2023 Mars Hill vs Carson-Newman

SAC Week 8 Preview: Mars Hill Aims To Keep Pace In Mountain Division

SAC Week 8 Preview: Mars Hill Aims To Keep Pace In Mountain Division

Mars Hill goes on the road looking to maintain at least a share of the Mountain division lead in Week 8, while Lenoir-Rhyne aims to stay perfect in 2023.

Oct 19, 2023 by Kyle Kensing
SAC Week 8 Preview: Mars Hill Aims To Keep Pace In Mountain Division

South Atlantic Conference divisional leaders are on the road in Week 8 for what could be a pivotal Saturday in the league title race. 

Having rebounded from its Sept. 30 loss to Limestone, Mars Hill used a defensively dominant second half against Emory & Henry to pick up its second straight win. The Panthers keep pace in the SAC Mountain at 4-1, tied with Tusculum atop the division. 

The Pioneers await on Mars Hill's schedule for Nov. 4, but the Panthers must first get past two league opponents — the first of which welcomes Mars Hill for a road challenge on Saturday. 

Carson-Newman sits alone in third place in the Mountain at 2-3 after edging Erskine in Week 7, 14-10. The Eagles opened SAC play with a pair of tough matchups, visiting Limestone then hosting top 10-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne in consecutive weeks. 

Since then, however, C-N is 2-1 with an emphatic win at Newberry on Sept. 30, and a near-miss against Tusculum, 27-21 on Oct. 7. The 27 points given up vs. Tusculum mark the Eagles' high over the last four games, an impressive stretch for their defense that includes holding L-R to its season-low of 24 back on Sept. 23. 

Major Williams and Mekhi Brown fueled a feisty effort last week, each delivering two sacks and combining for 5.5 tackles for loss overall. Williams also had a pair of quarterback hurries. 

Brown comes into the weekend tied for sixth in the SAC with 4.5 sacks, a total that teammate Jacorey Long has matched. Long, Brown and Williams will help set the tone in what should be a physical clash. 

The Mars Hill defense comes in allowing just 14.7 points per game, good for 18th in the nation. Only Catawba with 20 points and Limestone with 27 have broken through scoring in the teens against the Panthers. 

Credit Mars Hill's ability to stifle the run; opponents are gaining just 2.7 yards per game and 64.5 per game against the Panthers. That equals a difficult code to crack for a Carson-Newman offense that has had difficulty consistently establishing the run. 

The Eagles average 3.8 yards per carry, eighth-highest output in the conference. 

Lenoir-Rhyne at Newberry

Best in the SAC in that category, meanwhile, is undefeated Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears are averaging 5.2 yards per carry and a league-leading 221.3 rushing yards a contest. Dwayne McGee has been sensational, racking up 748 yards in just six games with eight touchdowns. 

Zayvion Turner-Knox has 320 yards in 41 carries as a change-of-pace, good for a whopping 7.8 yards per carry. His production slowed somewhat since a red-hot start (77 yards on 10 carries Week 1 vs. St. Augustine's, 100 yards on eight carries Week 3 vs. Erskine) but he remains a dangerous weapon for the balanced L-R attack. 

The only other team in the SAC producing more than 200 rushing yards a game is Newberry at 202.3. The Wolves pulled out of a two-game losing skid last week and bumped their rushing production up in the process, rolling up 372 yards in a 38-31 win over Catawba. 

Dwayne Wright and Trakell Murray each broke the century mark at 128 and 110 yards, Keith Desaussure added 66 yards and quarterback Ty Jolen went for 62 yards with a touchdown. 


Jolen also added his first passing touchdown for Newberry. He's shown promise throwing the ball since taking over as the primary signal caller, completing 9-of-12 attempts the week prior at Barton. 

Newberry will need a well-rounded offensive performance against Lenoir-Rhyne's dominant defense. The Bears held an opponent to single-digits scoring for the fifth time this season last week, returning to form after their 31-28, overtime thriller the week prior at Limestone. 

L-R dominated Barton, 47-3, thanks in large part to holding the SAC's top rusher, Jordan Terrell to just 54 yards. 


Complementing the stifling defensive effort, quarterback Jalen Ferguson threw all three of his touchdown passes before halftime. Ferguson has been on fire of late, and if he can continue to produce through the air efficiently, the Bears could be national championship contenders along with Piedmont pace-setters. 

Tusculum at Emory & Henry 

Tusculum heads into Week 8 tied with Mars Hill atop the Mountain and coming off its most complete performance of the season in a 35-7 rout of UVA Wise. Matthew Palazzo passed for 314 yards on just 14 completions in the win and hooked up with Tyler Burke and Joe Robustelli on longs of 70 and 73 yards. 


Both Burke and Robustelli eclipsed 100 yards receiving on the day. Burke is up to 33 receptions for 507 yards on the year with four touchdowns. Robustelli has hauled in four scores, as well. 

The Pioneers passing attack ranks third in the SAC at 228 yards per game, and this week, is opposite a defense ranked second-to-last in the league against the pass. Emory & Henry has allowed 197.7 yards through the air, more than any SAC defense save Carson-Newman. That's the bad news for the Wasps. 

The good news is with 11 interceptions, Emory & Henry ranks behind only Lenoir-Rhyne (12) and Tusculum (13) in passes picked off. T.J. Payne and Shawn Collins each have snagged four interceptions for the Wasps, with Addison Knicely picking off two. 

Of Tusculum's league-leading 13 interceptions, Ty'Korian Brown has four, Jermaine Witherspoon has three and Jordan Taylor has two. 

Emory & Henry has faced instability at quarterback with Kyle Short missing two games — including last week vs. Mars Hill — and struggling in the three previous weeks against Wingate, Catawba and UVA Wise. He was picked off three times by Wingate and did not complete more than 48 percent of his attempts in any of the trio of SAC contests. 

Charles Mutter III, who opened the season with four touchdowns against Concord, has been sidelined since coming out of the Wingate game. That left freshman Cole Lambert behind center against Mars Hill. 

While Lambert's completion percentage was shaky — 48.4 percent — he threw a touchdown and no interceptions. Lambert also distributed the ball effectively among a variety of pass-catchers, with Cam Peoples, Jakari Mozelle and Cam Abshire each hauling in at least three balls.