Carson-Newman Eagles take down Edinboro in season opener

Coach Sparks imageJEFFERSON CITY—Carson-Newman (1-0) football coach Ken Sparks tied Pop Warner for sixth all-time on the wins list as the No. 16 Eagles knocked off the Edinboro Fighting Scots (0-1) 38-24 at Burke-Tarr Stadium. Sparks is now four wins away from tying legendary coach Bear Bryant for fifth all-time.

“To God by the glory,” Sparks said of tying Warner. “Thank you Lord for letting us be with a bunch of kids like this and do things that football teaches us.  We’re glad to be a small part of it.”

Junior quarterback De’Andre Thomas threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another leading the Eagles while senior running back Anthony Ball rushed for 84 yards on six carries, including a 69-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that broke the game open.

Senior linebacker Eric Cain led the Carson-Newman defense, which added six sacks and 13 total tackles for loss, while holding the Scots to 248 total yards. Cain totaled 11 tackles, a tackle and a half for loss and half a sack for the Eagles.

“The defense in the second half really carried us,” Sparks said. “They continuously brought pressure to their quarterback.  This was a good learning experience for us.  They brought a lot of wrinkles that we hadn’t see in a while, and we didn’t always handle it well.”

Carson-Newman’s 13 tackles for loss are the most for the defense since making 14 stops behind the line of scrimmage in 2010 against Concordia (Ala.).  Carson-Newman hasn’t had 13 tackles for loss against a Division II team since make 13 TFLs against Concord in 2008.

The Eagles outgained Edinboro 515 to 248, but four lost fumbles by the Eagles kept the Fighting Scots close.

A seesaw battle ensued in the first quarter. Both teams’ first possessions of the game ended with no points. Carson-Newman’s second drive ended in a three-and-out, while the Scots scored a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead off a five-yard Nick Helmick touchdown.

Thomas then led C-N on a four-play, 65 yard scoring drive that ended with a 29-yard pass to TraShaun Ward to tie the game at 7-7.

Edinboro answered with another touchdown, this one a 15-yarder to Darren Massey to go up 14-7, before Thomas and the Eagles could see the field again.

Once on the field, Carson-Newman’s offense struck again, this time on a six-play, 54-yard drive that was capped off by a 29-yard screen pass from Thomas to senior Andy Hibbett on fourth and four.

Carson-Newman chewed up most of the clock in the second quarter with a drive that spanned 17 plays, 82 yards and took 7:46 off the clock. That drive resulted in Thomas’s lone rushing touchdown, a one-yard rush to go up 21-14.

Edinboro kicked a 33-yard field goal to cut the Eagles’ lead 21-17 at the half.

Carson-Newman’s defense came to life in the second half, forcing Edinboro to punt on its first four possessions and fumble away its fifth.

In the interim, the Eagles reeled off 21 unanswered points.  Ball’s 69-yard scamper in the third pushed Carson-Newman to a 28-17 lead.  To start the fourth, junior-college transfer Damian Baker put the Eagles up 35-17 with a one-yard touchdown run.

After Edinboro fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Carson-Newman recovered at the Scots’ 21-yard line. Ben Ogle kicked a 28-yard field goal to push the Eagles’ advantage to 38-17.

A late Edinboro touchdown settled the final score at 38-24.

Thomas ended the night 11-of-18 from the field passing for 155 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries while adding a touchdown. Jarrett Blihovde led the Eagles in receiving with three catches for 41 yards.

“This was what we asked them to do, everyone contribute,” Sparks said. “We wanted it to be a we deal, not a me deal.  It was a team win and our guys did a great job with that.”

Carson-Newman heads north to Michigan for its next match-up as they face the Wayne State Warriors on September 13th.

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