Florence, AL – North Greenville’s defense forced three turnovers but the North Alabama offense still racked up 653-yards of total offense while holding North Greenville to just 285-yards in a 52-21 win over the Crusaders.
The Crusaders fell to 4-4 after the loss on Saturday night while the 10th ranked Lions improve to 5-1 overall. Saturday night was the third meeting between the two schools, which will begin meeting routinely in 2018 when NGU begins Gulf South Conference play.
North Greenville put itself in the driver’s seat early on as a tipped pass on the first play of the game landed in the arms of Nigel Gay, setting the offense up for its first drive on the Lions’ 41-yardline. The drive would stall though after just three plays, forcing a Bobby Foos punt.
UNA got the scoring started on its next drive, taking the ball 89-yards for the first score of the game. Jaylan Jackson would take a Jacob Tucker pass 56-yards on the eighth play of the drive as he sped past three NGU defenders to give North Alabama the early advantage. The Lions would tack on one more score four minutes later to extend the lead to 14-0.
North Greenville’s offense found a rhythm on its next drive, riding the arm of Will Hunter and the legs of Tracy Scott. Scott would run for 36-yards on the ensuing drive while Hunter connected on four passing attempts to set North Greenville up for its first score of the game. Tristan Jackson would be the first to find pay dirt for the Crusaders as he took Hunter’s screen pass 13-yards to the end zone to cut North Alabama’s lead in half.
North Alabama would answer NGU’s score with its third of the game to retake a three-score lead. North Greenville faced an even bigger deficit in the half as the Lions drove down to the NGU seven, looking to go up by three touchdowns. The Crusaders caught a break though as UNA tailback Damon Cox coughed up the ball on the one-yard line, leading to North Greenville recovery in the end zone and a chance to cut into the North Alabama lead.
North Greenville then marched 80-yards on 10-plays for its second score of the game. Ashton Heard would put the exclamation point on the drive with a three-yard touchdown run, his first score since September 10th against Lenoir-Rhyne. NGU would have one more opportunity to score after Jacob Tucker’s second interception of the half, a pass picked off by Rochar Witherspoon. The Crusaders would drive inside the UNA 20, but a missed field goal would keep NGU at 14. The Lions would close the first half with a field goal as they headed to the locker room with a 24-14 lead over NGU.
The second half would be all North Alabama as the Lions tacked on four touchdowns, three of which came in the third quarter. NGU’s offense also struggled in the second half, totaling just six yards of offense in the third quarter with an interception. The Crusaders trailed 52-14 before Demajiay Rooks put up the first points of the half with a 15-yard touchdown reception from Hunter to cut into the lead (52-21). Hunter finished the game with 195-yards on 16 of 29 with two touchdowns and an interception.
Tracy Scott led North Greenville’s ground attack with 60-yards while Ashton Heard accounted for the only touchdown on the ground. Heard rushed for 27-yards while Tristan Jackson added 21-yards and a receiving touchdown.
Lions quarterback Jacob Tucker turned in the best performance of his career, throwing for 378-yards and three touchdowns while also running for 132-yards and two scores. The Lions ran for 276-yards total as Damon Cox added 54-yards and a touchdown while two others ran for at least 20-yards.
The Crusaders will return home next weekend as they host Wingate University at 2:30pm in Younts Stadium for homecoming.