VIDEO: Ken Sparks Interview
VIDEO: Brandon Staton Interview
VIDEO: Dan Gallman Interview
HICKORY, N.C. – No. 22 Lenoir-Rhyne (4-1, 2-0 South Atlantic Conference) turned a 9-3 lead late in the second quarter into a 52-17 triumph over Carson-Newman (3-2, 1-2 SAC) thanks to a handful of crucial miscues by the Eagles Saturday afternoon under a persistent rain at Moretz Stadium.
The Bears become the first South Atlantic Conference team to ever defeat a Ken Sparks-coached team in four consecutive meetings. Lenoir-Rhyne is the only team to beat Carson-Newman in four consecutive seasons since Sparks became head coach and join North Alabama to ever win four in-a-row against the Eagles.
"Today was a pretty good butt kicking," head coach Ken Sparks said. "Ew, in all phases of the game, we were a very poorly coached football team today. We couldn't tackle anybody, we couldn't block anybody, we couldn't cover kickoffs, we couldn't protect the punter, but we could snap it over his head. Not a good day for us today."
Lenoir-Rhyne had a 9-3 lead on the Eagles with less than 30 seconds to go in the first half and the Eagles punting from their own 49. However, the snap sailed over punter Christian Ramirez's (Carrolton, Ga.) head and Goose Manning (Chattanooga, Tenn.) recovered to prevent an L-R return; however, the Bears had exceptional field position with eight seconds left in the second.
The Bears capitalized on the miscue with a Michael Patrick 30-yard TD run as time expired in the first half.
"At halftime I felt that we we're going to win the ballgame even with giving up the touchdown," Sparks said. "That's when we needed to bow up, we had plenty of opportunities to make a statement. But they blocked and tackled better than we did, they were more explosive than we were and they won a lot more of the one-on-one battles. This is not the end, but this is part of the journey that we are on."
A compendium of errors made a comeback bid exceedingly challenging for the Eagles. Carson-Newman received the opening kickoff for the second half and moved the ball up to midfield before Montavious Taylor (Atlanta, Ga.) coughed up a fumble that the Bears Lendre Sparrow returned 41 yards down to the two-yard line. Two plays later, Kristaan Ivory took a pitch around the left side of the line to move the Bears' lead out to 23-3.
Carson-Newman countered with a three-yard De'Andre Thomas touchdown run to finish off a 14-play, 75-yard drive and bring the Eagles back within two scores.
However, Lenoir-Rhyne quickly struck back. A 62-yard Sims run set up a two-yard touchdown run for the L-R quarterback. An Eagle three-and-out resulted in a blocked punt by the Bears and another short field that L-R capitalized on with a Patrick five-yard run.
In the blink of an eye, the Eagles were down 38-10.
A Patrick 31-yard score and an Ivory 97-yard kickoff return sandwiched a Noah Suber (Asheville, N.C.) one-yard touchdown run to set the final score at 52-17 Lenoir-Rhyne.
"Right now the only thing that I can absolutely be certain of that's missing is the head coach," Sparks said. "I know we've got a great coaching staff; we've got kids that are talented and care. It has to come down to the head coach. I've got to do better."
The Bears outgained the Eagles 453-232. It marks the third time this season the Eagles have been held under 300 yards of total offense. Damian Baker (Columbus, Miss.) tallied his fourth 100-yard game of the season with a 14-carry, 100-yard performance.
The Bears had a pair of 100-yard rushers. Patrick went for 177 with three scores while Sims rushed 13 times for 100 yards and a TD.
Carson-Newman returns home Oct. 10 to battle with Brevard. Kickoff with the Tornados is set for 1 p.m. Coverage on the Eagle Sports Network begins at noon with the Appalachian Electric Cooperative Tailgate Show on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.