CNU: Captains have USA South's most talented, deepest team

College FootballSportsFootballCollege SportsNCAASalisbury Sea GullsCollege of William and Mary

THE COACH

MATT KELCHNER

(11 years, 76-40, all at CNU)

The architect of CNU football has assembled a remarkable record: eight NCAA playoff appearances in 11 years; won 65 percent of all games; 61-12 record (.836) in conference games. All while navigating the administrative morass that is Division III, non-scholarship football. Kelchner has become a fixture in these parts, having spent almost 30 years here, as a longtime assistant at William and Mary before taking over CNU's startup program. You can argue that the Captains ought to be successful, given the top-shelf facilities and local recruiting pool. But it still requires patience and a specific skill set to oversee 100-plus players and coaches, with a greater rate of turnover than exists at most major college programs.

THE STANDOUTS

MARKEESE STOVALL

Jr. | 5-10 | 195 | RB

First-team all-conference a year ago after rushing for 970 yards and scoring 11 TDs. Suffered a late-season injury against Ferrum and missed the Captains' regular-season finale and playoff game. The best of a deep group of backs.

DANIEL LEWIS

Sr. | 6-1 | 215 | LB

Second-leading tackler last season (33 unassisted, 55 total) and honorable mention all-conference. One of the leaders of a group trying to replace all-league Mike King. Senior from Virginia Beach also had two interceptions.

RUDY RUDOLPH

Soph. 6-1 160 WR

Freshman from Chesapeake made an immediate impact. Captains' fastest receiver was second-team all-conference. Averaged 25.2 yards per catch and scored seven TDs as CNU's deep threat.

3 STORYLINES

POSITION BATTLE

The Captains have the luxury of three quarterbacks who started games last season, which should make for a spirited competition in preseason camp. Christian Woelfel-Monsivais and Aaron Edwards are seniors, while Lyndon Garner is a junior. Woelfel-Monsivais (33-67-1, 425 yards, 1 TD) won the job coming out of camp last year, before he suffered a season-ending injury. Garner (52-88-3, 787 yards, 6 TD) simply figures out ways to win and was doing so, until he got hurt. Edwards (54-83-6, 754 yards, 7 TD) closed out the regular season and was the triggerman in the playoff game. All three have slightly different strengths and abilities. Kelchner will be comfortable with any of the three on the field. He knows that two of them will be disappointed, but believes that they're mature enough to handle whatever the coaches decide without dividing the locker room. And based on last year, all of them know they're one play away from getting back onto the field.

POSITION BATTLE, PART 2

It's just as crowded at running back as quarterback. Markeese Stovall was first-team all-conference, with 970 yards and 11 TDs. But the Captains have at least three other productive backs in Marcus Morrast, Evan Moog and Justin Williams, never mind potential newcomers who might draw attention at camp. Morrast, a sophomore, gained 556 yards and averaged 5.1 per carry. Moog, a 185-pound junior from Jamestown, ran for 519 yards and 8 TDs. He was moved to linebacker, but might play both ways because he's so productive on offense. Williams (New Kent), also a quality kick returner, was hurt in the second game of the season and never really got started, but is healthy. Fullback Zack Stevens provides a 250-pound escort and battering ram for whomever's back there. And what of Garner? If he doesn't win the quarterback battle, might the coaches be creative and find ways to get him on the field occasionally. There are worse problems than distributing carries.

EXPECTATIONS

The Captains were picked to win the USA South, as is the case most years. They have the conference's most talented and deepest team, on paper. They had 135 players report to camp and expect to retain nearly all of them. That creates competition at nearly every position and provides an insurance policy in the event of injury. They have been to the playoffs eight of 11 years, and it would be an upset if they didn't make it nine playoff appearances. The next step is advancing. CNU hasn't won a postseason game since 2004 and has won just two playoff games. Some of that is matchups (Mary Hardin Baylor), some of it is the logistical hassle of going on the road (Kean University, Washington & Jefferson). The Captains again will test themselves early, against top-10 Salisbury and defending ODAC champ and playoff participant Hampden-Sydney. That should provide a gauge for where they rate and what's required come November.

THE SCHEDULE

Sept. 1 | Salisbury | 7 p.m.

Last fall, the Captains were up 10 at Salisbury with five minutes left before it all went kaflooey. The Sea Gulls scored two touchdowns in the last 4 1/2 minutes to win 27-23. They return three outstanding players in QB Dan Griffin, LB Matt McMurdo and DB Andre Carter.

Sept. 8 | at Hampden-Sydney | 1 p.m.

First meeting between the schools. Hampden-Sydney is defending ODAC champ and was picked to win the league. CNU prez Paul Trible is a Hampden-Sydney grad and hates to lose at anything. Think he'll be a neutral observer? Think again.

Sept. 15 | at Shenandoah | 7 p.m.

A non-conference game between the longtime USA South rivals, after Shenandoah bolted for the ODAC. The Captains nearly gave away last year's meeting. They squandered a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter and needed a missed extra point in regulation before pulling out a 27-20 win in OT.

Sept. 29 | at Maryville | 1:30 p.m.

CNU has controlled the past two meetings, most recently 45-20 in the regular-season finale last year. Aaron Edwards threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns as the Captains scored 31 points in the first half and cruised.

Oct. 6 | Ferrum | 7 p.m.

The Captains scored on four of their first five possessions last year and bolted to a 48-30 win, effectively throttling Ferrum multi-threat QB Marcus Mayo. CNU has won the past eight games in the series, though Ferrum was picked to finish second in the league.

Oct. 13 | LaGrange | 7 p.m.

The school is located in LaGrange, Ga., about an hour southwest of Atlanta on I-85. The Panthers were 4-6 last season and played the past three years as an NCAA independent. They return their top two QBs, top three rushers and six of the top nine tacklers.

Oct. 20 | at Averett | 1 p.m.

The Captains scored the last 23 points to win 23-14 last year in Danville. Stovall ran for 129 of the Captains' 255 yards on the ground, and CNU intercepted Averett QB Kirkland Brown three times.

Oct. 27 | at N.C. Wesleyan | 1 p.m.

CNU scored touchdowns on four of five possessions in the second half to break open a tight game and win 51-33. Evan Moog scored three TDs as the Captains rushed for 237 yards, and QB Lyndon Garner was an efficient 14 of 19 for 175 yards and two TDs.

Nov. 3 | Greensboro | 7 p.m.

The Captains never have lost to Greensboro, and usually it's not close. Last year, CNU overcame three fumbles and eventually pulled away for a 27-22 win. The final was misleading, since G'boro tacked on two late touchdowns.

Nov. 10 | Methodist | 7 p.m.

CNU leads the series 9-2 and has won the past two comfortably. Last year, Lyndon Garner came on in relief of Christian Woelfel-Monsivais at QB and directed the Captains to a 26-0 lead in an eventual 26-14 win. The Captains hope the season finale is a tuneup for what's to come.

CONFERENCE CORNER

Ferrum and North Carolina Wesleyan appear to be CNU's primary challengers. The Panthers were picked to finish second and were the only other team to receive first-place votes. Though they lost multi-threat QB Marcus Mayo, they return a solid core. RB Dontavious Gilbert (518 yards, 7.5 avg, 8 TD) was first-team all-conference, as were D-linemen Lynwood Pickett and Chris Freycinet and safety Tae Motley. The Panthers return 13 of their top 15 tacklers from a year ago, led by LB Melvin Trotter (73 tackles) and Freycinet (71 tackles, 13.5 TFL) and defensive Rookie of the Year, lineman Josh Oliver. Offensive linemen Zach Bossie and J.L. Tyree were all-conference. Wesleyan, which won or shared the USA South title three times in the past five years, has a couple of superior talents in Defensive Player of the Year Taz Foster (129 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 5 sacks) and defensive back and return specialist Dwayne Harris.

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