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Chowan defense grinds out overtime win at Mars Hill

MARS HILL, NC – Raydarius Freeman and the Chowan defense held strong in overtime as the Chowan football team escaped with a 30-24 overtime victory against Mars Hill in the 2021 season opener on the road on Thursday evening.

The win gave head coach Mark Hall his first official win at the helm. Hall led the team to a 2-2 record as the interim in 2019. It was also the first season opening win since the Hawks defeated Fayetteville State, 14-13, in 2016.

Bryce Witt totaled 231 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Jaylon Boyd rushed for 70 yards with two scores. Imeek Watkins posted 81 yards on four receptions, while Laurence King had six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. King also had a 45 yard punt return.

Jalen Burton led the Hawks defense with 10 tackles including a 0.5 sack. Gilberto Ortiz and Basilio Fernandez posted nine tackles each. Rafiq Abdul-Wahid had four quarterback pressures, while Raydarius Freeman tallied two (both in overtime).

The defense limited Mars Hill to 321 yards of total offense.

Chowan started off the 2021 season with a strong opening drive as the big pass play from Witt to Miles Fairley for 37 yards put the Hawks close to the redzone. Witt would find Malik Tobias for a 15 yard gain before connecting with Cade Cradlebaugh for a three yard touchdown pass and the 7-0 lead.

The defense would force a punt midway through the quarter. Both teams forced punts as King took the punt return for 45 yards after breaking a couple tackles to set the Hawks up at the MHU 30. Boyd started the drive with a strong run before Witt connected with Fairley down to the MHU 3. Boyd would find paydirt with a one-yard run to lead 14-0.

Mars Hill saw the change in quarter to balance their offense on the next drive as a 21 yard pass play set up the Lions for their opening touchdown of the contest to cut the deficit to 14-7.

The next drive would stall for the Hawks despite a 42 yard connection from Witt to Watkins. Luis Orellana pinned the Lions deep in their own territory as the punt was downed at the MHU 6 after Jalen Burton and Issac Anderson teamed up for a sack.

Chowan used the short field position to put points on the board as Orellana connected on a 28 yard field goal attempt to lead 17-7 with 2:07 remaining.

Mars Hill mounted a drive late in the quarter aided by defensive penalties but the Hawks defense stood tall and kept the Lions off the scoreboard as Simeon Burns broke up a fourth down pass attempt.

Chowan forced a punt on the opening drive of the second half. Witt shook off a sack to connect with King for a 48 yard reception. Boyd moved the chains with a strong run and a reception. Witt found Watkins to move into the redzone on a 13 yard reception. The drive would be capped off with a 14 yard touchdown reception by King from Witt to take a 24-7 lead.

The Hawks defense would stand tall once again, forcing a punt as Simeon Burns tallied two tackles for loss on the drive. Witt opens the drive with a pair of first down strikes to Watkins and King to move across midfield before the drive stalled. An errant snap would give the Lions great field position at the CU 28.

Mars Hill capitalized on the short field with a five play drive to cut the deficit to 24-14 with 1:43 remaining in the quarter.

A pair of penalties and a sack looked to spell disaster for the Hawks before a defensive pass interference aided the Hawks down the field. Chowan led 24-14 at the end of the quarter.

The drive would stall after a pair of incomplete passes forced a punt to the MHU 30. The Lions started the drive with six straight runs to move to midfield. Gilberto Ortiz forced a fourth down stop to give the Hawks the ball back near midfield.

Mars Hill’s defense would force another punt with a sack on third down. MHU moved quickly into the redzone on their drive but the Hawks defense held strong to force a 29 yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 24-17.

Boyd was the feature back on the drive racking up 36 rushes on seven rushes. A penalty and a sack on third down forced a Chowan punt as Orellana forced the Lions inside their own 20 yard line with 1:32 remaining.

Mars Hill moved the ball through the air quickly to drive down the field to knot the contest up at 24-all with 10.9 seconds remaining on an 83 yard drive.

Bryce Witt took the second snap of overtime for a 19 yard scamper to put the Hawks at the MHU 6. Boyd rushed for five yards down to the one-yard line before powering his way in for the score. On the extra point attempt, a false start forced the Hawks back and the Lions would block the kick, leaving Chowan with a 30-24 lead.

The Chowan held strong in overtime as Freeman posted back-to-back pressures on third and fourth down to force incomplete passes to end the contest.

Chowan hits the road next weekend as the Hawks travel to Tennessee to take on Tusculum in a non-conference contest on Sept. 11. Kick-off is slated for 1 pm.