Tigerville – North Greenville put a scare into the first ranked Valdosta State Blazers on Saturday afternoon but the defending national champions came out on top 20-15 in what can only be described as the best game in the Gulf South so far in 2019.
North Greenville put up nine points in the first half and held one of the best offenses scoreless. Valdosta State which was averaging more than 500-yards per game and 43 points finished the first half with just 93-yards with two drives that ended in turnovers. The other three were punts. Aaron Watson picked off a Rogan Wells pass on the team’s second possession while fumbling away the ball on the team’s final chance to score before halftime.
Kwame Livingston forced the fumble and was credited with a sack on the play and also recovered the loose ball. NGU kneeled on the next play to head to the locker room up nine points. NGU’s nine points came from the leg of Matt Gravely who connected on all three of his attempts. He booted makes of 22, 44, and 42 yards to give North Greenville the lead.
Offensively North Greenville put together one of the more impressive performances of the season in the first half with two drives of 60-yards and another that was 54-yards. The Crusaders ate up more than 11-minutes of the first-half clock on those three scoring marches and four more minutes on the prior two.
The Blazers returned to form in the third quarter, taking the first drive and marching 75-yards on 10-plays. The scoring drive was capped by a four-yard run from Seth McGill that made it 9-7, still in favor of NGU. Valdosta’s TD in the opening minutes of the third frame would be the only score until later in the period when Valdosta State struck again. This time Rogan Wells found Brian Saunds from 35-yards out for their second score of the game. This one made it 14-9 which was the first lead of the game for the Blazers.
North Greenville’s defense continued its solid play, forcing the VSU punt after the offense failed punted the prior drive. The Crusaders benefited from two penalties on the drive while also manufacturing some pressure on Rogan Wells to turn the ball back over to the offense. The Crusaders would capitalize on the extra opportunity.
The score was set up by a big pass play from Donny Baker to Lucas Catalfomo that went for 31-yards to put NGU in business at the Valdosta 14-yard line. Tyler Bell would do the rest, taking the next handoff the rest of the way to give North Greenville the 15-14 advantage. NGU’s two-point conversion attempt would fail but the Crusaders regained the lead with 13:03 left on the clock.
The next two drives for each team would result in punts. North Greenville had an opportunity to run the clock and picked up a first down but only milked three minutes of game time giving the Blazers 2:50-seconds to put together a game-winning score. The clock melted away and NGU looked poised to come away with the big win but the Blazers had one more big play up their sleeves. Wells broke free on a 40-yard sprint and found his way into the North Greenville endzone to give the Blazers a 20-15 lead, converting on fourth down.
North Greenville had one last gasp and connected on a big pass to Josh Edwards to move to the Valdosta 49-yard line. This time the VSU defense came up with the big play, picking off the next North Greenville pass to put the game away and hold off the upset-minded Crusaders.
Tyler Bell led North Greenville with 73-yards on 12-carries and had the only touchdown for North Greenville while Semaj Lakin added 48-yards on 11-carries. Matthew Martin had one of his best days as a Crusader, collecting three passes for 94-yards. Catalfomo finished with 41-yards on two catches. Dalton McKittrick also finished with a reception.
Defensively Kwame Livingston had an all-conference type performance. He finished with nine-tackles including 2.5 for a loss and 1.5-sacks. He also forced and recovered a fumble. Jacob Harper finished with eight tackles and a tackle for a loss while Johnny Worthy and Aaron Watson both had interceptions.
North Greenville’s defense held the VSU team to 385-yards offensively, almost 200-yards below their single-game average as well as 20-points below their season total. Offensively the Crusaders finished with 346-yards of total including 189-yards rushing.
Next Time Out
North Greenville hits the road for the final time in 2019 with a trip to West Florida for a 4 PM kick off with the Argos in Pensacola, Florida.