GEORGETOWN — Georgetown College feted its NAIA championship football teams from 1991 and 2001 before Saturday's homecoming game against Shorter.
Then, the seventh-ranked Tigers went out and kept their 2011 record a perfect 3-0, holding off No. 18 Shorter 21-14 at Toyota Stadium.
With the Mid-South Conference inter-division foes losing their starting quarterbacks to first-half injuries, defense ruled.
"Outstanding," Coach Bill Cronin said of his Georgetown tacklers. "These guys are just buzzing all over the field. They've got good speed and they're using it.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"The hitting level has really increased. I think that's the big thing — we're just more physical right now than a lot of people we're playing."
The Tigers jumped to a 14-0 lead and led 21-7 at halftime.
Shorter didn't pull to within 21-14 until backup quarterback Cory Thacker hit Gary Tiller for a 10-yard score with 1:15 left.
The Hawks' onside kick was snared by Chris Gohman and Georgetown ran out the clock with its backup quarterback, Cameron Smyth, taking a knee three times.
Smyth came on in relief of Kaelin Ammons, who injured his right knee for a second game in a row. Ammons was in street clothes and on crutches for the second half. He'll need an MRI before he'll know the severity of the injury. He said a preliminary guess was no tear; possibly a sprained ACL.
Ammons finished 8-for-15 for 167 yards and a TD, with one interception. Smyth went 4-for-9 for 40 yards, also with an interception.
Georgetown struck on its second possession when Ammons found Gohman near midfield. When defender Mason Strickland went for the ball and missed, Gohman was in the clear for a 79-yard scoring play.
"I saw the coverage and I took it big, because I had the option to keep it (short) or take it big," Gohman said. "(Strickland) jumped in front of me and I was like 'aw, he's going to get it.' But luckily it just got right over him. It fell into my hands, so I just took it the rest of the way."
Jesse Gillham scored on a 4-yard sweep around left end with 38 seconds left in the first quarter for a 14-0 lead.
Shorter drove to the Tigers' 1-yard line midway through the second quarter. But a third-down play lost 2 yards, and the Hawks made it back only to the 1 on Kenny Foster's fourth-down dive.
"I've got to give credit to 'Coach House' (Shan Housekeeper), our defensive coordinator and linebackers coach," said Zach Goebel, who was in on both big stops. "He opened it up for us. He said 'if you ever see a gap that's big and you're not going to interfere with the play, you can go ahead and hit it.' And, on the goal line, I'm willing to take that risk.
"The defense as a whole, especially our 'D' line up front, we really stepped it up."
The stand went for naught, though, as on the next play Michael Peeples returned an interception 12 yards for a touchdown. That cut Georgetown's lead to 14-7 with 6:56 left in the half.
The Tigers came right back with a 12-play, 53-yard scoring drive. Blake Naylor got the score on a third-and-goal 1-yard run with 1:02 on the clock.
Three plays into that drive, Ammons went down.
Smyth took over, converting a fourth down along the way.
Shorter (2-1) lost its quarterback and leading rusher, David Byrd, to a shoulder injury late in the half. Georgetown was called for roughing the passer, its only penalty of the game. (Shorter also had only one penalty, for delay of game.)
In the fourth quarter, the Hawks got the ball on their own 35-yard line with 11:36 left. Shorter chewed up more than 8½ minutes, driving 56 yards before its 18th play came up a half-yard short on fourth down.
Georgetown went three-and-out, and Shorter then got the only score of the second half. By then, though, it was too late.
"We can be really good. There's something special about this team," Tigers defensive end Grant Keller said.
Special enough to earn a third national title?
"We're going to take it one game at a time," he said. "But hopefully, down the road, we are going to be that team."