By Jim O'Hara
ROME -- Quarterback Eric Dodson had a career-high rushing for 147 yards and three touchdowns as the Shorter Hawks ran past visiting Ave Maria University 37-7 in a non-conference game Saturday afternoon at Barron Stadium.
The win, the second straight for Shorter, improves the Hawks to 4-3 overall as they begin a rugged four-game Gulf South Conference stretch beginning next Saturday in Livingston, Ala., against West Alabama.
"We did some good things, there's no question about that," Shorter head coach Phil Jones said after win. "(Ave Maria) had a good defensive plan but we took care of business early."
Dodson was all business from the outset as the sophomore turned in his best rushing performance of his young career, leading the Hawks' rushing attack rolling yards on 23 carries, three of those resulting in touchdown runs of 2, 13 and 1 yards. He also completed four of seven passes for another 44 yards.
"They were set up to stop the fullback and had someone outside," Jones said about Dodson's output, "so it dictated the quarterback run."
Still, once Ave Maria's Gyrenes started keeping an eye on Dodson, the Hawks found room to run elsewhere as Shorter ended the game rushing for a season-high 404 yards.
Save for a long touchdown pass early in the third quarter, the Hawks' defense kept the Gyrenes in check as Shorter held Ave Maria to a staggering minus-6 yards rushing, a figure underscored as SU finished the game recording six sacks with Laynce Sanders leading the way, tying a school record with 3.5 sacks n the game. The record was set by Logan Lollis versus Belhaven in 2009.
The Hawks made the most of their first two possessions of the game to take command with Dodson capping the drives with his first two touchdowns of the day.
The first came after Shorter found itself starting the first series of the game at its own 49, when the Hawks needed just 11 plays – all of the ground – to take the early lead when Dodson scored from two yards out. Troy Postell added the extra point, his first of four on the day.
After the SU defense forced the Gyrenes to punt after a three-and-out series, the Hawks set up shop at their own 44 and again marched down the field, using seven plays to cover the distance with Dodson going the final 13 yards after finding an opening to the right side.
Shorter made it 20-0 on its second series of the second quarter with its longest drive of the half, this one covering 78 yards and needing just six plays – the big gainer coming when Dodson broke free for a 50-yard gainer on the opening snap – and culminating when Moon found an opening on the right side of the line to score from four yards out.
The Hawks had one more opportunity right before the half ended, when they covered 57 yards and moved the ball down to the Ave Maria 8-yard line, where Postell provided the points when the split he uprights from 25 yards out with 39 seconds before the half to give Shorter a 23-0 lead at the break.
Shorter came out in the second half once again making the most of having good field position when the Hawks opened their first series at their own 49 and moved down the field in 11 plays with Moon scoring from three yards out.
The Gyrenes responded on their first play of the ensuing series when Brandon Sunderland found Dan Mervos wide open deep to the right side for a 79-yard touchdown pass, but the Hawks answered right back when they put together their longest drive of the game going 87 yards in 16 plays that was capped when Dodson added his third TD reaching the end zone a yard out that wound up being the final points of the game.
The Hawks will now turn their attention to the Gulf South Conference, particularly West Alabama. The meeting will be the second between the two schools, with the Tigers handing the Hawks a 37-7 setback in 2010.
"It's Gulf South Conference football for the next four weeks," Jones said. "It will be a challenge for us, but I think our guys will rise to it."