Rome, GA - On the four-year anniversary of their last Victory Bowl win, the Crusader football team defeated Shorter University 42-16 on Saturday afternoon to claim the 2014 NCCAA Victory Bowl title.
The two teams were each forced to punt on their opening drives of the game before North Greenville got on the board on its second series of action. The Crusaders used a seven-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard rush by sophomore Simeon Byrd to take an early 7-0 with 9:06 left to play in the 1st quarter.
Shorter would then use a 12-play, 78-yard drive on the ensuing series to tie the game at 7-7 with a one-yard rush from quarterback Eric Dodson just before the end of the quarter. The second quarter of play saw neither team gain an edge until the Hawks took advantage of a Crusader turnover, netting a 36-yard field goal just before the half to take a 10-7 into the break.
The second half of action began with a bang as senior Rashad Simmons recovered a Shorter fumble in the end zone on the opening kickoff to give the Crusaders a 14-10 lead.
After forcing the Hawks to punt on their first drive of the half, North Greenville built its lead to 21-10 on a seven-yard pass from junior quarterback Nelson Hughes to freshman receiver Mason Sanders with just over 10 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter.
Shorter cut the lead to 21-16 after running back Aaron Bryant scored from 10-yard out, but a missed extra point held the Hawks to their final points of the contest.
The Crusaders continued to pad their lead, using a combination of running backs Byrd and freshman Tristen Jackson to take 5:54 off the clock. The 13-play, 65-yard drive would end with a one-yard rush from Byrd to give North Greenville a 27-16 edge with just under 14 minutes to play.
North Greenville would score twice more, once on a 42-yard pass from Hughes to sophomore receiver Robbie Brown and its final touchdown on a fumble recovery in the end zone by senior offensive lineman Charles Coleman, to give the Crusaders the 42-16 win and the team's third Victory Bowl title in school history.
The offense totaled 411 yards on the day, led by Hughes who finished the game 19-for-28 for 267 yards and two touchdowns while setting the school-record for career passing yards. Byrd was the team's leading rusher, totaling 98 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns.
Brown was named the Victory Bowl Offensive Player of the Game after leading all receivers with nine receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown, while Tyrecous Garrett finished with two receptions and 62 yards of his own.
Sophomore linebacker Quan Weeks also had a record-breaking performance with 13 total tackles, bringing his season total to 128, a school-record for tackles in a single season. Junior Taylor Anderson totaled six tackles in the contest, while sophomore Nigel Gay and freshman Josh Harlan each totaled five tackles of their own.
The Crusaders finished the season with a 7-5 overall record and will now begin preparation for spring practice.