The University of Virginia’s College at Wise football team began a new era on Saturday afternoon as the Cavaliers made their South Atlantic Conference debut with a 40-22 victory over Chowan University.
“We came in well prepared. We’ve been preparing for this team for like two weeks now. I think the main thing that coach emphasizes on defense is juice, and I think we did a great job coming out with the juice,” senior linebacker Buster Henderson said. “We still have some things to get better at, we let a couple big plays happen, but we’re going to fix that…and we’re just excited for the next challenge.”
The opening kickoff saw redshirt junior Marquis Hamilton break off a 66-yard return for the Cavaliers. Two and a half minutes later, sophomore quarterback Tanner Bernard connected with sophomore Seth Phillips for a five-yard touchdown pass to give the Cavaliers the lead.
The Cavaliers scored again late in the first quarter when junior Drew O’Bryan forced a fumble that was picked up by sophomore Keishoen Jarrett who ran 84 yards down the sideline for the touchdown. Jarrett said he had no doubt once he picked up the ball that he was going to score.
“I’m an athlete, so I’m always going. Whenever my hands get on the ball I’m going, I’m going,” Jarrett said. “But of course my teammates they came in and blocked for me against that one [offensive lineman] that was coming for me, so that was great.”
After scoring on offense and on defense, the Cavaliers added a special teams touchdown in the second quarter as junior Demetrius Mann returned a punt 91-yards for the team’s first punt-return touchdown since 2015. Chowan broke up the shutout late in the second quarter on a safety and a four-yard touchdown run to make it a 21-8 game at halftime.
Saturday marked the first time sophomore running back Terrance Lambert took to the field since missing last season with a knee injury. In front of a crowd of over 1,300 fans, Lambert showed everyone that he was back when he broke away for a 62-yard touchdown run on the Cavaliers’ first snap of the second half. Lambert said that it was hard to describe how that play felt to him after working his way back from injury.
“Man, it’s unexplainable. I almost cried on the sideline after I scored. When I scored I didn’t know what to do,” Lambert said. “I just looked around, my teammates came up and hugged me and I just kept telling them I love them and I thanked them for every bit of support, all the kind words they always gave to me.”
The Cavaliers capped off their scoring for the day with a 19-yard touchdown reception by sophomore Darrien Newton and a three-yard run by J’Quan Anderson. Chowan scored once more in the fourth quarter, but the Cavaliers held them off to secure the 18-point victory.
Bernard was 13-for-23 on pass attempts against Chowan, finishing with 142 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Jamal Fisher had four receptions on eight targets for a game-high 47 yards receiving, while Newton and Phillips had two receptions each and combined for two touchdowns and 54 yards on six targets. Lambert ended the afternoon with 99 yards rushing on 12 carries with one touchdown to lead the Cavaliers.
Along with the punt return touchdown, Mann also had four tackles and had the team’s only interception of the day. Redshirt junior Marcus Tarrer led the team with 10 total tackles and two pass break-ups, while Jarrett, sophomore Chavon Fields and junior Rondre Knowles-Tener each finished with one sack.
The Cavaliers will head on the road this Saturday when they face off against the Division I-FCS Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles. It will be the first time the team faces a Division I team since 2014, when the Cavaliers lost 49-15 to the Wofford Terriers. UVa-Wise Head Coach Dane Damron said that while he expects Tennessee Tech will win, it will be a competitive game nonetheless.
“We’ll show up. They ought to beat us, and they ought to beat us bad, you know 63 scholarships to less than 36, so they ought to get us,” Damron said. “Coach Alexander there is a dear friend of mine and he’s going to do a great job, and it’ll be a competitive game. Our kids are going to be excited and we’re going to go in there and not leave any tricks in our back pocket.”