ROME, Ga. — On a night when they were hoping to finally make a statement in the Gulf South Conference, the Shorter Hawks were left speechless.
In a GSC-TV Game of the Week showdown with West Alabama on Thursday night at Barron Stadium, it was the visiting Tigers who spoke in loud volumes as they dominated the Hawks, handing Shorter a 55-10 setback.
“It’s hard to say anything about this game,” Shorter head coach Phil Jones said after the loss, the Hawks’ second defeat in as many weeks that gives them a 3-3 overall record and a 1-2 GSC slate heading into their next outing on Saturday, Oct. 25 when they visit Valdosta State. “They’re a very good football team. We’ll need to pick ourselves up just like you have to do in life.”
The win snaps a two-game losing streak for West Alabama, who came to Rome for the first time ever and Rome with 4-3 and 1-2 marks and as the team who overwhelmed the Hawks in nearly every statistical category.
By the time the game ended, the Tigers had rolled up 585 yards, 340 on the ground and 245 through the air, had 31 first downs and owned the clock as they held the ball for a remarkable 40 minutes, 34 seconds.
Leading the Tigers’ attack was senior quarterback Kyle Caldwell, who showed why he was last year’s GSC Offensive Player of the Year as he finished the night completing 21 of 25 passes for 245 yards and four touchdown passes – not to mention picking up a blocked field goal try and racing 26 yards for another touchdown – while Tyler Rogers spearheaded West Alabama’s league-leading ground game with a game-high 110 yards on 10 carries.
While West Alabama’s offense had its way against what had been a stout Shorter defense coming into the game, the Tigers’ defense kept the Hawks’ offense in check throughout the night as Shorter finished the game with a season-low 184 total yards on offense, a figure made even more noticeable as the home team had 189 yards at the half.
The lone highlight of the game for the Hawks came from senior Kirk Wilson, who scored Shorter’s lone touchdown when he broke free for a 74-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.
The Hawks opened the scoring on their second possession of the game when they marched 60 yards down the field and take a 3-0 lead when Kenny Langford connected on a 28-yard field goal that proved to be the lone points produced in the opening quarter.
The second period, however, proved to be a track meet although West Alabama opened the period with a rare score.
After the Tigers moved the ball deep into Shorter territory, UWA lined up for what appeared to be an attempted 26-yard field goal try. Shorter’s Wesley Clay was able to block the kick but the ball bounced into the hands of Caldwell, who was the holder, and the senior found an opening on the right side to score from 26 yards out and give the visitors the 7-3 lead in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
Shorter wasted little time responding when on the first play from scrimmage, Wilson sprinted to the right side of the field and raced untouched into the end zone for the scoring run that gave the Hawks the lead back, 10-7.
That proved to be the final offensive threat the Hawks would mount the rest of the way as the rest of the half – and the game – belonged to West Alabama as they put together three straight scoring drives on their next three possessions to take command of the game.
The first an came on an 80-yard march that took only four plays and ended with Caldwell hit Randy Satterfield with a 6-yard scoring pass to put the Tigers back in front for good 14-10, and the Tigers then reeled off consecutive 78- and 70-yard scoring drives with Daryl Collins latching on to a Caldwell pass for a 14-yard touchdown and Caldwell hitting Collins again with a 7-yard TD pass that wound up giving the visitors a comfortable 28-10 lead.
After the break, the Tigers picked off where they left off – and then some.
On the third play of the second half, Tyler Rogers took a handoff on the right side and went on a 57-yard touchdown jaunt to make it 35-10 and just over 30 seconds late following a Shorter fumble deep in their own territory, West Alabama made it 42-10 when Daryl Collins scored from six yards out.
The Tigers added seven more points with 4:41 left in the third quarter when Caldwell connected with Marcus Brown for a 14-yard TD toss and capped the lopsided affair late in the final period when Marquis Sumler scored from six yards out.
“We just couldn’t stop them,” Jones said, “and that’s a concern, especially when it’s something we haven’t had trouble with.
“But in my heart I believe we’ll come back from this,” the coach said. “It will be hard but it’s something we just have to do.”