Tigerville – With the season opener in the books North Greenville turns its attention to Western Carolina as the Crusaders travel to Cullowhee to take on the Catamounts, a Southern Conference affiliate of the Football Champions Series (FCS).
Week One Recap | North Greenville upends Newberry
For just the fourth time in history, North Greenville took down Newberry College in a hard-fought 17-7 victory last Thursday night in Tigerville. The Crusaders rode the momentum of big plays, a new starter at quarterback, and a freshman running back to take down the Wolves in the season opener.
London Johnson’s debut in the red and black was a solid one as he threw for a touchdown and made some plays with his legs. Even more impressive was the play of freshman Dre’ Williams who broke through with his first career score and chalked up the first 100-yard rushing game for the Crusaders since the 2017 season. The win was preserved by a close to perfect effort on defense as the Crusaders held the Wolves to just 287-yards, almost 100-yards under their 2018 average.
A Look Back | Catamounts searching for first win of 2019
The start for Western has been less than ideal as the Catamounts kicked off the season with a pair of losses, all be it one of those losses coming to North Carolina State. In week one Western was bested by Mercer who used a big second quarter to put WC in a 28-point hole. The Catamounts defense was able to limit the Bears in the second half but offensively were unable to get much down as they were downed 49-27.
Week two went about as expected when an FCS team steps up in competition and enters the arena of the Power Five conferences. The Wolfpack, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference made quick work of Western, rebounding quickly from a slow first quarter. NCSU delivered 21-points in the second quarter to create some separation while adding 17 more in the third and fourth quarters to finish off the 41-0 shutout.
Is a short one. Saturday’s game between the Crusaders and Catamounts will mark the first meeting between the two programs.
A Close Connection
Make the Connection
Saturday might be the first meeting on the football field, but NGU and Western Carolina still share a close connection. Two coaches claim the Cullowhee, North Carolina institution as an Alma Mater including defensive line coach Brian Volz and former North Greenville basketball coach Jayne Arledge, who is also in the Western Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame for her time as a point guard with the school.
Volz came to North Greenville in the spring of 2018 while Alredge made her way to Tigerville more than 38-years, serving in many positions for North Greenville. She’s most well known for her time with the women’s basketball program where she served as head coach from 1981 until her retirement in 2017. She now serves as the Senior Women’s Administrator for the North Greenville Athletics department.
A win on Saturday for North Greenville would mean a couple of things for the Crusaders. Firstly, it would mean a win over a Division I program which may seem trivial but can help build confidence as the team gears up for a tough conference slate which begins in week three. Secondly, it means a 2-0 start for North Greenville.
Why is 2-0 a significant early milestone? North Greenville’s last 2-0 start came in 2016, a season which resulted in a Division II playoff appearance. In comparison, North Greenville started off the 2011 1-1 and still made the program’s first appearance in the postseason. The first two games were eerily similar for NGU which kicked off the season with a Division II win followed by a loss to a Division I team in week two.
The week one opponent? Newberry College. Hope after all.
Scouting the Catamounts
The 2018 version of Western Carolina as strong offensively, racking up more than 464-yards on offense per game including an impressive 208-rushing yards. The Catamounts averaged 31.5-points per game which put them in the top-30 among FCS offenses. Defensively Western lacked the same clout, ranking 116th in total defense while allowing 41-points per game.
Thus far the trends look similar to last season. In the one comparable match-up with Mercer, The Catamounts put up 445-yards of offense including 318 through the air. WC out-gained the Bears in passing offense and gained eight more first downs but failed to stop a Mercer rushing attack which put up 212-yards and three scores.
The Catamounts were overpowered by the Wolfpack in week two on both sides of the ball finishing with just 106-yards of total offense while surrendering 540 to NC State which rushed for 309 and threw for another 231. In two games thus far Western Carolina is averaging 13.5 points per game while surrendering 45.
North Greenville Players to Watch
- London Johnson: Week one was a solid first showing for the transfer signal-caller who had his first touchdown as a Crusader while throwing for 121-yards on eight completions.
- Harold Hilton: Hilton is listed as a receiver but was a big help in the NGU ground attack last week. He ran for 74-yards on eight carries and was the second leading rusher on either team. He also doubles as the team’s returner and has big-play potential every-time he receives a kick.
- Kyle Belack: Belack was used in several spots last season but looked to settle in at receiver last week. He led North Greenville with 70-yards on four receptions and accounted for the team’s lone receiving touchdown.
- Cameron Payne: Payne played sparingly last season, making appearances in just four games but made the most of his first start against Newberry. He led the Crusaders in tackles with 10 including four solo stops.
- Chauncy Haney: In what could be a big year for the defensive tackle, Haney put on a show in his first action of 2019. He finished with nine tackles and had 1.5 of NGU’s three sacks. He also added a hurry.
- The Defensive Backs: The worst kept secret in Tigerville is the strength of the NGU defensive backfield. That strength was on display last week as the Crusaders held the Wolves to just 175-yards through the air. Two of the leading tacklers for NGU were defensive backs in Johnny Worthy and Kendall Brooks while Aaron Watson picked off his first pass of the season.
Western Carolina Players to Watch
- Tyrie Adams: So far in 2019 the Catamounts have been a passing team led by Adams who has thrown for 318-yards on the season and a pair of touchdowns. In 2018, Adams led the team in rushing with 1,215 yards on 194-carries while scoring 10-times.
- Connell Young: Connell Young is listed as the starter at RB for the Catamounts and was second on the team last year in rushing. This season he has 53-yards on 18-carries.
- DJ Thorpe: Thorpe is one of seven receivers with at least three catches and one of two with seven. He leads the team this season with 141-yards and a 20.1-yard average per catch.
- Trevor Childers: Childers is listed as a linebacker and is the leading tackler after two games. The junior has 19-tackles on the season including a team-high 2.5 tackles for a loss.
- Roman Johnson: Johnson has the only quarterback sack for Western this season but has accumulated just three tackles overall.
North Greenville versus Division I opponents
Since the 2004 season, NGU has a record of 4-18 against opponents of at the FCS level with wins over Austin Peay, Jacksonville, Presbyterian, and Virginia Military Institute. However, the Crusaders have been in contention for the last two seasons. In 2017 Kenesaw State needed a late game-winning drive to defeat the upset-minded Crusaders while North Alabama needed a late turnover to stave off NGU, which led once and forced a pair of ties.
How to Follow
Saturday’s game will be carried on ESPN+ by Western Carolina with radio and live statistics also available. Links to each are provided below.