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Hawks fall to Charleston Southern 23-15 in season opener

Jim O’Hara

Guest writer

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Shorter Hawks opened up the new season scoring the first time they touched the ball.

Host Charleston Southern, however, spoiled the Hawks’ 2013 debut as CSU held off a second-half comeback try by Shorter to claim a 23-15 win Saturday.

The win improves the NCAA Division I FCS Buccaneers to 2-0, while the Hawks head back to Rome to prepared for a Thursday night non-conference NCAA Division showdown with South Atlantic Conference foe Mars Hill.

Senior fullback Bradley Moon, who led the Gulf South Conference in rushing last year, paced Shorter running for 120 yards as Shorter wound up gaining 231 yards on the ground and ended the game besting CSU in total yards, 323-181, most of those coming in the second half.

Shorter fullback Bradley Moon carries the ball down the field as his teammates cover his run.
Shorter fullback Bradley Moon carries the ball down the field as his teammates cover his run.

Quarterback Malcolm Dixon led Southern rushing for 102 yards and passing for another 123 yards and two touchdowns.

The Hawks opened the game with an impressive drive on the first series of the morning, the ball 69 yards down the field, the big play coming on the fifth snap when junior quarterback Eric Dodson found senior Kirk Wilson wide open across the middle, with Wilson making a cut to his left to score on a 50-yard touchdown pass with 12:47 left in the opening quarter. Red-shirt sophomore Kenny Langford added the extra point.

But Charleston Southern responded the first time it touched the ball as the Buccaneers countered with an 11-play, 81 yard drive to tie the game when quarterback Malcolm Dixon hooked up with Kevin Glears on a deep post pattern across the middle for a 27-yard scoring pass.

After the Hawks were forced to punt on their next possession, the Bucs continued to move the ball down the field, this time going 69 yards to take a 14-7 lead when Christian Reyes found a hole in the middle and reached paydirt with a 23-yard TD run as the first quarter came to a close.

With just over five minutes to go in the half, Southern put the Hawks’ backs against the wall, downing a punt on the Shorter 1 and on the next play, tackled Dodson in his own end zone for a safety and a 16-7 CSU advantage.

Following the ensuing kick-off after the safety, the Buccaneers regained the offensive momentum, this time putting together a 74-yard drive on just six plays, the final one involving Dixon and Glears again when the pair teamed up for a 13-yard scoring pass with 2:36 to go in the half.

The third quarter saw the Hawks have two opportunities to put points on the board as Shorter came out of the intermission, but both times they came away empty-handed, the first when Guy Hunt’s 43-yard field goal attempt had the distance but was just wide to the right and the second coming in the final seconds on the period when a 15-yard pass intended for senior Kareem Hawkins was intercepted in the end zone.

Shorter’s third drive of the second half, however, produced points when the Hawks mounted a short 47-yard drive that culminated with senior Roderick Jones sprinted into the end zone on a sweep from 9 yards out with 10:56 left in the game. Moon added the two-point conversion to bring the Hawks to within eight, 23-15.

The Hawks dodged a bullet when the Bucs recovered a fumble and returned it to the Shorter 9, but saw a 30-yard field goal try miss the mark.

Southern, however, turned back the Hawks’ final attempt to pull even when, after Shorter began a drive that took them to midfield, the Bucs intercepted a Dodson pass with 1:10 remaining and ran out the clock from there.

Dodson finished the day passing for 92 yards and running for 70 more.