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ECSU football set to open season at Hampton

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Elizabeth City State (ECSU) defenders Shawn Bridges (18) and Taeyonn Reynolds (3) attempt to tackle Chowan running back Tyrell Freeman during the football game, Saturday, October 20, 2018 at Roebuck Stadium.

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From ECSU, staff reports

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Elizabeth City State University football team will begin its 2019 season today at 6 p.m. as ECSU will take the 67-mile journey north to face off against Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent Hampton at Armstrong Stadium.

The Vikings and Pirates have history.

ECSU and Hampton were members of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association from the mid-1950s until 1995.

After 1995, Hampton made the move from NCAA Division II to Division I level.

The matchup at Hampton marks the first of two games against Division I opponents as they will face off against North Carolina Central on Sept. 21.

Elizabeth City State is looking to improve on a 1-7 record and a 0-6 record in CIAA play in 2018. Hampton finished their 2018 campaign with a 7-3 record.

Due to Hampton's transition from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to the Big South Conference, the Pirates essentially played the 2018 season as an FCS independent.

This fall, Hampton will play its first season with a full Big South Conference schedule.

ECSU head football coach Anthony Jones acknowledged improvements within the ECSU program.

"When you have a full offseason, you can prepare more," Jones said. "Last year, we didn't have a winter work out. We didn't have spring ball. We didn't have a real recruiting session. We were able to do those things this year. We're growing in those areas, but we're still young as far as a football team and our football program is concerned.

"We have a lot of seniors, but we're still young. We have made some improvements, because we've had time to put some things in place."

The Vikings return 18 starters off of last year's team including nine on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

ECSU will welcome in redshirt-junior transfer quarterback DeAbrie Smith to captain the Viking offense.

In 2017, Smith threw for 2,011 yards, 18 touchdowns, and completed 51 percent of his passes while at Mesabi Range College, which is a junior college in Minnesota.

Smith was listed on the ECSU roster last season.

Senior Deshon Saunders, the Vikings leading rusher from 2018, will lead the ECSU rushing attack.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings will turn to a strong group of upperclassmen to lead the effort.

ECSU is returning nine out of the top 10 tacklers off of last year's squad; led by senior Shawn Bridges who notched 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2018.

The ECSU defense returns five key players from 2018.

Junior Taeyonn Reynolds will anchor the defensive backfield in 2019 as he registered a second highest 53 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss in 2018.

Seniors Vincent Thomas and Lawrence Brown will be responsible for leading the linebacker core in 2019.

Thomas registered 53 tackles, 3 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in 2018 while Brown registered 32 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and four sacks during last season.

The defensive line will be led by seniors Desmond Mitchell and Shawn Bridges.

Mitchell recorded six tackles for loss and two sacks in 2018. Bridges recorded a team high 13 tackles for loss and a team high 6.5 sacks in 2018.

ECSU's offense returns the nine out of the top 10 players from an all-purpose yard perspective.

While undergoing a transition at the quarterback position, the Vikings return Kedrick Patterson who played in all eight games last season.

Hampton shocked the FCS world when it announced that Florida State transfer Deondre Francois joined the Pirates back on Aug. 1.

Francois was dismissed from the FSU football program in February following an alleged domestic dispute.

While with the Seminoles, Francois threw for 6,291 yards and 35 touchdowns during his Florida State career and registered an Orange Bowl win in 2016 over Michigan. His first snaps behind center with the Pirates will be against the Vikings.

ECSU has a roster that is led by a 22-member senior class but also welcomes 32 freshmen and redshirt freshmen. Coming out of camp the Vikings boast an 82-member football squad.

The matchup vs. Hampton marks the first competition for the Vikings against FCS opponents since ECSU traveled to Fordham in 2016. The Vikings dropped that contest to the Rams by an 83-21 score.

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