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Eagles ready to soar into 2021 season

#24 CN opens at home on Sept. 2nd against West Georgia
Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 10:38 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - For the first time since 2014, Carson-Newman football has been nationally ranked by the American Football Coaches Association.

Carson-Newman debuts tied for 24th with fellow South Atlantic Conference foe Wingate.  The Eagles and Bulldogs both received 95 votes.  The AFCA didn’t produce any polls during the fall of 2020, nor the spring of 2021 for Division II.

The Eagles were ranked 20th by the entity to close the 2019 season after a playoff appearance.

Carson-Newman returns four starters from its offense and defense from 2019′s NCAA Playoff team.  The Eagles were 1-0 in the spring of 2021 with a riveting 40-37, four-overtime win over UVA Wise to kick off the Mike Clowney era.

The skill players are certainly there offensively, with the return of All-Region selection Braxton Westfield and Romain Kelly at wide receiver, as well as 2019 SAC Offensive Freshman of the Year Troy Dendy at running back.  .

Westfield was Carson-Newman’s first first-team all-conference and all-region wideout in a decade and the first since Reggie Hubbard earned a spot on the first team in 2009.

Westfield was a big-play threat for Carson-Newman all year.  In his second career game as a Carson-Newman football player, Braxton Westfield put his name in the record books. In a week two loss to Wingate, Westfield grabbed three passes, all for touchdowns, for a whopping 169 yards receiving.  His scores traversed 81, 53 and 35 yards.  The 81-yard catch is the seventh longest reception in school history.  His 169 yards are the 10th highest single-game total in school history and the third most of the option era. Additionally, his 56.3 yards per catch are the most of any wide out with three catches or more in a single game and the fourth most among players with two or more receptions. His three touchdown catches are also tied a school record.

For the year, Westfield had 36 catches for 680 yards.  He set an option-era record for receptions with a 10-catch, 139-yard day against Lenoir-Rhyne.  Westfield has found the end zone 11 times last season, the second most receiving touchdowns by an Eagle in a single season all-time and the most in the option era.

Meanwhile Kelly grabbed 17 passes for 363 yards - a total that would have led Carson-Newman in receiving five of the last 10 years.

Dendy exploded onto the scene in his first season as an Eagle. The Laurens, S.C., native has rushed for 700 yards on 85 carries, accounting for six touchdowns.  He has powered his way to a trio of 100-yard performances, including a 23-carry, 200-yard performance en route to South Atlantic Conference Player of the Week honors at Limestone. The 200-yard day against Limestone registered as the 37th all-time 200-yard rushing performance in Carson-Newman football history, and the first by a freshman.

He also had a seven-carry, 149-yard, two-touchdown day against UNC Pembroke.  Dendy broke the 100-yard barrier against Mars Hill on Nov. 2 with 110 yards on 12 carries.

Derrick Evans graduates at quarterback after three straight all-SAC campaigns, however, Trey Mitchell completed 12-of-25 passes at UVA Wise for 282 yards and two scores. His 89-yard connection with DeQuan Dudley goes down as the third-longest pass completion in school history. He also rushed three times for 10 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Carson-Newman must replace its entire secondary, including All-Americans Desmond Fairell and Darius Williams, as well as its interior defensive line as All-Decade team members Brian Bembry and Montel Presley graduate.  Carson-Newman is set at its end and fox positions with the return of Wycleff PhanorTrayzel Jureidini-Wyche and Nick Owens.  Rondrow Peebles, a preseason All-American, Daniel Dixon-Brooks and Alonzo Houston anchor the linebacking corps.

Carson-Newman opens the season Sept. 2 under the lights of Burke-Tarr Stadium at 7 p.m. against West Georgia, a team also receiving votes in the poll.

Rank   School (1st votes)                Rec.     Pts.  Rank*      Season Opener                                                  Head Coach

1.    West Florida (26)                     13-2      698           1      Sept. 2 at McNeese (La.)                                 Pete Shinnick

2.    Minnesota St. (2)                     14-1      673           2      Sept. 2 vs. Northern St. (S.D.)                                                       Todd Hoffner

3.    Ferris St. (Mich.)                      12-1      630           3      Sept. 2 vs. Findlay (Ohio)                                  Tony Annese

4.    Northwest Missouri St. (1)     12-2      575           7      Sept. 2 at Fort Hays St. (Kan.)                            Rich Wright

5.    Slippery Rock (Pa.)                 13-1      544           6      Sept. 2 at Wayne St. (Mich.)                               Shawn Lutz

6t.    Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.)               13-1      540           4      Sept. 4 at Virginia St. Mike Jacobs

6t.    Valdosta St. (Ga.)                   10-1      540           5      Sept. 2 vs. Savannah St. (Ga.)                              Gary Goff

8.    Texas A&M-Commerce          10-3      520         11      Sept. 2 at No. 12 Colorado St.-Pueblo                                           David Bailiff

9.    Notre Dame (Ohio)                 12-2      501         10      Sept. 4 vs. Ashland (Ohio) Mickey Mental

10.    Colorado School of Mines     12-1      423           8      Sept. 2 vs. Western Oregon                                                      Gregg Brandon

11.    Ouachita Baptist (Ark.)           11-1      387         14      Sept. 2 vs. Oklahoma Baptist                             Todd Knight

12.    Colorado St.-Pueblo               11-2      327         12      Sept. 2 vs. No. 8 Texas A&M-Commerce                                   John Wristen

13.    Central Missouri                      11-2      323         13      Sept. 2 vs. Pittsburg St. (Kan.)                                                      Jim Svoboda

14.    Indianapolis (Ind.)                     9-2      261         17      Sept. 4 at Saint Xavier (Ill.)                             Chris Keevers

15.    Shepherd (W.Va.)                   10-3      256         22      Sept. 2 at Ohio Dominican                              Ernie McCook

16.    Grand Valley St. (Mich.)           8-3      231        NR      Sept. 2 vs. Edinboro (Pa.)                                  Matt Mitchell

17.    Indiana (Pa.)                            10-2      220         21      Sept. 11 vs. No. 20 Kutztown (Pa.)                                            Paul Tortorella

18.    Bowie St. (Md.)                        11-1      210         18      Sept. 4 at Delaware St.                                   Damon Wilson

19.    Tiffin (Ohio)                                9-2      188         23      Sept. 4 at Marian (Ind.)                                      Chris Reisert

20.    Kutztown (Pa.)                         11-2      144         16      Sept. 4 vs. Assumption (Mass.)                                                    Jim Clements

21.    Lindenwood (Mo.)                     9-4      134         25      Sept. 2 vs. Angelo St. (Texas)                             Jed Stugart

22.    Harding (Ark.)                          10-2      120         15      Sept. 4 vs. East Central (Okla.)                                                  Paul Simmons

23.    Minnesota-Duluth                      8-3      100        NR      Sept. 2 at Upper Iowa                                            Curt Wiese

24t.    Carson-Newman (Tenn.)         9-3        95         20      Sept. 2 vs. West Georgia                                 Mike Clowney

24t.    Wingate (N.C.)                         10-2        95         16      Sept. 2 vs. Shaw (N.C.)                                           Joe Reich

*– Ranking in final AFCA Division II Poll of 2019

Others Receiving Votes: Fort Hays St., 90; Tusculum (Tenn.), 52; Angelo St. (Texas), 49; Augustana (S.D.), 42; Ashland (Ohio), 38; West Chester (Pa.), 38; Delta St. (Miss.), 35; West Texas A&M, 26; Midwestern St. (Texas), 25; Bentley (Mass.), 24; Henderson St. (Ark.), 24; Sioux Falls (S.D.), 23; UT-Permian Basin (Texas), 23; Ohio Dominican, 20; Findlay (Ohio), 18; West Alabama, 18; California (Pa.), 17; Charleston (W.Va.), 16; Central Washington, 15; Miles (Ala.), 15; Truman St. (Mo.), 15; Oklahoma Baptist, 14; Assumption (Mass.), 9; Pittsburg St. (Kan.), 8; Wayne St. (Mich.), 8; Saginaw Valley St. (Mich.), 6; Virginia Union, 6; Chadron St. (Neb.), 4; Nebraska-Kearney, 4; Fayetteville St. (N.C.), 2; West Georgia, 2; Hillsdale (Mich.), 1; Missouri Western, 1; Virginia St., 1; Western Oregon, 1.

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