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Isom, Evans play key roles as Carson-Newman opens with rout

Former Blount County standouts, from left, Nathan Miranda (Maryville), Evan Brown (Heritage), Derek Evans (Alcoa), Steven Isom (Alcoa) and Thomas Loy (Alcoa) are now teammates at Carson-Newman with designs on a title run this season. Photos by Katherine Fernandez

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Jefferson City – It isn’t often you see an offensive lineman cartwheel the nose tackle at the snap.

Carson-Newman center and former Alcoa Tornado Derek Evans readies to deliver the snap to quarterback De'Andre Thomas.

Carson-Newman sophomore Derek Evans caught a Wayne State (Mich.) defender trying to hurdle the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-1 play near midfield Thursday night at Burke-Tarr Stadium. The resulting cut block sent the Warrior nose guard spinning over the pile feet first as Eagle quarterback De’Andre Thomas snuck through for the first down.

Thomas connected with wide out Steven Isom on the next play, the 40-yard scoring strike ending all doubt in an eventual 55-28, Carson-Newman blowout win in the season opener for both teams.

It was a good night for Blount County’s contingent of Eagles, which included the Alcoa graduates Evans, Isom and offensive lineman Thomas Loy, former Heritage defensive lineman Evan Brown and former Maryville linebacker Nathan Miranda.

The performance by Evans at center was perhaps the night’s biggest story. The Eagles returned tackles Tyler Scott and Alex Taylor and guards Lucas Mathis and Robby Ignagni along a decorated offensive front, needing only a center to complete the quintet.

A Transfer from Appalachian State, Evans said switching from the Mountaineers’ spread, passing offense to the Carson-Newman run-based veer took a while.

“All the way through camp, they (the Eagle coaching staff) never said for sure I was the starter,” he said. “I just kept working, working, working.”

It helped make his first game as an Eagle all the sweeter, he said.

Steven Isom breaks from the line.

Isom finished with three catches for 84 yards and the one touchdown, including a first-half, sideline circus catch for 32 yards and an Eagle first down. The redshirt sophomore injured his left wrist on the high-jumping, one-handed grab. His second half touchdown catch came after missing a few series.

“We saw man coverage,” Isom said. “My wrist was wrapped up, but I still told coach to throw it.”

Carson-Newman’s offense rolled up 576 yards behind its veteran offensive line, with the true freshman Loy second on the depth chart at left tackle. Working from the end of the line is a switch from his days as a Tornado, where he played guard, Loy said. His job, though, pulling and hunting down linebackers, has remained much the same.

Thomas Loy lines up a Wayne State defensive back on Thursday.

“Up here, the tackles are the ones that have to go get the linebackers,” Loy said. “The pace … it was crazy how fast and physical they were off the ball.”

Brown, slated to start at defensive end, is still recovering from surgery to repair a shoulder injured during spring practice. He hopes to be back by Week 4. The set back is tough, he said.

“I use it for motivation more than anything,” Brown said.

Miranda dressed but his status was unavailable Thursday. With Carson-Newman’s returning depth at linebacker, the transfer and former Rebel is a likely redshirt.

Isom returned this season the Eagles’ top receiver and disappoint in the opener. His two early catches had the effect of spreading the Warrior defense out for Thomas and Carson-Newman backs Tyron Douglas, Andy Hibbett and Brandon Baker to carve it up.

With Wayne State concerned with Isom on the outside, Eagle receiver Anthony Eubanks came away with two grabs for 97 yards and scores of 34 and 63 yards, respectively.

Douglas ran for three scores of 6, 6 and 3 yards, with the former Gibbs Eagle Hibbett adding a fourth on a 40-yard, first-half sprint. The Eagles blew it open to lead 42-14 at the half. The sophomore Thomas was a crisp 8-of-10 passing in his first start, throwing for 213 yards and the three scores and no picks.

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