusaders held their final pre-season scrimmage last Friday at Younts Stadium, and Chadwell noted that his team has made steady progress. “I think our guys are excited about getting out of camp and playing a different opponent,” he said. “We hope we’ve improved enough to challenge Mars Hill and get a chance to beat a South Atlantic Conference team for the first time.”
In NGU’s final scrimmage, Chadwell said his team put forth a hard effort and executed better, but needs to learn to ‘get a quick start out of the gate.’ “We started a little slow and had a few penalties early, and that was disappointing. We have got to learn to get after it from the get-go. Our offense took some time to get going, but once we found a rhythm, we saw some good things.”
NGU’s quarterback situation was exciting to watch last week as Clemson and Byrnes High School veteran Willy Korn enrolled. As Chadwell astutely pointed out, “tomorrow marks only one week Willy’s been on campus, so we’ve got to give him more time to settle into our system. Willy will not start against Mars Hill, and he has a lot of work to do to fit in. He’ll keep working hard I’m sure, and he’ll have a chance to compete for our starting position. One thing about having him on the field is that his work ethic has made our young guys work even harder. It has really helped them get better.”
The Crusaders likely starter at quarterback will be redshirt freshman Reggie Lewis (6-1 183 Forest Park, GA). Lewis has never taken a college snap, but Chadwell said his quickness and strong arm has helped him catch on to the spread offense NGU will run. Sophomore Isaiah Johnson (5-11 200 Fort Lawn, WI) will also see time in the backfield against Mars Hill.
Chadwell was pleased with the running game Friday, and sophomore Justin Beasley (5-9 176 Banks, GA) and freshmen Idris Anderson (5-10 205 Dallas, GA), Teryan Rucker (5-8 179 Gainesville, GA), Eric Beeks (5-8 173 Greenville, SC), and Kyle Peck (5-8 175 Lakeland, FL) all looked good in the final scrimmage and should split time in the opener.
“Our offensive line will anchor our offense, but after that, we’ll have a lot of new guys out there,” Chadwell said. “Our quarterbacks must quickly get a grasp of what we want them to do. They’ve made steady progress on checks and how to attack a defense. I’ll just be ready to turn them loose and see what they can do against another team.”
The Crusader linebacking corps forms the foundation of the NGU defense, and veterans A.J. Jones (SO 5-11 215 Greenwood, SC), Damien Wright (Grad 6-0 220 Sumter, SC), and Nathan Batchelor (JR 5-11 225 Spartanburg, SC/Dorman), all return. Talented transfer Bobby McGowan (JR 6-1 230 Utica, MS) will play a vital role on the Crusader defense at linebacker as well. Chadwell noted that it would appear NGU might miss defensive linemen Andre Bernardi, Joe Novotasky and Johnell Bell, who all graduated, but returnees Mark Smith (JR 6-2 275 Greer, SC/Riverside) and Tyran Melvin (JR 6-3 245 Conway, SC) bring experience to the defensive line.
“We have got to have a good week getting our offense ready for what their experienced defense will throw at us,” Chadwell concluded. “Mars Hill has a veteran offense coming back (10 starters) so we have to be ready for what they give us.”
Following the opener at Mars Hill, NGU will travel to in-state rival Charleston Southern on Saturday, Sept. 4 for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff. The Crusaders’ home opener is Saturday, Sept. 18 against Lenoir Rhyne at 7:00 p.m.