No. 18 Eagles visit unfamiliar foe in familiar territory
JEFFERSON CITY — For the first time in his luxurious 34 year coaching career, Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks and the No. 18 Carson-Newman Eagles will face Shorter University tomorrow at Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga.
The 1:30 p.m. kickoff may see an unfamiliar face on the other side, but for Sparks and the Eagles they have a successful history at the astro turfed Barron Stadium.
The Eagles hold a 5-1 overall record at the stadium playing in the Nick Hyder Classic. Hyder was the head coach of the Valdosta High School program and the current Valdosta High School is named in honor of Hyder. Hyder is a member of the Carson-Newman Hall of Fame and posted a 71-1-1 in from 1986 to 1993 at Valdosta High School.
The trip to Rome, GA may bring back memories for Sparks, but his sole focus will be on Hawks. They will rely on a Triple Option offense and a rather stout 4-2-5 defense.
“We’re playing against the best 0-5 football team in America,” Sparks said. “They’ve played Charleston Southern, Valdosta State and North Alabama. That’s some pretty heady competition. And West Georgia and Mars Hill are pretty solid too.
“Shorter is a good football team, they’ve got a bunch of starters back off last year’s team. They’re a time bomb waiting to happen, and I hope it doesn’t go off against us because if we’re not ready, it will.”
However, there has been one common opponent this season for both schools in Mars Hill. The Eagles defeated Mars Hill 43-27, while Shorter lost 41-30.
Sparks said he is concerned about a possible upset brewing in Rome.
“The first time I watched video of this team, I thought, ‘let’s go to Rome, go eat and come home,’” Sparks said. “On hoof, they really are a ferocious football team. They’ll be a tremendous challenge for us.”
Shorter coach Phil Jones will rely heavily on the Hawks’ running game, but the running stats are misleading because quarterback Eric Dodson is the team leader with 344 total yards. Bradley Moon is the leading running back with 260 yards. From the passing perspective, Dodson is averaging 116 yards per contest. His favorite target is Darius Turner who leads the team 149 receiving yards.
For Carson-Newman (4-1, 2-1), they are coming off the road victory over Mars Hill. The Eagles ground game continues to shine behind Tyron Douglas, Andy Hibbett, and quarterback De’Andre Thomas. Douglas leads the team with 432 yards, while Hibbett has 398, and Thomas 361.
-By Chris Ayers, Assistant Sports Editor