GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum Pioneers have released its 2017 football schedule announced TC head coach Jerry Odom.
The Pioneers will play a 10-game slate, including three contests against teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Division II Playoffs. Tusculum's first six contests will be night games, including the Pioneers' first three home dates.
Coach Odom, who is entering his second year at the helm of the Tusculum program, led the Pioneers to a fourth place finish in the South Atlantic Conference. TC went 4-7 on the season, closing out strong with wins in three of its last four outings.
Tusculum will open the 2017 campaign on Thursday, Aug. 31st as the Pioneers travel to Tigerville, South Carolina to take on region finalist North Greenville. The Crusaders posted a 9-5 record before falling in the region finals to eventual national runner-up North Alabama. This will be the ninth meeting between the Pioneers and North Greenville, who ended last season ranked 17th in the country.
Tusculum will host Shorter on Sep. 9th in the Pioneers' home opener. It will be the inaugural meeting on the gridiron between the Pioneers and Hawks, who went winless (0-11) last season.
The Pioneers will open South Atlantic Conference play the following week (Sep. 16) when Tusculum makes the trip to Gaffney, South Carolina to face Limestone. The Saints are beginning its first season as an associate member of the SAC and will be eligible for football championships and awards starting this year. Limestone is coming off a 5-6 season, including a 34-13 loss at Tusculum. TC leads the all-time series 2-0 against the Saints.
Tusculum steps out of league play on Sep. 23 when the Pioneers venture to UNC Pembroke. The Braves enjoyed one their best season in program history in 2016 going 10-2 overall and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Playoffs. UNCP, who finished the year ranked 13th in the country, is entering the first year of a schedule alliance with the South Atlantic Conference as the Braves will be playing all eight league teams. This year's meeting with Pembroke will renew a series which the Braves lead 3-1. Tusculum won the last meeting 20-17 in an overtime thriller at Pioneer Field in 2014.
Tusculum returns home on Sep. 30 to host Lenoir-Rhyne in a conference outing. The all-time series is tied 10-10 with the Bears with L-R winning the last five encounters. Lenoir-Rhyne went 3-8 last season and finished tied for fourth in the conference standings.
The Pioneers stay at home on Oct. 7 for a rare Saturday night home clash with cross-mountain rival Mars Hill. The Lions edged Tusculum 28-27 in overtime last year, but the Pioneers still own an 18-12-2 advantage in the all-time series that began in 1922.
Tusculum is back on the road on Oct. 14 to face defending SAC Champion Newberry. The Wolves went 10-2 last season and 7-0 in conference play, including a road win at Tusculum to take a 10-9 lead in the all-time series. Newberry finished the 2016 campaign ranked 16th in the nation.
The Pioneers return home to face Catawba on Oct. 21 for homecoming. Catawba went 5-6 overall, but finished tied for second in the conference with a 5-2 league record. One of those SAC losses was a 38-28 home defeat at the hands of Tusculum. It will be the 22nd meeting between TC and Catawba.
On Oct. 28, the Pioneers will travel to Jefferson City to take on arch-rival Carson-Newman in the 47th meeting in the second oldest collegiate gridiron rivalry in Tennessee. Tusculum converted a two-point conversion in overtime to beat the Eagles 31-30 in last year's season finale as C-N finished seventh in the conference.
Following a bye week, Tusculum will close out the regular season on Nov. 11 when the Pioneers host Wingate for Senior Day. The Bulldogs went 8-3 in 2016 and tied for second place in the league. Wingate leads the all-time series 13-7 with the Pioneers.
The NCAA II Playoffs will begin on Nov. 18 at campus sites and will culminate with the national championship game, slated for Dec. 16 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Missouri.