The Shorter football team heads to Carrollton today to meet the West Georgia Wolves for the first time.
The Hawks enter the game with a 4-5 overall record and, following a 37-6 loss to No. 24-ranked Valdosta State in their last Gulf South Conference outing, are winless in their three conference matchups.
Like Shorter, West Georgia is also in search of avoiding a losing season and is 3-5 overall coming off a 52-28 defeat by No. 14 West Texas A&M last week.
The Wolves, however, are a proven entity in the Gulf South and although they are 1-3 in league play, that win came over the same North Alabama team that shut out Shorter in the Hawks’ GSC debut last month.
“That win (over North Alabama) gives you an indication of how good West Georgia is,” said Jones.
Shorter clearly has showed signs that it can become just as good in the conference.
In all three of their GSC game thus far, the Hawks have held their own on both sides of the ball at the outset of each contest, moving the ball methodically down the field right off the bat while defensively keeping foes in check.
At the same time, a number of the Hawks themselves have turned in record-setting seasons already, with senior linebacker Demery Hawkins and freshman defensive end Laynce Sanders setting new single-year standards and junior fullback Bradley Moon and sophomore quarterback Eric Dodson putting their names in the Shorter record book.
Yet every player and coach know that every aspect of the game has to be in sync, something that has eluded the Hawks and allowed the teams they face to take advantage of it as was the case against Valdosta State when the Blazers turned three of Shorter’s four fumbles into touchdowns.
“You can have a couple of those if you’re better that the other team and not notice them,” Jones said about the turnovers that have plagued the Hawks — Shorter has put the ball on the ground 25 times and lost 13 of them — this season, “but you just can’t do it in the situation that we’re in when you play conference teams.”
Even against the best the GSC has to offer, the Hawks have been able to move the ball, averaging 353 yards a game with the majority of the yardage coming thanks to a 268 rushing average. The remainder thanks to a more threatening pass game led by Dodson, who enters the West Georgia game having thrown for 729 yards this season and is 58 yards from setting a new single-season record.
Like Dodson, Moon has found his niche in the backfield where he leads the team with 808 yards on 154 carries, nine of those going for touchdowns.
Moon, who ran for 116 yards — his fifth 100-plus yard game of the season — against Valdosta, now owns Shorter’s third-best rushing total for a season trailing only former great A.J. Cooley.
Adding to the Hawks’ option scheme has been Dodson, who has rushed for 481 yards and six touchdowns; fullback T.J. Telfair, with 350 yards and a TD under his belt; and a potent combination of slotbacks Brandon Morten, Kirk Wilson. Roderick Jones and Caleb Collins, who as a unit, have found the room to run for 641 yards.
And when Shorter opts to put the ball in the air, Morten and wide receiver Allen Huntley have led the way on the receiving end of the tosses with Morten grabbing 11 catches for 334 yards and three TDs while Huntley has 10 receptions for 134 yards.
As the offense keeps working hard to put up the yards and the points, the Shorter defense has kept its nose to the grindstone.
Despite the outcome against Valdosta, the Hawks rose to the occasion as the Blazers, who came to Rome averaging 493 yards a game, were held to 335 yards by Shorter, one yard less than the Hawks’ average. Shorter’s run defense, however, allows foes 125 yards a game and will be tested against a West Georgia offense that has shifted its focus on the run and averages more than 210 yards.
What has become clear is that the Shorter defense has been on the attack at the line of scrimmage trying to disrupt opposing offenses in their own backfield.
Hawkins, who leads Shorter with 59 tackles, has already set the team’s single-season mark with 15 tackles for losses and has added 2.5 sacks.
As a team, Shorter’s defense has combined for 22 sacks, with DeRhyan Arnold notching three of them and Jamal Denson adding 2.5 more.
“We feel we’re working hard to get there,” Jones said, “and believe we can do it if we keep playing hard. You have to in this conference. All of the teams are very good.”