Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

September 27, 2013

Trip down misery lane

RiverHawks reeling early in 2013 season

bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

Northeastern State has made more trips to the infirmary than the end zone this year. And there's no sunshine at the end of the road quite yet.

The injuries continue to mount up for the RiverHawks, as they prepare to take on Emporia State on the road Saturday at 1 p.m.

Already without top-flight starts on both sides of the ball through the first three weeks of the season, NSU will add to that list as the No. 24 Hornets (3-0, 3-0 MIAA) await the RiverHawks' arrival in Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association play.

Quarterback Johnny Deaton (broken fibula), running back Joel Rockmore (partially torn anterior cruciate ligament) and linebacker Jack Gray (hand injury) will be joined on the NSU's injury list by:

- Defensive end (and emergency quarterback) Logan Andrews, who is now out for the season.

- Defensive end Cole Johnson, who is slated to have surgery next week on his foot and will be out for the year.

- Defensive tackle Faafetai Te'o, who had surgery on his hand and is out for the year.

- Right guard (after being moved from right tackle) Buck Spurger, who had season-ending surgery on his shoulder.

- Reserve fullback and special teams contributor Lane Dortch, who is out with an abdominal strain.

The RiverHawks will also have several players who could be game-time decisions at Welch Stadium in eastern Kansas. Wide receiver and backup quarterback Prince McJunkins and defensive tackle Kenley Choute are nursing ankle injuries. And strong safety Victor Johnson will attempt to play with a neck injury.

Mix in Ross Dvorak — who has been moved from center to right guard because of an arm injury that will preclude him from snapping the ball — as well. Hudson Baab will now take over at center for the RiverHawks.

The hits just won't stop for NSU.

"It's just crazy," NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. "There's a chance we could have some guys going both ways pretty soon."

Couple that with the fact that NSU has already stripped seven players of their redshirts, according to Evans.

The RiverHawks are certainly enduring a roster pinch. And it's reared its ugly head on offense.

NSU (0-3, 0-3) is dead last in the MIAA in scoring offense at 7.7 points per contest. The RiverHawks are also last in the league in trips into the red zone with five.

"We can't really change too much," said Evans, whose starting quarterback Thor Long is also not at 100 percent with a jammed thumb on his throwing hand.

"We can't change things scheme-wise, to be honest. We've had people open, and there have been some blocks to create holes. It's just a lot of inexperience out there."

Evans said a drastic maneuver would be to go to wishbone-style offense if the injuries continue to pile up.

"It's an option," Evans said.

Across the field from the RiverHawks on Saturday will be an Emporia State club that is third in the MIAA in scoring offense at 43.7 points per 60 minutes. The Hornets are led by former Ponca City standout Brent Wilson, who leads most of the statistical passing categories in the conference.

"Their quarterback is very accurate in the pocket," Evans said. "And he can run."

Wilson torched Central Oklahoma for 522 yards and seven touchdowns through the air — both league records — in a 54-38 victory. He has now accounted for 16 Hornet touchdowns this season — 13 more than NSU has scored as a team.

Right now, though, NSU is just looking to going one game without adding to an already lengthy injury list.

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