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Sports

New day dawns for Charlotte football
Scrimmage reveals what's new and possible
 
Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013 5:31 pm
by Herbert L. White

Everything about Charlotte 49ers football screams new at the first spring game in school history.

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PHOTO/CALVIN FERGUSON
Charlotte 49ers players sign memorabilia for fans after the Green-White game April 20 at McColl-Richardson Field. The 49ers, who kick off their inaugural season on Aug. 31 against Campbell, will play as a Football Championship Subdivision program for two seasons before transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA.


The weather feels like fall, and the stands at McColl-Richardson Field are filling before kickoff. You can’t help but be impressed by the facilities. They’re first rate.


Hey, it’s good to be fresh.


“When we came back out, we were all like, ‘this is real,” said 49ers receiver Austin Duke, an Independence High graduate. “It was time for us to show out and time to go out and do what we’ve been working so hard on since we got here. It was just a great turnout.  The fans were amped, they were live. It was just an overall exciting experience.”


And it’s abundantly clear that the 49ers, at least on offense, are here to entertain. The Green squad takes a mere three plays to go 75 yards for the first score, with a long pass from Matt Johnson to C.J. Crawford and an 11-yard strike to Duke for the touchdown.


There’s more of where that comes from as the scrimmage unfolds. If you like wide-open offense, Charlotte’s going to do its best to oblige. There are reverses and the occasional off-tackle play to keep everyone guessing, but the thing that stands out most is the participation.


People are curious about firsts – the initial pass, score, tackle and touchdown. That first try at creating a wave, however, was lame. No matter. In the first year, no matter the record, will be memorable for the faithful, of which 13,950 showed up for the scrimmage.


“How about our fan base?” Charlotte coach Brad Lambert asks at the post-scrimmage press conference.  “Just phenomenal. It was a real shot in the arm for our guys. To go out and play in front of a big crowd like that, it was a lot of fun for us.”


There’ll certainly be bumps in the road as Charlotte grows the program from FCS independent to FBS status over the next couple of years. What looks like winnable games today against Campbell will surely give way to some thumpings down the road when the opponents have century-old tradition and NFL-caliber pedigrees. And then there’s the travel that the far-flung Conference USA will demand of the 49ers once they settle into their permanent football home. None of that really matters, at least at first. Nothing does when you’re hopelessly in love with what has to be the most beautiful thing ever.


The idea is to give Charlotte fans and supporters a reason to believe and have fun. A few wins early will help, and the time is right to bring football to a campus that will benefit from a galvanizing fall activity. The tailgating will hopefully be strong and the football entertaining enough to keep folks coming back for more.


For one football Saturday, it couldn’t have been much better.

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