Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

June 6, 2014

Shorter excited to be full GSC member

MACON — Among the 18 teams that attended the annual “Pigskin Preview” at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday, perhaps none was more excited than the Shorter University Hawks.

Represented by coach Phil Jones and new defensive coordinator Julius Dixon, the Hawks staff's joy about the school’s official move to Division II football, and becoming an official member of the Gulf South Conference, was evident.

“It’s a good feeling to be joining the GSC, but while it’s exciting, we know that we’re in for a big challenge and I think we will be ready for it,” said Jones.

With Shorter being a private institution however, Jones noted the struggle of having money to bring in top recruits on scholarship.

“We’re a private school so it's a factor in how we recruit, he said. "We try to engage guys into raising themselves for anything they do. We want to challenge our kids do great.

“We are not a high monetary program so what we try to do is try to recruit in a circle around the places we are close to. We hit parts of Alabama, North and South Georgia and Tennessee. For us to go way off wouldn’t be very productive for us. We go out and find players that hopefully want to play for us.”

With Shorter joining the GSC full time this season, they become the first Division II school in Rome, however they are not the only football program. This season, Rome will welcome yet another program at Berry College. Jones is excited about the addition of the program and what it can do for the city and for Shorter.

“It brings a little more notoriety in the city," he said. "They are a Division III school and we are D-2 so we are not in direct competition with them. It does help us however having another school in the area to bring more talent to the city of Rome."

Currently, the Shorter program is preparing for their toughest season yet, playing a schedule filled with all Division II opponents for the first time.

“It’s weightlifting time for us," Jones said. "Our players are conditioning and getting bigger to match our competition. We have to accomplish that portion before we get to pads."

One player that will be representing South Georgia for the Hawks will be former Lowndes Viking defensive back Eric Hart. Hart will immediately be used at Shorter and coach Jones seemed ecstatic to have him with the Hawks.

“We really liked him," Jones said. "He’s a really good student and has a good family. We were really impressed with him. He has the speed to change direction on the field. We see a lot of passing in our league and we think that he will be an important factor for us, right out the gate."

Shorter begins its 10th season, but first as a full GSC member, against non-conference opponent Paine College of Augusta on Sept. 4 at home. The Hawks will have the chance to play on a larger scale in Week 3 when they travel to Arlington, Texas, to take part in the Lone Star Football Festival on Sept. 20 to face West Texas A&M. Valdosta State participated in this game back in 2012 on its road to the Division II national championship.

Shorter will face the Blazers at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium on Oct. 25 at 3 p.m., a game that is slated to be the Blazers' homecoming celebration.

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