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Black and Gold Game ends spring

By Curtis Brooks
Sports Editor

April 19, 2012

Photo by Mindy Hubbard
Braves freshman John Rich returns a kick during the annual Black and Gold Spring Game on April 14. The game ended spring practice for the team.

After finishing the 2011 campaign with an 8-3 record, the Braves football squad returned to the football field on April 14 to compete in the sixth annual Black and Gold Spring Game at Grace P. Johnson Stadium to cap off a 15-session spring practice season.

The 90 minute controlled intrasquad scrimmage was around 80 plays long, including a variety of special team situations.

The Braves' offensive philosophy is taking what the defense gives them and being able to speed up the play calling on offenses to frustrate the opposition.

"We want to control the pace, so our objective is to put the defensive in a little bit of rushed thought process, and we got some ways to do that. Today, it was just a matter of getting a first down. It causes a lot of excitement. It is something we did last year, andsomething we are going to continue to do," said Braves head coach Pete Shinnick.

All-American quarterback Luke Charles led the Braves offensive attack, connecting on 8-of-12 passes for a total of 133 yards, throwing a touch-down and surrendering an interception.

In the first possession of the game, Charles led the game's only touchdown drive, driving 75 yards ending with a 28 yard touch-down pass to junior wide receiver Donald Britt.

"We want to get as many plays as we can as fast as we can. We want to get the defense running. As much as we get them running, the more tired they get, the more yards we get," Charles said.

Last season Charles threw for just under 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in his first season as the Braves starter.

"I can't wait [for the fall]; especially with my last throw being an interception, now that just makes me mad. So now I have four more months to think about it. I can't wait," joked the Braves' signal caller.
Photo by Hillary Akers
UNCP quarterback Luke Charles (red jersey) throws a pass during the annual Black and Gold Spring Game on April 14.
The Braves returned six wide receivers from the 2011 team including Te'vell Williams who led the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns last season.

Despite the depth at the wide receiver positions, the Black and Gold have to deal with the task of replacing arguably the best player from a year ago in All-American running back Travis Daniels.

Daniels holds almost every school single game and career rushing record after a four year collegiate career. The Braves are looking to try and duplicate Daniels' productivity from the last season with a trio of returning backs.

"Damonte Terry, Elliott Powell and Mike Isbell are three solid running backs who are different from Travis, but showed in the spring that they can help us," Shinnick siad.

The coaching staff and players are excited about the potential of the team's new offensive line, after losing four starters from the 2011 team.

"With a young offensive line, we had five new guys that never played the game on a college level. They played good, and the spring was a big step for them," Charles said.

Going into the fall, it appears as if Michael Doss will become kicker Taylor Baskett's replacement, as he knocked down field goals from 21, 40 and 43 yards on the day.

The Braves were led defensively by safety Sean Rush, who recorded the game's only interception, and defensive end DeVante Bush, who recorded the game's only sack.

Cornerback L.J. Stroman provided a special team highlight as he blocked an extra point attempt that was picked up by cornerback Brandon Jimenez who returned the ball 85 yards for a 2-point conversion.

The Black and Gold defense returns nine starters from last season's squad and are looking to reinstall one of the best defensive attacks in the country.

"We were missing some guys from our defense during the spring due to injury. I am happy with the way they played and how they were able to get some stops and create some turnovers," Shinnick said.

The previous three sea- sons the Braves have opened the season with 1-95 rival Fayetteville State University in the Two Rivers Classic; but, in the 2012 campaign, the Black and Gold will open against the Winston Salem State University Rams who defeated the Braves last season.

"With opening up against Winston Salem State, we open up with a semifinal playoff team from a year ago. We got our work cut out for us no doubt, and we've got to be ready and focused to play that type of opponent," Shinnick said.

Shinnick remains optimistic that if the Braves can continue to get leadership from players like Charles and Britt on the offensive side of the ball and line-backer Fred Williams on defense, the Black and Gold can find success in the 2012 season.

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