Making those bumps even harder is the fact that the Hawks joined the Gulf South Conference, which is one of the toughest in Division II.
On Thursday night, the Hawks hit another dip in the road as they hosted powerhouse Valdosta State and were handed a 37-6 defeat by the Blazers in a game that televised nationally on CSS.
“I think they fought hard and they played really hard,” Shorter coach Phil Jones said about this team. “Yes we made mistakes, but if they keep playing hard, we’ll get to where we want to get to.”
Shorter, which trailed 24-0 at the half, fell to 0-3 in the conference.
“We knew coming in (to the season) what we were up against coming up into Division II and joining the Gulf South Conference,” said Jones.
The Hawks’ lone touchdown of the night came from junior tailback Kirk Wilson, who scored on a five-yard rush in the third quarter. On the night, Wilson finished with 56 yards on just four carries.
Shorter junior Bradley Moon led all rushers in the game as he finished with 116 yards on 21 attempts.
Defensively, linebacker Demery Hawkins led the Hawks with 10 tackles, and freshman defensive end Laynce Sanders finished with two sacks to break to the school’s all-time single-season sack record. Sanders now has 7.5 sacks on the season with two games to go.
The biggest problem for the Hawks was not being to hold on to the ball. Shorter finished with four turnovers, with three of those begin fumbles that the Blazers pounced on.
“No question that hurt us,” said Jones. “Any kind of turnover at this point hurts us, because we aren’t to their level yet.
“We have to be close to perfect to be able to do this right now,” added Jones. “But we didn’t get it done tonight, but I love the kids and I think we’re going to make it in this league.”
The Blazers scored 17 points in the first quarter, and then went on to add another touchdown in the second to build their 24-0 lead at the half. Valdosta State extended their lead to 31-0 in the third quarter before the Wilson found the end zone to put the Hawks on the board.
The Blazers scored the final points of the game in the third quarter to put the score at 37-6.
With each passing game in Division II, the Hawks learn more and more about what they need to do to build the program. Though the wins aren’t coming yet, Jones knows that they will come in time.
“I think each time we go out there, they seem to have a feel that we can’t do this,” said Jones. “They really get disappointed on turnovers and stuff because they think it should have been closer. It was just a tough night.”
Shorter will now turn its attention to its final two games of the season. The Hawks next game will be on Nov. 3 as they travel to West Georgia, and then Shorter will return home the following week and host Delta State.
“We’ll learn from the film and we’ll see what’s causing any of the issues that we have,” said Jones. “Our biggest thing is to our kids going again, getting a game plan and getting at it going again.
“I think the more we do it, the better we’re going to be,” added Jones.
NOTE: Thursday night’s game was Shorter’s ‘Night of Champions’ as the Hawks honored all the teams from last season that won conference and national championships.