Chris ThomasFCS Kickoff Correspondent __________
West Long Branch, N.J. – The 2016 edition of the Monmouth Hawks Blue & White Spring Football Game featured the team’s key players showcasing their talents throughout the contest. A crisp and clear Sunday afternoon provided a perfect backdrop at Kessler Field where the Hawks took the field thumping to the hip-hop music echoing through the stadium speakers. After a brief warmup routine in front of a packed grandstand, it was time for football.
In surprising fashion, it was the Hawks defense that put on a show in the early going. Starting QB Cody Williams (So.) was picked off by defensive back Tymere Berry (So.) on his third pass attempt of the afternoon. The mobile Williams was able to use his feet to gain yardage on both designed plays and ones that broke down initially, but the offense was kept in check overall during the first few series. Star RB Lavon Chaney (Sr.), who last season earned 2nd Team All-Big South honors, was also held to mostly short gains throughout the afternoon.
The Hawks offense first sprang to life when Williams handed off to RB Michael Jolly (Jr.) who was able to take it to the house. Just a few plays later, Williams connected with receiver Reggie White Jr. (So.) on a corner fade that resulted in their first touchdown of the day through the air. Backup QB Kenji Bahar (So.) also saw significant action in the game but was stifled by the Hawks defense for much of the afternoon. Wide receiver Matt Choi (Sr.) attempted a pass on a designed trick play in the contest showcasing a weapon the Hawks could deploy throughout the season. Third-string QB Devin Ray (Sr.) found a nice rhythm in the 7-on-7 portion of the match, connecting with TE Gabe Heminghaus (Sr.) who broke free from the defense for a long score.
The Hawks (5-6 overall, 3-3 Big South) face a tough schedule in 2016. The club will only have three home games in the coming season due to construction on their new stadium which will debut in 2017. Their toughest stretch of the season comes in a two-game home stand against conference rival Charleston Southern and Fordham University, who last season trounced the Hawks 54-31. The club will rely heavily on the veteran leadership of DB Mike Basile (Jr.), who was the team’s leading tackler in 2015 with 119, as well as LB Payton Minnich (Sr.) to lead a defense that will look to improve on several statistics from last season including allowing an average of 25.2 points per game and 364 yards per game.
Overall, the annual contest provided further proof that the Hawks are poised for a promising 2016 season. Head Coach Kevin Callahan, entering his 24th season as the team’s sole leader, said after the game that he was pleased with the effort on both sides of the ball, but was even more impressed by the energy and enthusiasm his players brought to the table. Entering their third season in the Big South Conference, the sky truly is the limit for this Hawks team.