JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the six in an 11-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2013 season. Today's feature delves into an opponent C-N has never encountered, but a stadium the Eagles have seen a bunch. Oct. 12, the Eagles face off against the Shorter Hawks at Historic Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga.
Assignment football – that'll be the name of the game when Carson-Newman and Shorter compete in mid-October. The Eagles' veer option attack versus Shorter's triple option. The opponent's aren't familiar; Shorter has been playing football for a quarter of Ken Sparks' Carson-Newman coaching career. But the Eagles are playing on familiar territory.
C-N went 5-1 playing in the Nick Hyder Football Classic in Rome, Ga. C-N last picked up a 42-24 win over Shaw in Historic Barron Stadium in 2005.
The Hawks' Phil Jones has been Shorter's coach since the program's inception in the same year. He's guided the Hawks to winning records in all but two seasons of the program's eight-year existence.
Last year, Shorter began assimilation into the top-tier Gulf South Conference from the ranks of the NAIA's Mid-South conference. Shorter finished 2-3 against GSC competition, good enough for a third place finish.
The Hawks bring loads back from last year's 6-5 team (the Hawks are one of seven teams on the Eagles' schedule that finished 2012 .500 or better against Division II competition). Nine starters return on offense and seven are back on defense.
Included in the mix offensively are quarterback Eric Dodson, 1,000-yard fullback Bradley Moon and leading receiver Kareem Hawkins.
Dodson passed for 972 yards and ran for 571 more last year. The 5-11, 190-pound Moon scored nine touchdowns to Dodson's 10. Offensively, the Hawks rolled up 268 yards on the ground a game last year, which, had Shorter been eligible to rank in the NCAA's statistical rankings, would have been good for ninth best in the nation. There's no reason not to expect improvement in that facet of the offense with QB, top rusher and four of five linemen back.
While the Hawks rolled up the yards, they didn't always roll up points, averaging 21 a game they reached a high water mark of 37 against Ave Marie in a 37-7 win.
Defensively, the Hawks must replace leading tackler Demery Hawkins, who made 61 stops and 18 tackles for loss last year. Laynce Sanders is back on the line after a 36-tackle, 12-tackle for loss, 8.5-sack performance last season. All told, Shorter's 79 tackles for loss last year would have ranked in the top 40 nationally.
The Hawks gave up 24 points and 336 yards of total offense last year, both of which would have put them in the top third of the NCAA's rankings for the categories.
The next installment of the Better Know an Opponent series features Tusculum and will be available Friday morning.