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Pirates conduct valuable first scrimmage

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East Carolina's Holton Ahlers jumps into the air after scoring on a rushing touchdown during a scrimmage on Aug. 10, 2019.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The value of Saturday’s scrimmage is two-fold for the East Carolina football team, which got minute-to-minute feedback on the field by players and also now has film for all coaches and players to fully digest as the Pirates and first-year head coach Mike Houston continue to strive forward and prepare for their trip to Raleigh on Aug. 31 to play rival N.C. State.

Houston said immediately after the scrimmage at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that, naturally, he saw good and bad moments.

Only one procedural penalty on offense was a bright spot and miscues included a few drops by receivers late in the scrimmage, but the coach mainly wanted to hold judgement until watching film.

“You just don’t know exactly how it is going to go or what to expect, but I think we had a fairly positive first week (of preseason camp) and I think today showed us exactly where we are,” Houston said. “We have a lot of work to do in a lot of areas, but we also have come a long way. ... We did have some turnovers, but why did we have them is what we need to look at.

“Some of the mistakes, we need see what happened. Was it a young guy in a situation for the first time or was it communication? Some of that stuff we need to look at on film.”

Holton Ahlers’ day included three rushing touchdowns. One of the rushing scores came from 56 yards by the sophomore quarterback who led the Pirates last season in rushing yards as a part-time rookie starter.

“It was a great offseason program with speed and agility and also strength, and it does help that I feel healthy now and my knee is 100 percent,” said Ahlers, a Greenville native who missed ECU’s season-finale in 2018, a 58-3 loss at N.C. State only two days after then-head coach Scottie Montgomery was fired. “I feel good out there running. I feel fast because of that offseason program (under director of strength and conditioning John Williams).”

Ahlers and junior Reid Herring continued to split reps with the first- and second-team offense. Herring passed for 165 yards. Mydreon Vines caught a TD pass from Ahlers.

“I think (the scrimmage) can be very valuable,” Herring said. “We had a lot of big plays, but also a couple things we need to work on and some plays we need to make and a couple plays we missed. Overall, I think it went pretty well and the tape will be really good for us.”

Houston noted that Saturday’s game-like setting was especially valuable for rookies who officially joined the team about a week ago.

“We have TowneBank Tower here now completed and it was the first time for a lot of these freshmen in this setting, so it was great weather today with a nice breeze out here and really a great day for a scrimmage,” he said. “I told them that this is the most valuable film that we have up to this point in camp. We had officials and coaches weren’t out on the field and everybody is on the sideline, so you have to operate on your own. This was the first time that they had to go out and operate like a football team.”

Jake Verity made all of his field goal and extra-point kicks.

The team will have Sunday off before beginning another full week of practices. ECU’s second and final preseason scrimmage is set for next Saturday.

“You just have to keep getting better every single day, so we have 21 days to get better,” Ahlers said. “By that time, we will be ready. You can never be too ready to play, but Aug. 31 we will be ready.”

Three answers

1. How was quarterback play? During the portion of the scrimmage that was open to the media, Herring connected on a long completion down the sideline and Ahlers ran up the middle for a pretty easy touchdown. They both scrambled and used their running ability well to get out of the pocket. Ahlers finished with six carries for 113 yards.

2. Big impact by Demetrius Mauney? Houston said that the run game was inconsistent at times, which is in part a credit to ECU’s defensive line. Mauney and Trace Christian both ran with the second-team offense late in the scrimmage.

3. Who steps up on defense? Linemen Kendall Futrell and Alex Turner continue to be leaders and productive on the field. Linebacking play included Aaron Ramseur taking a perfect route to the ball-carrier and completing a tackle for a third-down stop. Also, a nice pass breakup by freshman Malik Fleming (see below).

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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ECU

August 24, 2019

Here’s our East Carolina beat writer Ronnie Woodward’s shot at ECU football’s starting lineup against N.C. State. First-year Pirate coach Mike Houston should be releasing the team’s Week 1 depth chart Tuesday during his news conference.

Here it is:

OFFENSE

QB -- Holton…

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August 24, 2019

First-year East Carolina football coach Mike Houston has mainly established his starters and is in the fine-tuning phase of August as the noon kickoff against N.C. State in Raleigh is exactly one week away.

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August 24, 2019

East Carolina begins its first season under coach Mike Houston one week from today and is aiming to finish better than its three straight 3-9 records from 2016-18. The Pirates haven’t had a winning record since going 8-5 in 2014 under Ruffin McNeill.

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August 24, 2019

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August 22, 2019

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August 22, 2019

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August 21, 2019

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August 20, 2019

No more waiting for Holton Ahlers or the rest of the East Carolina football team or Pirate fans.

With next Saturday’s noon kickoff at N.C. State getting closer and closer, first-year Pirate coach Mike Houston officially announced after Tuesday’s practice that Ahlers will be his…

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August 20, 2019

Quarterback Holton Ahlers led East Carolina’s football team in rushing last season with 592 yards and six touchdowns on 119 carries.

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August 19, 2019

East Carolina first-year football coach Mike Houston described the Pirates' No. 1 center, Branden Pena, as a "tough joker" on Saturday.

The football-centric praise showed how far the relationship has come between Pena and Houston since December.

"Branden Pena is a guy that I didn't know his name…

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