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Monarch Football Makes Victorious Return After 69-Year Absence

Excitement over Old Dominion University football reached a fever pitch in the weeks leading up to the first home game on Sept. 5. Saturday's game was ODU's first since 1940. But the 69-year wait proved to be well worth it when the Monarchs beat the Division II Chowan University Hawks, 36-21.

Drew Hareza kicked five field goals and Jamar Parham ran for two touchdowns to lead ODU in scoring. Parham carried 13 times for 105 yards and scored on runs of 1 and 43 yards for the Football Championship Subdivision Monarchs, who will join the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011.

Chowan's quarterback, C.J. Westler, was 27 of 48 for 293 yards and threw one touchdown. He also had a 1-yard touchdown run.

Hareza was 5 of 7 on field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder on the final play before halftime that was set up by a Devon Simmons' interception on the previous play. Simmons also recovered a fumble.

ODU's 6-6 Edmon McClam blocked all three Chowan point-after attempts.

The determination of the ODU players was matched by the enthusiasm of the fans who had come to witness the rebirth of Monarch football.

Blue-and-white clad supporters chanted "ODU! ODU!" as the team made its inaugural Monarch March through the campus on the way to Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

Peering over the third-floor railing of the parking garage next to the renovated 74-year-old stadium before the game, Charlie Hackworth marveled at the scene - parking lots crammed with tailgaters, students tossing footballs and the Monarch mascot, Big Blue, distributing hugs and posing for pictures with youngsters.

"Two hours from kickoff and the place is packed," said Hackworth, 68. "You can't ask for anything better than this."

Johnny Brown, who played football from 1937-39 for the Norfolk Division, ODU's predecessor institution, was so ready for the return of Monarch football that coach Bobby Wilder said earlier in the week the 90-year-old former tailback and safety probably would like to suit up and play. Brown said his teammates from the 1939 Norfolk Division squad "traded leather helmets for steel helmets" to fight in World War II, and a lack of players doomed the football program.

But as they pursued their later careers - Brown was a high school football coach and principal - they longed for a football revival at their old school.

"We were concerned for years, 'Why don't they have football?' Football goes with college, and college goes with football," said Brown. "I'm very happy they started it back up."

ODU hosts Virginia Union at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, for its second game of the season.

This article was posted on: September 9, 2009

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