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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Shorter set to open season at Samford

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Shorter Football

Shorter's defensive line is one of the more experienced units for the Hawks as they begin the 2018 season tonight at Samford. / File-Jeremy Stewart

Still, the Shorter Hawks have spent every bit of it hammering out the details in preparation for their opponent in their season opener — which is another unknown for the Division II team.

Shorter kicks off the Zach Morrsion era tonight with a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, and a showdown with the Division I FCS Samford Bulldogs. The game is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

Morrison, who was named Shorter’s head coach in January, brought in a new staff during the offseason and said while his team has only been together a short time he’s been encouraged by how the Hawks have been picking up the offense.

“These guys have only been together for about three weeks. The offense has been installed, but we need to find those plays that we can run well and be successful, and continue to run throughout the game,” Morrison said. “It may be only a couple of plays that we’re really good at, but that’s fine as long as we’re really good at them. We’re just fine-tuning those plays that are our bread and butter — what we’re really good at.”

The Hawks face a tough test right off the bat. Samford went 8-4 in 2017, eventually losing to Kennesaw State in the FCS playoffs. But Morrison, his staff and his players aren’t focused on their opponent as much as they’re looking at themselves and their attitudes.

“There’s a lot of excitement with the players and the coaching staff,” Morrison said. “We did our jersey reveal last week, so we’re going to look and act completely different. Our attitude is completely different while trying to change the culture around here.”

The first-year head coach is trying to turn things around for the program that has gone winless the last two seasons and hasn’t won a game since 2015. One of the bright spots for the Hawks is their defensive line, which is one of the most experienced groups for Shorter, but still features some younger players.

“That’s one of our areas that we didn’t have to recruit heavily,” Morrison said. “We have a lot of experience on the line. But we have some freshman and sophomores that have to step up in a hurry.”

Samford was voted as the front-runner for the Southern Conference title by the league’s coaches this preseason. The Bulldogs also return the conference’s 2017 offensive and defensive players of the year. The Hawks’ young offensive line will have to face 6-2, 245-pound senior defensive lineman Ahmad Gooden.

Defensively, the Hawks will go up against quarterback Devlin Hodges, who threw for just under 3,983 yards and 31 touchdowns last season.

Catching the Hawks

Shorter football will be broadcast online this season through live stream on the Mountain Coast Network. Fans can listen to games through Mixlr.com or the free Mixlr app for mobile devices. The link is http://mixlr.com/Shorter-Football or search for “Shorter-Football” in the app.