Tigerville, S.C. – It’s Here! North Greenville football kicks off its season on Thursday night at 7 pm against Tusculum College.
The Crusaders are coming off of a 2016 season which included one of the toughest schedules in the country according to Division II football experts. The Crusaders endured games against several tops ranked teams, toppling the 25th ranked Wingate Bulldogs en-route to the program’s second NCAA Division II playoff appearance.
North Greenville is looking for the same success this season as it had the season prior, but will have to do so with just four home games. The season kicks off with the Pioneers, a team the Crusaders are very familiar with. NGU holds a 5-3 lead in the series record, recording back-to-back wins with victories in 2015 and last season.
North Greenville finished the 2016 regular season with a record of 7-4, tacking on a pair of wins in the playoffs and a loss while the Pioneers finished with a 4-7 mark, missing the 2016 playoffs. Both teams return a significant number of starters from a year ago with the Pioneers welcoming back 14 of 22 from a season ago including seven on offense and six on the defensive side of the ball.
Tusculum Players to Watch:
- Tony Bell returns for his sophomore season as the team’s leading rusher. The 5-9, 180-pound ball carrier toted the rock 98 times for 285 yards and three touchdowns.
- Evan Altizer enters his final campaign in the orange and black as the team’s leading receiver. Altizer, a 6-2, 190-pound pass catcher caught 22 balls for 364 yards and a team high five touchdowns in 2016.
- Linebacker L’Keith Brown was the team’s leading tackler last season and he seeks to be the go-to guy again on the Pioneer defense. Brown accounted for 93-tackles last year, a number which included four sacks and 15 total tackles in the backfield. The 210-pound senior also forced four fumbles and recovered two.
- Jay Boyd will be a guy NGU offensive coordinator will keep an eye on. Boyd collected 42 tackles last season, but was the team leader in interceptions, picking off five passes.
The Crusaders also welcome back a wealth of experience with 15 players back from the 2016 playoff team. This number includes 10 on the offensive side of the ball and five on defense. North Greenville also returns its starting kicker and punter from a year ago.
North Greenville Players to Watch:
- Tracy Scott returns to North Greenville to anchor a very deep and versatile backfield. The sophomore ran for a team high 1,190-yards and 15-touchdowns last season and had four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. He was also a home run threat for the Crusaders with seven touchdowns of 20 or more yards, including two from 40 and two from 50 yards and beyond.
- Will Hunter returns for his second season as the starting signal caller for the Crusaders. Hunter was one of the most accurate passers in all of Division-II football last season, completing 53.5 percent of his passes. He tossed it for 3,035 yards with 23-touchdowns and had just eight interceptions.
- NGU’s offensive line will be the strength of the offense this season, returning four of its five starters. NGU’s front five led the way last season for an offense that averaged 30.8 points per game on 405.9 yards. The line will be anchored by All-American Caleb Harris at left tackle as well as seniors Micheal Thomas and Casey Stewart.
- Seth Laughter anchored NGU’s front seven on defense last season and he will be back to do it again in 2017. Laughter, a former walk-on racked up 32 total tackles last season including a sack and two passes defended.
- Brandon Burger returns to his linebacker spot this season as the team’s leading tackler from a season ago. Burger notched 46 total tackles in 2016 and also pulled down an interception.
- NGU’s defensive backs enter the season with some pressure. The group had the heaviest turnover from last season, losing a few starters including Nigel Gay and Tony Godbolt. Travis Beatty is the lone returning starter in the defensive backfield and will look to anchor a group of new comers who look to keep opposing offenses grounded.
North Greenville and Tusculum will kick off at 7 pm Thursday night in Younts Stadium with several different ways to follow the game.