For the first time in over four years, the Shorter Hawks know what it is like to celebrate a win.
The Division II program jumped on Allen University early Saturday on the way to a 37-7 victory at Barron Stadium, ending a stretch of 48 consecutive losses that dated back to 2015.
Sophomore Tupac Lanier ran for two touchdowns and caught a 14-yard pass for another to help give Shorter a 20-7 lead at halftime, while the Hawks’ defense recorded seven sacks to keep the visiting Yellow Jackets off-balance.
It was the first win at any level for Shorter head coach Zach Morrison, who took the reins of the program in 2018 after playing for the Hawks during their first four years as a program from 2005 to 2008.
“I’m just proud of these guys and proud of their work and proud of the effort that they have shown,” Morrison said after the game as players and coaches continued to celebrate around him.
“This week of practice, they had energy and excitement. You have guys come out to practice and watch, and they see that this team doesn’t practice like an 0-9 team. They’re fighting week in and week out. We talked about it this week, about the effort and the attitude we wanted to see on the field. About how we want to continue to build the culture here and understand that it is a brick-by-brick process. And they get it. They understand.”
The win over the NAIA program from Columbia, South Carolina, came on Shorter’s Senior Day, and the Hawks recognized their seven seniors prior to the game, none of whom had ever won in their time at Shorter.
Senior Tyler Pullum, who has been the Hawks’ starting quarterback for most of his career, said Saturday’s win was a long time coming, but it was the faith of their coaches that helped pull them through.
“It’s definitely been a tough journey. There’s been a lot of hard times, but this made it all worth it,” Pullum said. “We definitely earned it. We put in a lot of work, and it was about time the ball bounced our way for once.”
Pullum and freshman Aeneas Dennis both eclipsed 100 yards passing in Shorter’s final home game of the season. Pullum was 11-of-14 for 105 yards and a touchdown, while Dennis completed eight passes for 109 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Jeffery Brewer Jr. opened the second half with an 84-yard kick return that set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from Dennis to Devin Price. Gregory Fields Jr. intercepted a pass by Allen’s Noah Shoeman deep in Yellow Jacket territory a few minutes later, leading to Dennis finding a wide open Elijah Gilbert in the end zone for a 12-yard score.
The kick by Nicholas Pope made it 34-7, and the freshman’s 26-yard field goal with 8:27 left in the game would set the final score.
Shorter’s losing streak lasted four years, one month and six days. The Hawks had last won on Oct. 3, 2015 at Gulf South Conference foe Mississippi College, 42-23, under the team’s first-ever head coach, Phil Jones.
Jones retired after the 2015 season and was followed by Aaron Kelton, who then was replaced by Morrison after two winless seasons. Morrison is the first Shorter head coach beside Jones — his former head coach and mentor — to lead the Hawks to a victory.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Morrison said. “There’s a lot of emotion … and I’m excited because we’re doing something and building something special. This is the first brick, and we’ve just got to continue to build every single day.”
Morrison spoke of how proud he was of the entire coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Chad Creamer and offensive coordinator Blaise Holzer.
“They put in so much work and effort, and sometimes they are kind of forgot about when we get out on the field,” he said.
Shorter (1-9) spread the ball around with six different receivers having two or more catches and three players with at least five carries in the game.
The Hawks finished with 315 yards of offense to Allen’s 188.
Shorter will return to Gulf South Conference play next Saturday to finish its season as the Hawks travel to Melbourne, Florida, to take on Florida Tech and try to start another streak.
“The first one is always the hardest one,” Pullum said. “Now that we’ve got one, going into this next week and next season, there are a lot of things that can happen. We’ve got a great group of young guys, and these coaches are going to get them ready.”