Sparks enters game with 297 wins; Kickoff is at 2 p.m. for first-ever meeting
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — The Carson-Newman College football team will face its toughest test of the season according to head coach Ken Sparks when they travel to Tigerville, S.C. to take on the University of North Greenville in Younts Stadium Saturday at 2 p.m.
"They're a good football team," Sparks said of North Greenville. "They'll be the best team we've played so far. They're very capable and have good players. We know very little about them. They've been Division II for two or three years and have everybody's attention."
The Eagles (3-3) and Crusaders (4-2) have never faced off before, but both boast one of the best rushing attacks in the country. North Greenville is the No. 10 rushing offense in NCAA Division II, averaging almost 240 yards a game on the ground. The Eagles are ranked No. 7 in the country, rolling up 258 yards per game running the ball.
C-N has the advantage in the red zone, scoring on 20-of-21 trips inside the 20 yard-line, good enough for a Top Three ranking. The Crusaders are 48th in the red zone.
North Greenville plays every South Atlantic Conference team this season and is 3-1 against the conference so far, including a 35-27 win over Lenoir-Rhyne on Oct. 1, a team that had beaten the Eagles just two weeks before.
"That game (against Lenoir-Rhyne) was one that kind of exposed us some," Sparks said. "It doesn't matter if you've never played them or played them five times, you've still got to block and tackle. We still have a tendency to be self-destructive. But last week was certainly an improvement over the previous three weeks."
The Eagles will be led on offense once again by junior quarterback Brandon Haywood (Rockmart, Ga.). Haywood led Carson-Newman to a 55-21 win over Catawba last week in his first start, completing all but one pass and helping C-N put up nearly 600 yards of offense along with ending a three-game losing streak.
"Brandon does a great job of getting the ball in the hands of people that are open," Sparks said. "He's worked hard and sure has been a blessing to this football program."
Senior Nate Inman (Fitzgerald, Ga.) leads the Eagles' stable of running backs with 85 carries for 489 yards and six touchdowns. Starting alongside Inman will be sophomore Tyron Douglas (Clover, S.C.), who rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Indians.
The Crusaders' offense is run by Clemson University-transfer Willy Korn, Korn has thrown for 940 yards and nine touchdowns this season with six interceptions. Teryan Rucker is North Greenville's most dangerous runner, averaging nearly 87 yards a game with six scores. Freddie Martino Jr. is Korn's favorite target when the Crusaders do take to the air, hauling in 26 passes for 381 yards and four TDs.
On defense, North Greenville linebacker Jonathan Sharpe can do damage all over the field. Sharpe has 38 tackles, with 4.5 coming for a loss, half a sack and an interception. Safety Nick Rosamonda is right behind Sharpe with 37 tackles with a whopping 7.5 for a loss and two picks.
Carson-Newman comes to Tigerville with the No. 13-ranked defense in the country and the No. 11-ranked pass defense. Junior linebacker Larry Lumpkin (Grand Bay, Ala.) continues his domination between the hashes with 49 tackles, 5.5 for a loss and half a sack. Sophomore linebacker Jaycob Coleman (Norton, Va.) is the star of the defensive game film with 30 tackles, three for a loss, half a sack, one interception, two pass break-ups, three passes defended and one QB hurry. Senior defensive end Zeke Andrews (Eastman, Ga.) leads the team with 2.5 sacks to go with his 7.5 tackles for a loss, 25 total tackles and one forced fumble.
RADIO INFORMATION: The game will be broadcast locally on the Flagship Station for Carson-Newman Football, WRJZ-AM 620 (Knoxville) and on WPFT-FM 106.3 (Sevierville). Coverage begins on the Eagle Radio Network at 1:30 p.m.