Falcons grounded in opener

College Sports

A Saint Augustine running back darts away from defenders in the Falcons’ season opener on Sept. 4. They dropped the game 58-14. (Saint Augustine Athletics)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Saint Augustine Falcons showed flashes of what they could become but could not sustain it for four quarters, losing to Tusculum University 58-14 in their season opener.

“The biggest thing I was looking for, and I told the kids, was their attitude and their effort,” Saint Augustine’s head football coach David Bowser said. “I just want to see us get more consistent and just keep playing…for us to put together a complete game.”

Tusculum took advantage of the fledgling Falcons who started eight freshman on defense.

The Pioneers scored on their first possession, taking the early 7-0 lead. On their next possession, the Falcons defense held firm stopping Tusculum on third-and-goal, forcing it to try a field goal, that it missed.

However, in the second quarter, the Pioneers went on a tear, scoring 17 points and grabbing a 24-0 halftime lead.

“I felt like early on we did good things,” Bowser said. “We struggled a little bit and then all of a sudden we went into a lull and an experienced team like (Tusculum) them was able to capitalize on that.”

In the second half, the Falcons started putting things together.

Sparked by a Joseph Harris interception inside the five yard line, the Falcons decided to switch quarterbacks, bringing in D’Ontre Gilliard. The sophomore has seen game action before, and as a team captain, already commanded the respect of the players.

“Everybody was in agreement to switch this up a little bit,” Bowser said.  “He brings resilience and experience, so when he came in, he felt comfortable and helped us make some big plays.”

The sophomore provided the needed spark.

Gilliard took the Falcons 83 yards in six plays, capping it with a two-yard rushing score to get Saint Augustine on the board.

“That’s when they started having fun with it,” Gilliard said. “When that drive happened, everyone was like ‘all right, we can do it, we can score – we can do this, we can play football with this team’.”

On the Falcons’ next possession, Gilliard took them on a five-play, 42-yard drive that ended when Charles Crump strolled in to the end zone for the Falcons’ second TD of the game.

“Some people who I didn’t know what they could do showed us some thing, and some guys I thought were going to do some things didn’t do them,” Bowser said. “We are shooting for a conference championship, that is what we’re working for, so I told them this Tusculum game does not define our season.”

Now begins the work of identifying and correcting mistakes.

The staff said it is looking at moving some offensive players to defense, and vice-versa. It’s all about finding the right mix and putting the best 11 players on the field to win football games, Bowser said.

“We’re not going to panic, we’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” Bowser said. “We’re not going harp on how many points they put up today because a loss is a loss and it still hurts. What we know is that we can’t let this loss beat us twice, so we got to get focused on Limestone.”

Saint Augustine faces Limestone University in its first road game of the season on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Gaffney, South Carolina.

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