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Eagles look to begin 2012 season with milestone for Sparks

The 2012 season of Carson-Newman football begins with an opportunity for the Eagles to collect a historic milestone for their head coach.

Coach Ken Sparks, now in his 33rd season at Mossy Creek, is one win away from 300 career victories, 11th most in college football history.

“I’m grateful to the people at Carson-Newman that have supported us to the point that we’ve had excellence,”

Sparks said. “The players and coaches have done the work; they are the ones who deserve the credit. Winning one football game or 300 ball games is not who I am, that’s what I do, but that’s not who I am. I want to honor the Lord with what I do.”

Sparks and the Eagles are looking to put a disappointing 2011 season behind them. Carson-Newman finished 5-6, the first losing campaign in Sparks’ tenure. However despite a difficult and injury-plagued 2011 season, the Eagles return to the field in 2012 with renewed spirit and focus.

Carson-Newman’s theme for the season is 4D (Daily Discipline Determines Destiny). The theme for the year comes from Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

The Eagles will return seven players with starting experience from last year’s team. While Carson-Newman loses All-SAC running back Nate Inman to graduation, the Eagles feature a strong stable of runners ready to perform in 2012.

Junior running back Tyron Douglas averaged 66.5 yards a game in 2011, sixth best in the South Atlantic Conference. Brandon Baker and Andy Hibbett are also expected to contribute to the ground game, and senior Solomon Duanah has impressed with his speed during fall camp and will get touches.

The Eagles also return senior quarterback Brandon Haywood, who took over as the starter midway through last season, showing off his abilities as a passer and runner. His targets through the air will include receivers Steve Isom and Jason Brown. Also look for tight ends Caleb Ingram and Keith Reid to be involved in the passing game, in addition to their ground game blocking duties.

The Eagles offensive line is anchored by a pair of preseason All-SAC selections: junior guard Alex Taylor and senior center Kevin Day. Both linemen have started since their freshman year, and were joined on the preseason All-SAC team by junior guard Lucas Mathis.

On defense the Eagles will be led by a strong secondary, including preseason All-SAC selections Oliver Davis and Tarvin Jones. On the defensive line Deshon Collins was named preseason All-SAC, coming off a 28 tackle performance a year ago.

The Eagles lose seven starters on defense from a year ago, yet will look to Davis and Jones for leadership, along with junior linebacker and two-year starter Jaycob Coleman.

The special teams unit is led by placekicker Curt Duncan, who returns for his junior season. Son of record-setting Tennessee kicker Alan Duncan, Curt has split kickoff and placekicking duties for his first two seasons in the Orange and Blue. Sophomore Charlie Rhea will handle punting duties after a standout freshman year where nearly a quarter of his punts were inside the opponent’s 20 yard line.

Carson-Newman’s first opponent in the 2012 season also finished 5-6 last year, Glenville State.

This is only the second meeting in series history between the Eagles and Pioneers. A year ago, Carson-Newman opened the season with a 45-20 win over the Pioneers in Glenville. The Eagles outscored the Pioneers 38-7 in the final three quarters, and were led on the ground by Brandon Baker’s 107 yards on 12 carries.

The Pioneers return Darold Hughes at quarterback for his senior season. Last year he threw for 12 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards as Glenville finished their conference schedule with a 5-3 record.

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