With the toughest stretch of games ahead, Mercer playing through injuries in key positions

Mercer quarterback Kaelan Riley (1) keeps the ball for a short gain against Chattanooga on Oct. 14.
Mercer quarterback Kaelan Riley (1) keeps the ball for a short gain against Chattanooga on Oct. 14. For The Telegraph

The Mercer Bears are locked into its toughest stretch of the season. No team at this point in the season is without injuries but for the Bears, the list is starting to pile up.

The frequency of injuries have come as shock to Bobby Lamb, head coach of the Bears.

“Well, it’s pretty unbelievable. Last year we didn’t have a whole lot of injuries across the board, and this year we’re getting hit from every angle on offense and defense,” he said. “You have to train your guys to be two-deep as best as possible. It’s very difficult in the FCS because you only have 63 scholarships.”

In its last game, Mercer lost to Wofford 42-21. The Bears also lost running back Tee Mitchell on the fifth play of the game to a shoulder injury. Mitchell is the all-time rushing leader for the Bears. Lamb enjoys the luxury of having two good running backs as Tyray Devezin is Mitchell’s backup.

“It’s a big boost for our offense [to have Tyray Devezin as a backup running back],” Lamb said. “Tee [Mitchell] is sort of our home run hitter, but [Devezin] will make you pay when you try to hit him. We’re really confident in what he can do.”

Lamb doesn’t know whether Mitchell will be available for the game against East Tennessee State University at home on Saturday.

“We don’t know yet. He is at the doctor as we speak,” Lamb said. “Of course Kaelan [Riley] had the ankle sprain too, and he was pretty sore yesterday. We’ll have to see about his status as well.”

Riley took over for the Bears at quarterback after Robert Riddle went down with an injury earlier in the season. The Bears are prepared though if Riley is forced to miss any time with the ankle injury.

“Our third-string quarterback is Harrison Frost. Harrison came in on the last drive [at Wofford] and made some unbelievable throws,” Lamb said. “Harrison played high school ball at Harrison High School [in Kennesaw, Ga.] and he says his claim to fame is being the backup to [University of Georgia quarterback] Justin Fields for all four years.”

The offense isn’t the only side of the ball dealing with injuries. The defense has been devastated this season at key positions. Defensive back Eric Jackson has missed two games, while guys like Isaiah Buehler have dealt with multiple injuries forcing them out of games early.

Bradley Earnest, defensive end for the Bears, has stepped up as one of the key playmakers on the defense.

“It’s been tough missing a lot of key guys this year and having other guys banged up. You’ve got to work with what you’ve got,” Earnest said. “At this point in the season, no one is 100 percent healthy, so you just have to move forward and work with what you’ve got.”