Lions lose starter for rest of season

Redshirt sophomore Blake Hawkins is out for the season after suffering an injury in the Lions’ win at Valdosta State.

Hawkins suffered a concussion and a back injury during the game and went to a hospital for testing. Wednesday morning, Hawkins received the news his season will end with a ruptured disc in his back.

Hawkins said he was upset when he learned the news about his injury.

“I was hoping to be able to come back next week,” Hawkins said. “It is disappointing after working so hard in the spring, off season and fall camp. I can’t say it does not hurt like absolute heck because of all that work.”

Hawkins was ruled out of UNA’s last game against West Georgia, but there was hope Hawkins could return for the homecoming game. Hawkins was 26 for 46 with 318 yards passing and two touchdowns before sustaining the injury.

Hawkins said the injury will keep him from physical activity for awhile.

“It is a ruptured disc, which has been causing the problems I had the other night and throughout last week,” Hawkins said. “The doctor said no physical activity for three months, and hopefully it heals naturally.”

Junior Rico Bruton will become the full-time starter for the Lions. Burton led UNA to a win against Valdosta State off the bench and started versus West Georgia this past week. Hawkins said he thinks UNA will be fine with Burton under center.

“We are still in a good position with Rico because he is more than ready to play,” Hawkins said. “I think we will be fine, and I’m going to do everything I can to help.”

Hawkins said after he sustained the injury, he had some numbness in his left leg and headaches from the concussion. The headaches and leg numbness were gone at the start of the week after the injury, Hawkins said.

Lions’ head coach Chris Willis said Hawkins was hitting his stride before the injury happened.

“I hate it for Blake because I could see it coming for him at Valdosta State,” Willis said. “I could see he was growing more confident, and I know his best football was coming and it would have put us in position to compete for another playoff run.”

Senior Delvon Carpenter said the team is behind Bruton as the leader of the UNA offense.

“What happened to Blake was tragic, but we are 100 percent behind Rico,” Carpenter said. “He is going to be a good leader for us and we are going to back him up. We’re practicing hard every day to try to get better from our last game. I know Rico will be more confident this week and our offense will play better.”