Clinton, SC – North Greenville (1-5) saw its running game come back to life against Division I Presbyterian, but the Crusaders squandered three scoring chances inside the five yard line, and missed a field goal and an extra point, and the Blue Hose held off a late Crusader drive to win a close 22-15 decision.
Presbyterian scored first when they drove 73 yards in six plays. Quarterback Tim Webb connected with Brandon Clark on a 29 yard strike right at the goal line to put the Blue Hose up 7-0 after the extra point with 3:43 left in the first quarter.
NGU’s Xavier Boykin returned the ensuing kickoff to the PC 46 yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, senior tailback Matt Moore exploded off left tackle and outraced the Blue Hose into the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown scamper. Michael Sears then missed the extra point attempt wide left.
A defensive struggle ensued between the two teams as NGU forced three punts. North Greenville had a big opportunity late in the second period to pull ahead. The Crusaders drove to the Blue Hose 32 yard line, but on a fourth and six play, NGU quarterback Richard Harb was hit as he threw and was intercepted.
Presbyterian started another long drive, but quarterback Brandon Miley was picked off by NGU freshman Randy Crutchfield with 2:54 left in the half. NGU could not move the ball, and was forced to punt. Wes Dove’s punt was blocked by PC and returned for a touchdown. Presbyterian led 13-6 at the half. That proved to be decisive in the second half.
NGU’s running game was the difference in the first half. Matt Moore rushed for 101 total yards and Rashad Cummings added 60 as the Crusaders had 185 total yards. PC had 189 total yards.
NGU’s first drive of the second half nearly produced the tying touchdown. The Crusaders drove from their own 45 yard line to the PC one yard line. Rashad Cummings carried the ball for 35 yards in the drive, but was denied twice inside the two. On fourth down, Harb avoided pressure and his pass to senior tight end Jarvis Garret was just glanced off his hands.
Two plays later, NGU freshman defensive tackle Brad Wood sacked PC quarterback Brandon Miley in the end zone for a safety. The safety was the first against the Blue Hose since the 2002 season. That pulled the Crusaders to six points at 14-8.
After the PC free kick following the safety, Richard Harb hit Travis Neesmith with a 57 yard strike as he beat the Blue Hose safety deep over the middle. His over the shoulder catch and run took the ball to the PC five yard line. That was the longest pass completion of the season for Harb. Harb then missed yet another fourth down pass to Dobbins at the goal line on fourth down, and Coach Mike Taylor elected to attempt a field goal. Stephen Lane’s attempt from the five was wide right, leaving the score 14-8 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
NGU faced a defining moment of its season with 9:07 left in the fourth quarter. NGU drove the ball to a first and goal at the six yard line. However, a holding penalty against the Crusaders and a 10 yard loss on a sack of Harb, put NGU at 1st and goal at the 20. Moore rushed the ball back to the six, and after an NGU timeout, the Crusaders went for it on fourth down. Under pressure, Harb’s pass to Sean Wright was incomplete. PC then drove the ball 94 yards on 16 plays when Miley hit Terrance Butler for an 11 yard touchdown. On the two-point conversion try, a wide open Robert Bumgarner caught a pass from Miley.
There was no quit in the Crusaders however. NGU took over at the 37 yard line and then drove down the field in 1:26 when Harb hit Travis NeeSmith on a slant pass over the middle for a 24 yard touchdown. After Sears’ extra point, the score was 22-15. NGU’s onside kick attempt was kicked out of bounds, and PC then ran out the clock.
“This game was very winnable,” Head Coach Mike Taylor said. “We just let it get away from us because we couldn’t score inside the 10 yard line. We drove it to the five yard line three times and didn’t score one point. We also made several kicking errors that cost us. You don’t win many games when you get a punt blocked for a touchdown. We didn’t block on the play before the punt , and it ended up costing us. We didn’t block on a play that would have gotten us a first down and we could have run the clock out.”
“When you play a Division I team with more assets, you have got to do everything right. We made a lot of mistakes, and we didn’t handle several offensive situations under pressure.”
The NGU running game, which compiled a season high 246 yards, pleased Coach Taylor. “We challenged our tailbacks in practice this week because they hadn’t been performing up to their potential. Matt Moore and Rashad Cummings both played very well.” Cummings had 135 yards on 24 carries and Moore added 132.
Richard Harb passed for 185 yards on 15-38 and Brandon Dobbins had six catches for 65 yards. He passed the 2,000 yard mark for career receiving yards early in the third quarter. Travis NeeSmith had three grabs for 83 yards and Sean Wright had three catches.
For the NGU defense, three freshmen were fierce against the Blue Hose. Nick Rosamonda led with seven tackles, Jereme Green and Randy Crutchfield had six each and Andrew Bernardi had six tackles. Nathan Batchelor had five tackles. two sacks and an interception.
The Crusaders now have a short week as they will host North Alabama, a perennial powerhouse in NCAA II, which has won three Division II national championships, Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7:00 p.m. “It is great North Alabama is coming to Tigerville this week,” Taylor said. “Our schedule has been very difficult this season, and UNA will be as good as any of the Division I teams we’ve played. It will be a treat for our fans to see a great team and to see how we stack up against them.