A breakthrough can be defined as an important discovery that happens after trying for an extended time period to understand as well as an act or instance of breaking through an obstacle. The Fayetteville State University football program has several obstacles to hurdle in order to establish a new presence amongst the CIAA and Division II overall.
Head coach Lawrence Kershaw will be entering his third season at the helm of the Broncos’ football program. Kershaw has amassed a record of 11-9 in two seasons, including a 6-4 campaign his first season and a 5-5 mark in 2014. However, the Broncos have finished 5-2 in the conference and 2nd in the Southern Division the last two seasons under Kershaw.
“Each year we set two goals: win our division and win the CIAA Championship,” said Kershaw. “A successful year is winning the championship, anything short of that means we did not accomplish our goals.
Despite a 1-5 record the last two years in non-conference contests, Fayetteville State has a 10-4 mark against CIAA opponents.
“For us the last seven games on the schedule against the conference are essential,” Kershaw continued. The top two teams in the CIAA the last two seasons have been Winston-Salem State and Virginia State; we’re 0-4 in those games.”
In addition to breaking through the conference obstacles, FSU will also be focusing on auxiliary goals. Since the inception of the Two Rivers Classic in 2009, the Broncos have yet to defeat the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. This season, Fayetteville State will host UNC Pembroke on September 5th at Luther “Nick” Jeralds Stadium.
“There are three things our program is aware that have to change,” stated Kershaw. “Fayetteville State has not beat Pembroke in the Two Rivers Classic, we have not won the season opener since 2008, and we have not won the home opener since 2005; all that has to change this year.”
Speaking about goals is one thing, implementing a plan or course of action to meet those goals is key. Fayetteville State will be relying heavily on the returning lettermen to breakthrough. In the backfield, senior running back Andre Montgomery (Goldsboro, NC) and junior running back Corbin Rascoe (Windsor, NC) are expected to tote the pigskin for the Broncos.
Montgomery led FSU in rushing yards and touchdowns en route to earning All-CIAA honors in 2014. He recorded 760 yards off 109 carries with five TDs. Montgomery played in all 10 games and also caught two passes for 15 yards. He finished ranked fourth in the CIAA for yards per game (76) and fifth in total rushing yards.
Rascoe was second on the team in rushing with 294 yards off 50 carries. He also crossed the goal line five times. This two-back system should prove productive for the Broncos.
Opening holes and providing protection for the quarterback is the essential function of the offensive line. Redshirt sophomore center Quincy Dickens (Washington, D.C.) will be the returning anchor on an offensive line that averaged 345 yards of offense per game. Dickens started as a freshman for FSU at the center position. He earned All-CIAA honors last season.
Senior wide receivers Tavon Gatlin (Virginia Beach, VA) and Chris Hubert (Apex, NC) will be the featured route runners this season. Gatlin sat out the 2014 season with an injury. He played in nine games and caught 32 passes for 442 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. Hubert led the Broncos in receiving last year with team-highs in catches (45), receiving yards (561), and receiving TDs (5).
“Our defense should lead us this year,” declared Kershaw. “We will have a lot of veterans on the defensive side of the ball. Our linebackers and defensive line should be our strongest areas. Our secondary will be young, but they’re still a very talented group.”
Senior nose tackle Rendall Mash (Charlotte, NC) will bring his savvy experience to the defensive line. Mash played all 10 games last season to accumulate 18 tackles, including three tackles for a loss of 19 yards, two sacks, and two fumble recoveries.
Senior linebacker Thomas Perry (Windsor, NC) and redshirt sophomore linebacker Tim Thorb (Raleigh, NC) are two veterans geared to lead the linebacker corp. Perry played all 10 games last season and registered 74 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Thorb played in nine games as a redshirt freshman and will see an increased role in the defensive scheme.
“Our defense will be more aggressive this year and play with an attacking style,” mentioned Kershaw. “We’re changing from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 style to be more effective.”
Senior defensive back Kwamere Bailey (Manteo, NC) and junior defensive back Travis Scales (Southern Pines, NC) are two players to watch in the secondary for the Broncos. Bailey had 43 tackles, seven pass deflections, an interception, and a fumble recovery. He also blocked three kicks on special teams. Scales collected 34 tackles, five pass deflections, and an interception last season. Both are capable of playing at the cornerback or safety positions.
“I’m excited about this upcoming season,” said Kershaw. “There will be more accountability and discipline within our program. We have established a culture and witnessed the maturation process for our student-athletes.”
With goals set and a plan in place, a Fayetteville State Broncos Football revolution is on the horizon.
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