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Bishops look to pick up first win of season

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N.C. Wesleyan College quarterback Nate Gardner, right, loses the ball against Shenandoah University this season. Garnder has had a tough start to the season, and is facing pressure from other quarterbacks on the roster.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ty-Traveon Roberts had been working on growing out his beard for two years. The N.C. Wesleyan wide receiver said by the spring of this year, he could grab hold of the hair under his chin with a fist.

“It was so long,” Roberts said. “I kept it going, and all of a sudden you realize you look like a mountain man. I liked it.”

But when Bishops football coach Jeff Filkovski challenged his team during training camp to look clean in an effort to unite his squad, Roberts knew it was time for the beard to go. This was a notion that a younger Roberts might not have agreed with.

A junior, Roberts entered camp with a different outlook on his standing with the team than his previous two seasons. He wanted to have an increased role and show that he could be dependable.

“I know I’m just one of 11,” said Roberts, talking about the number of starters on the field. “You have to commit. I had to learn my role, and I finally understand it. I can’t be bigger than the team. So the beard had to go, and with it went my selfish attitude.”

The Bishops (0-3), 0-1 USA South) always knew Roberts had big-play potential. His speed had him utilized as a guy to take the top off a defense, allowing fellow receivers to work underneath in the passing game.

For his first two seasons, he had trouble finding consistent playing time in the offense. He gained 240 yards on 10 receptions in 11 games. This season, Roberts has 136 yards on two catches, and he figures to be a focal point in the offense moving forward.

“His speed is something we want to take advantage of,” Filkovski said. “He’s really our best deep threat because he has top-end speed. This past week we schemed some things for him, and we hit it big twice.”

Roberts and quarterback Nate Gardner connected for a 78-yard touchdown in a conference-opening road loss to Huntingdon. At the time, Roberts’ touchdown put the Bishops ahead 28-10.

Later, Roberts added a 58-yard reception. But he also missed an opportunity to score again moments later, opening the door for a Huntingdon comeback. The Hawks went on to score 31 consecutive points to earn a come-from-behind win.

“If we make the plays that we missed due to our own errors,” Filkovski said, “then it’s a whole different ballgame. Our attitude changes and we continue to play well. We struggle to collect ourselves when things go wrong.”

The Bishops continue conference play at 1 p.m. on Saturday against visiting Maryville, where NCWC hopes to get back on track.

The defense has struggled through three games, recording just two sacks. The lack of pressure has allowed opposing quarterbacks to average close to 300 yards per game through the air (299.3).

The Bishops will have to find creative ways to generate pressure as they will be without senior defensive lineman Camara Rawls who is recovering from surgery.

Elsewhere, Gardner hasn’t been effective, and with two other quarterbacks getting snaps in practice, the junior second-year starter is feeling some pressure from the depth chart. Garnder has thrown for three touchdowns along with six interceptions, and is completing fewer than 33 percent of his passes.

Only one other quarterback saw playing time this season, as Donielle Totten is 2 of 8 for 32 yards in limited time.

“We’re going to see how this week goes,” said Filkovski, a former Division III national champion quarterback with Allegheny in 1990. “I told Nate that I’m not done with him yet. He has a good skillset that hasn’t shown yet.

“But on the other hand, if we make some plays for him, those numbers look a little different.”

Running back Darian Curley, a transfer from Averett, ran for 195 yards and two touchdowns last week, and will get the bulk of the carries moving forward. The Bishops also got back USA South 2015 rookie of the year Adrian Minondo for this first time this season.

The backfield suddenly got crowded with Deandre Gillis seeing time, so there’s no hurry to rush Minondo, who is still working to get into football shape after missing time with an injury, into a larger role.

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