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Hounds heading east to open season

ENMU to face Missouri S&T


Last updated 8/28/2018 at 9:18pm

Eric Murray

Running back Paul Terry looks for an open hole to run through during Tuesday's practice. His Greyhounds will open the season in Rolla, Missouri against Missouri S&T Thursday night.

PORTALES — At first glance, the Eastern New Mexico and Missouri S&T football teams don’t seem to be all that similar. Offensively alone, it’s like night and day. The Greyhounds once again return their “Ground Strike” option offense, while the Miners run a high-powered, uptempo spread offense, in which they throw it as well as they run it.

However, despite these differences, these football teams may not actually be so different, according to ENMU coach Kelley Lee.

“They remind me of us a little bit,” Lee said. “They’re very disciplined, they play really hard, they’re physical, they play as a team and they do really good things on both sides of the ball.

“They have their stars, but it’s not just people all over the place that you’re worried about. But collectively as a team, they’re pretty darn good.”

As for that Miner offense, they return quite a few players, including quarterback Tyler Swart and running back Deshawn Jones.

Swart threw for 3,165 yards and 22 touchdowns, averaging 287.7 yards a game. Jones, meanwhile, rushed for 1,579 yards on 6.3 yards per carry, and scored 16 times. The Miners, who went 7-4 a year ago, did all of this without their star receiver, according to Lee.

That man, Braxton Graham, still managed to make the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) a year ago. In just seven games, Graham still managed 36 receptions for 603 yards and five touchdowns. He was also the 2016 GLVC Special Teams Player of the Year, averaging 17.7 yards per punt return.

However, Graham was only one of what turned out to be five wide receivers/tight ends to earn All-GLVC honors for the Miners a season ago. But these are things that happen when you break the school record for yardage and score 410 points in a season..

“It always starts with the trigger-puller. (Swart) knows where to put the ball, and they’ve got some good skill kids,” first-year Hounds defensive coordinator Michael Walton said. “They know their strengths and their weaknesses, and they’re just a very well-coached team. Anytime you got a trigger-puller at any level — from Pop Warner to the NFL — you’ve got a chance.”

In fact, Walton knows S&T coach Tyler Fenwick very well through mutual friends, but actually knows offensive line coach Andy Ball even better. Walton says that Ball was coaching at Saint Joseph High School in Missouri, while Walton was coaching at Missouri Western. Walton’s wife was a teacher at Saint Joseph, and actually taught Ball’s son.

Ball, meanwhile, will have quite the challenge, as his Miners have to replace three starting linemen. The Greyhounds’ defense, meanwhile, led the Lone Star Conference in run defense just over 80 yards per game.

S&T, meanwhile, allowed just 2.6 yards per carry and nine rushing touchdowns a season ago. Defensive end Tershawn Wharton had 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss last year, which is the most of any returning player in Division II.

While Eastern may not throw it much, it’ll still be a challenge for returning junior quarterback Wyatt Strand and the Greyhound offense. Strand had 783 passing yards, along with 678 rushing yards in 2017. Starting running back Paul Terry, meanwhile, is an explosive player who will try to show the Miners exactly why his Greyhounds led the nation in rushing last year (352.7 yards per game).

As for why the S&T defense is stout, Lee said, “I think that they’re good on defense because they play good team defense. They know their assignments, they play well together, they understand leverage and they tackle as a team.”

All in all, however, Lee is just excited that football is back, once his Hounds kickoff at S&T Thursday night.

“You’re tired of practicing, you’re tired of going against each other, and you want to gauge yourself against someone else,” Lee said. “It’s nice when you’re going against someone with good competition.

“It’d be nicer if it wasn’t a 12-hour bus ride, but it is what it is and we’re excited about the challenge.”


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