Eagles ready to soar into 2021 season
#24 CN opens at home on Sept. 2nd against West Georgia
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 Phanor, Trayzel 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.