Energized by unexpected bye, ECU looks to provide its share of hurricane relief

The Pirates are in a position to do their part in helping to raise the spirits of those around them by getting back out on the field and playing good football -- starting with Saturdays game at Cincinnati

The North State Journal—The North State Journal
East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery disputes a call during the second half of the game against Western Carolina on Saturday

The East Carolina football team was scheduled to play Navy at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium last Thursday. But instead of working to recover from a four-game losing streak, the Pirates spent an unexpected week off working to help their community recover from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Matthew. “Greenville loves the Pirates and our football team loves Greenville,” coach Scottie Montgomery at his regular weekly press conference Monday. “Right now I think a good portion of the younger players on our team is helping people move back into their homes because they’ve been displaced and that’s just a way to say thank you for the support that we’ve had even in the midst of us losing.” Thursday’s game was postponed to Nov. 16 in deference to those around Eastern North Carolina who lost their homes or were put into danger by rising flood waters. In addition to those in the community that were affected by the storm, 26 team members were forced to find alternate housing for the week. Montgomery made it a point Monday to publicly thank the police, firefighters and all the other public servants that responded to the crisis, as well as ECU’s administration for doing all it did to ensure the safety of its students. As appreciative as the first-year coach is of the efforts of others, he said that his Pirates are now in a position to do their part in helping to raise the spirits of those around them by getting back out on the field and playing good football — starting with Saturday’s road game against American Athletic Conference rival Cincinnati. “It’s very important for us to get back and correct the win column versus worrying about what we’ve done in the past in the loss column,” said Montgomery, whose 2-4 team has lost four straight since beating NC State back on Sept. 10. “I think it will be a big-time boost to our community. They need us as much as we need them and we’re really happy to have a chance to help our community.” If there was a silver lining to the circumstances that led to Thursday’s postponement, it’s that the unplanned bye week gave some of the Pirates’ best players — including quarterback Philip Nelson and nose tackle Demetri McGill — an opportunity to recover from injuries. It also allowed Montgomery and his staff some extra time practice time to work on correcting some of the mistakes that have been plaguing their team over the past few weeks. “A positive of the tragedy like the one we went through was that we had a chance to be around our team a whole lot over the last 5-6 days,” Montgomery said. “We were able to grow our team much closer and hopefully worked out all of the kinks that we tried to start turning since the start of our four-game losing streak. “With our open date, I felt like it fell right where it needed to fall — halfway through the year. We were able to be on the grass twice a day whether it be for a walkthrough and a practice for the times that we were out there, and then a lot of meeting time.” In addition to the football-related activities, the Pirates also spent the past week partaking in several team-building pursuits — including a group trip to the movies and a freshman party at Montgomery’s house. According to senior cornerback Dashaun Amos, ECU’s coaches did a good job of making the best of a bad situation and creating a positive atmosphere for the second half of the season as the Pirates chance the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility. “We don’t like negative events,” Amos said. “But any kind of negative event is a bonding thing for us. We look to each other for comfort and help.”