Some may see another notch in the loss column, but Shorter head football coach Aaron Kelton saw a little bit more than that Saturday. He saw evidence that the Hawks are getting better and a win is coming.
Shorter fell behind 29 points in the first half before falling to West Florida 42-29 at Barron Stadium, the 25th consecutive loss Hawks. But Kelton had little to complain about, knowing his team battled all day with one of the best teams in the conference.
“You know this is just fun, and I want these kids to have fun,” Kelton said. “I just asked them in the pre-game, I asked them to give me everything they got. I didn’t need anything else, just give me whatever you have. They did that today.”
Senior receiver Lewis Hayes set two new school records as he recorded 168 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Quarterback Tyler Pullum went 26-of-38 for 386 yards and three touchdowns, while B.J. McCoy had 75 rushing yards and another score.
The Hawks (0-8, 0-5 GSC) outgained West Florida, but let the game get away from them early on. The Argonauts scored five touchdowns in the first half as they sliced through Shorter’s secondary with a number of big pass plays.
West Florida (5-2, 3-2) was led by quarterback Mike Beaudry, who finished with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, including 178 yards in the first half.
He led three straight scoring drives in the second quarter that pushed the lead out to 35-6.
In between those three scores were two Shorter three-and-outs, which gave the defense almost no time to stop the bleeding.
“We just need to have a guy make a play every once and a while,” Kelton said. “That’s what this game is about. When you give up a play, you have to counter that. We did that at certain times, but early on we need a little more reckless abandon.”
The Hawks kept fighting, with Pullum hitting Hayes for a 24-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the first half. The pair found each other again to begin the second half, this time for a 75-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 35-21.
And while Shorter got inside West Florida’s 30 on its next two drives, a missed field goal and turnover on downs killed both scoring chances. West Florida scored on another Beaudry touchdown pass early in the fourth, pushing the game out of reach.
The Hawks hit the road next week, when they play an early contest against West Georgia in Carrollton on Thursday night. And as long as they work as hard as they did on Saturday, Kelton is going to be satisfied with the result.
“This is going to swing for us, all we have to do is give the effort,” Kelton said. “I can’t coach effort. I can work on all the schemes and everything else, but the player controls his effort.”