For the first time since Donald Hill-Eley became head coach in 2002, Morgan State has opened the season with four consecutive losses. But he said the mood in the locker room has not changed.
“Yesterday was a day that we give the players off, and you’ve got 40 guys out on the field, moving around,” Hill-Eley said Tuesday morning during a conference call. “So the spirits are high. Quite naturally, you would want to have gotten a win within these first four games. [But] you’re going against conference champions, you’re going against the Big South champion [Liberty]. ... So you get a chance to go against the best that they have.
"Unfortunately, you didn’t win, but it’s being able to understand that you competed and take away what you can back into your conference and make your push. Nothing has happened to this point to take us away from our quest of winning the MEAC championship. Right now, that starts this week. This is all for the marbles. Everything else, that chapter is closed, and we’re moving forward.”
The Bears will open play in the conference with a home game this Saturday against Norfolk State (0-3). The Spartans, who won the MEAC title in 2011 with a 7-1 league record and a 9-3 overall mark, have gone 4-10 since then. But a win would encourage either program, Norfolk State coach Pete Adrian said.
“It’s huge for everybody opening up the MEAC,” he said. “If you can start out 1-0, it always gives you a lift, and particularly for both teams, when you haven’t won a game yet, if you can go out and you’re 1-0 in the conference, that gives you something to build on for the rest of your conference schedule. So it’s a huge ballgame for both teams.”
Although the Spartans have won the past six meetings with Morgan State, Adrian said that history will mean little.
“Just about every game that we’ve played has been a very tough ballgame and it’s always come down to the fourth quarter and things of that nature,” he said. “That’s how you’ve got to expect to play the ballgame. I’m sure this year will probably be the same thing.”
Hill-Eley said both teams will be eager to emerge Saturday with that first victory.
“It’s two teams that had tough out-of-conference schedules,” he said. “Neither team was fortunate to have a victory, and it’s two teams that are hungry to win. So you’re going to see a very hard-fought contest. ... The quest for the MEAC starts this week. This is the first time we’re having a MEAC contest, and I’m quite sure he’s going to have his guys ready to play, and we’re going to have our guys ready to play as well.”