Mars Hill, NC – In an effort to get back on the winning side of things, the Crusader football team dropped a close 34-31 decision to the Lions of Mars Hill University on Saturday afternoon.
After freshman Nigel Gay intercepted a Mars Hill pass on the Lions’ first drive, freshman running back Trey Walker finished off an 8-play, 42-yard drive with a one-yard run to put North Greenville ahead 7-0 early in the first quarter.
Mars Hill turned an interception into a touchdown by driving 80 yards in seven plays just minutes later to even the score at seven a piece with 3:42 left in the opening quarter.
The Lions took the lead just two minutes into the second quarter with a 30-yard field goal, before junior Justin Gravely evened the score at 10-10 with a 33-yard field goal of his own.
A 77-yard pass from Mars Hill quarterback Trent Miller to receiver Dimitri Holmes late in the half put the Lions ahead 17-10 heading into intermission.
Mars Hill lead would extend to 27-17 thanks to a 31-yard field goal and a one-yard rush by running back Foluke Gordon-Lamar until the Crusaders used a 9-play, 77-yard drive to cut into the lead with a 26-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Nelson Hughes to freshman receiver DeVontez Rouse with 2:01 left in the third quarter.
Following a five-yard run by the Lions’ Shaikel Davis that put Mars Hill ahead 34-17, the Crusader offense came alive in the final quarter of play.
Hughes orchestrated a 13-play, 65-yard drive that was finished by a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Freddie Martino with 8:19 left on the clock.
The Crusaders score their final touchdown on the next drive when Martino and Hughes connected again, this time on a 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:48 remaining in the game.
Thanks in large part to a crucial mistake by the Mars Hill offense and the Lions’ clock management, the Crusaders had a chance to tie the game with a 47-yard field goal with one second remaining but the attempt sailed wide right.
North Greenville’s offense amassed 385 total yards, led by Hughes who finished the game 30-for-49 with 306 yards and three touchdowns and a career-worse three interceptions.
Martino was the Crusaders’ main weapon once again with 16 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns, while Rouse recorded six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown, breaking the century mark for the first time in his young career. T. Walker gained 69 yards on 18 carries with one touchdown in the game.
Gay led the North Greenville defense with a career-high 12 tackles, one tackle for a loss and one interception as Mars Hill was able to total 501 yards in the contest. Freshman Reubyn Walker and junior Nick Rodgers each finished with 11 tackles of their own while freshman Tony Godbolt recorded 10 tackles and one tackle for a loss in the defeat.
The Crusaders (4-3) will use the next week to get ready for a home matchup with south Atlantic Conference member Carson Newman College on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 2:30 p.m.