Livingston, AL – North Greenville overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter while Matt Gravely knocked through a field goal with 16-seconds left on the clock to give NGU an upset win over #25 West Alabama.
West Alabama drew first blood in the first quarter on a touchdown throw from Jack McDaniels to Qua Boyd from the 16-yard line. The score capped a 65-yard drive that took just five plays. The Crusaders would block the ensuing extra point which kept the score at 6-0 early.
Offensively it took NGU a couple of drives to get going but the Crusaders would eventually make their mark with just over a minute remaining in the opening frame. Bryce Fields, who made his first start for the Crusaders at quarterback hooked up with fellow freshman Dre Williams on a 29-yard screen pass to make it 7-6 after the Gravely field goal.
Second-quarter scores by each team would make it 14-13 in favor of NGU at intermission. North Greenville’s touchdown came with just 29-seconds on the clock after the unit marched 70-yards in one minute and 24-seconds. Tyler Bell added the exclamation point from two yards out.
North Greenville’s offense finished the first half with 83-yards on the ground and another 134 through the year while defense one of the best offenses in Division II to just 34-yards on the ground and two scores. The Tigers had an opportunity to go up by three scores late in the second quarter after recovering an NGU fumble but Kwame Livingston came through with a first down sack and kept the Tigers off schedule, eventually resulting in a turnover on downs.
UWA answered with an opening half touchdown in the third quarter while North Greenville tacked on a field goal to make it 21-17 with 8:16 in the third.
A Gravely field goal cut a West Alabama lead to eight points late in the third quarter but the Tigers looked poised to extend the lead to two touchdowns after driving down to the seven-yard line. NGU’s defense forced a field goal attempt, a chip-shot that was blocked by Emmanuel Tatum.
NGU’s counter-punch came quickly and effectively put the Tigers on their heels when Bryce Fields hit Harold Hilton from 52-yards out on the first play of the drive to cut the UWA lead to two points. It was Field’s second touchdown pass of the day but the NGU two-point conversion attempt failed and left the Tigers in front by a couple.
West Alabama failed to answer on its next drive, gaining just one yard while throwing two incomplete passes to stop the clock. The Tigers punted and North Greenville secured the kick on the 30 after a five-yard return from Lucas Catalfomo. North Greenville still trailing by two turned to the freshman Fields with 3:57 left on the clock.
The winning drive was pieced together on 12-plays that marched 64-yards and took off an impressive three minutes and 41-seconds on the clock. Fields hooked up for two huge passes on the drive and added a first down rushing to keep it alive. One of the biggest plays of the came on fourth down when Fields found Kyle Belack for 20-yards on fourth down, also putting the Crusaders in field goal range. NGU would elect to kick on third-down and Gravely would atone for a missed field goal earlier in the game as he knocked through the go-ahead attempt from 34-yards out to put NGU in front by one point. The Tigers received the kick and saw the comeback attempt come to a quick halt when Brandon Berger picked off the first pass from McDaniels, allowing the Crusaders to run out the clock.
Bryce Fields finished the day with 282-yards on 19-completions and a pair of scores. He averaged 14.8-yards per completion. Harold Hilton led the bunch with 97-yards on three receptions and a score while Kyle Belack collected five passes for 82-yards and a huge fourth-down conversion.
Dre’ Williams continued his stellar first season, carrying the ball 19-times for 127-yards. He also made seven catches for 69-yards and a score. All together the Crusaders totaled 479-yards total with 222-yards passing and another 197-yards on the ground, both of which were both season highs.
Defensively, Dantevian Byrd had a career day, finishing with 11-tackles with 4.5-tackles for a loss and a sack. He also accounted for a pass-breakup. NGU spent a significant amount of time in the UWA backfield, totaling eight tackles for a loss and three sacks. Emmanuel Tatum and Chauncy Haney were in on the field goal block while Brandon Burger accounted for the game’s only interception.
Next Time out
North Greenville hosts West Georgia next Saturday at 7 PM in Younts Stadium. The game will be the Gulf South Conference Game of the Week on ESPN+.