ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. ——Christopher Newport University coach Matt Kelchner reeled off the names as if he were reading an infirmary checklist.
No starting quarterback. No backup quarterback. No starting fullback. No backup fullback. No middle linebacker.
Not to mention the Captains were facing a North Carolina Wesleyan team that hadn't lost a USA South regular season game in two years.
So when Christopher Newport, led by freshman quarterback Lyndon Garner and senior running back Keith Gaines, rolled into Rocky Mount and upset the Battling Bishops, 23-15, to pull into a four-way tie for first place in the conference, Kelchner was overjoyed.
"Our starting quarterback (Matt Long) had to retire from football this week. (Friday) night he stood in front of the team and said, 'Guys, I've got to let you know I'm physically unable to play.' That was pretty heartfelt. Our starting middle linebacker, Chris Nickle, did the same thing last week. Our backup quarterback, Christian Monsivais, made a mistake at home, and I benched him. So we're down to nobody who has taken a snap. It's one of the most satisfying wins I've ever been a part of, without any question," Kelchner said.
Fitting, then, that this victory would come in the program's 100th game — all of which Kelchner has coached.
The Captains (2-4, 2-1) capitalized on five turnovers by the Bishops, including three on consecutive drives in the first half.
"The defense played great football. They hustled to the ball, and they attacked," Kelchner said.
There were a number of crucial plays throughout the game, but two stand out:
1. With 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter, sophomore Tyshawn Harris penetrated N.C. Wesleyan's punt block coverage, placed a hand on the kick, and the ball was recovered in the end zone by senior Brandon Webster to put the Captains ahead, 13-0.
2. Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, the Bishops (3-2, 2-1) faced a fourth-and-inches at the Captains' 6-yard-line. Running back Teron Bush lined up in the wildcat, broke to the outside, and was hit hard by senior Ryan Wever, who forced a fumble that Marvin Mills recovered.
"Getting this 'W' definitely gives our team a lot more hope of getting a conference championship," Gaines said.
Gaines, who was a game time decision because of turf toe and hip flexor injuries, scored the only touchdown of the first half on a brilliant run. The 5-foot-10 senior sprinted through the middle, then cut to the outside. With one defender to beat, Gaines executed a Madden-esque spin move before reaching the end zone.
"I tried to set (the defender) up inside, and the spin move just came out of nowhere. After that, I was smiling the whole way to the end zone," Gaines said.
Chances are, after the Captains' marquee victory of the season, a number of his teammates and coaches are, too.