Tigerville, S.C. – North Greenville scored 31-points in the second half and overcame a 10-point deficit to earn a 34-30 win over the 24th ranked Bulldogs of Wingate University.
The Crusaders either trialed or were tied for 59-minutes of Saturday’s contest but put together key drives paired with key defensive stops in the final minutes of the game to earn its fifth consecutive win over Wingate. North Greenville totaled 368-yards of total offense, 327 of which came in the second half.
North Greenville’s offense struggled in the first half, totaling 41-yards on just 23-plays. The only points of the first 30-minutes came on a Matt Gravely field goal with 2:41 left in the first quarter. The Bulldogs opened the game with a 92-yard touchdown drive to take a 7-0 lead, tacking on two field goals to carry a 13-3 lead into intermission.
North Greenville’s first touchdown drive came in the opening minutes of the third quarter driving 72-yards on 11-plays, a drive capped by Will Hunter’s first touchdown pass to Javon Smith, a seven yard connection that cut Wingate’s lead to 10-7.
Hunter and Smith would hook up once more on NGU’s next drive for a 79-yard connection to answer Wingate’s first third quarter touchdown, making the score 20-17 in favor of the Bulldogs. Smith finished as the game’s leading receiver with 105-yards on two touchdowns.
A second Wingate touchdown and a North Greenville field goal would make the score 27-20 before North Greenville’s defense came up with a stop to force a Bulldog punt. The Crusaders would capitalize on the extra possession. A big play from Mason Sanders, who caught a 34-yard pass, but refused to go down, pushing the pile 29-yards, setting up North Greenville first and goal inside the Wingate 10-yard line.
Hunter would finish off the drive on the next play as he scampered in from six yards out to even the score at 27-27 following the Gravely field goal. Will Hunter threw 343-yards on Saturday with three touchdowns to go with a rushing touchdown.
Travis Beatty would come up with a big sack on Wingate’s next drive to force a field goal, making the score 30-27. North Greenville’s defense would come up big once again on the next drive for the Bulldogs as NGU’s offense was forced to punt. The Crusaders once again held the Bulldogs on third down, forcing a punt with 1:12 left on the clock.
The Crusaders would put together one more scoring drive, which proved to be the difference in the game. Will Hunter and company would drive 85-yards on just eight plays, as Hunter found Mason Sanders in the end-zone for an eight yard touchdown to give NGU its first lead of the game.
The Bulldogs were left with 1:03 to put together a winning drive, but NGU’s defenders pulled out one final stop as Beatty would come up big for the second time in the quarter. The Bulldogs drive would stall at the north Greenville 37-yard line as Beatty came up with the only turnover of the game for Wingate, picking off a Kyle Johnson pass on fourth down, ending the Bulldogs bid for a game winning drive.
Defensively the Crusaders finished with seven tackles for a loss, led by Sam Houston’s two TFL’s and 10-total tackles. Travis Beatty finished with a sack and an interception. Matthew Thomas also had a sack for the Crusaders.
The Crusaders improve to 5-4 on the season after Saturday’s win over the Bulldogs. NGU will host Carson Newman next Saturday at 1pm in the final home game of the 2016 season. The Crusaders will wrap up the regular season the following weekend in Gaffney, South Carolina against Limestone.