Hickory, N.C. - Derek Church rumbled for 54 yards on five carries in the fourth quarter and a late strip-sack by Justin Jefferson of quarterback Justin Sanders recovered by Richard Ray with 59 seconds left in the game clinched the Tornados first South Atlantic Conference victory since joining the SAC last season as Brevard took home the win, 14-9.
For the season, Brevard improves to 5-0, 1-0 in conference play as the Tornados continue their most successful start to a season since the program was reinstated in 2006. The Bears fall to 3-2, 0-1 in the SAC with the loss.
Billed as a game with the two most potent rushing attacks in NCAA Division II, neither team was able to gain traction on the playing surface as steady rain worsened field conditions to the point where players started slipping on the field after halftime.
The Tornados rushed for 113 yards on 44 carries, with quarterback Michael Crumbaker leading the way with 22 carries for 74 yards. Neville Bryce was held to 10 yards on six carries as the Bears keyed on the Tornados leading rusher throughout the game.
Through the air, Crumbaker completed his only passing attempt, going to Lawrence Martin for 73 yards and a touchdown.
On the defensive side, sophomore outside linebacker Prince Simunyu recorded 11 tackles, including three for loss as the Tornados defense, though forced to stay on the field for over 33 minutes in the game, forced the Bears into three turnovers. Brandon Rawls had eight tackles with one going for negative yards. Michael Gist added eight tackles from his safety position, along with an interception, while Stanley Jones had seven solo tackles for the game.
For the Bears on the offensive side of the ball, Byron Darby led the nine Lenoir-Rhyne ball carriers with 50 yards on 13 carries. Justin Sanders was 6-14 in the air with a touchdown and an interception.
Keonte Davies led the LR defense with nine tackles with two going for loss as the Bears recorded a total of 14 tackles behind the BC line of scrimmage for the contest.
The Tornados won the opening coin toss, but deferred to the second half, allowing the Bears to have opening possession in the game.
Lenoir-Rhyne moved the ball to the Brevard side of the field on a nine play-28 yard drive but were forced to punt as Sanders’ pass to Pointer fell incomplete.
Brevard’s first drive was sparked by a 47 yard rush by Crumbaker on the second play, going from the BC 13-yard line to the LR 40. However, the drive went for naught as the Tornados stalled at the 38, forcing a punt by Eric Watts.
LR’s second drive was marred by a miscommunication between Sanders and James Pone, forcing a second-and-20 as the BC defense forced a punt which was downed at the Tornados 27-yard line.
The Tornados offense came out from the sidelines straight to the ball and following a play-action fake, Crumbaker spotted a streaking Martin down the left seam, hitting him in the numbers\ at the Lenoir-Rhyne 40 yard line. Martin, shaking off one tackle, out-ran the chasing safety to the end zone. Chase Henry’s extra point put the Tornados up 7- with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
The score would remain the same until the second quarter as the Tornados went three-and-out on their opening possession of the period, forcing a Watts’ punt from the BC 30-yard line. The sophomore, known for his big leg, connected on a 64-yard punt that traveled 60 yards in the air, which the Tornados were able to down at the Lenoir-Rhyne six-yard line.
Backed up against the goal line, Sanders attempted a quick slant to the left on third-and-six, hoping to catch the Tornados napping. Gist, a Preseason Second Team All-Sac defensive back, read the play perfectly, stepping in front of the pass and returning it to the right front pylon, out-racing Sanders for his second touchdown return in as many weeks to give Brevard the commanding 14-0 lead with 7:51 remaining in the opening half.
Jamont Jones returned the following kickoff from Justin Matis to the Lenoir-Rhyne 49-yard line. An illegal block by one of the Tornados during the return advanced the ball 15 yards, giving the Bears excellent field position at Brevard’s 36.
Lenoir-Rhyne capitalized, converting on fourth-and-eight and then Sanders found a wide-open Pointer in the end zone from 22 yards out to cut the lead to 14-6 after Colin Corpe’s extra poin went wide left.
The score remained the same as the teams went into the locker room with the Tornados on top, 14-6.
Coming out of the halftime break, Brevard took over at their 23-yard line. Two plays later, Brevard’s lone miscue of the game occurred as confusion in the backfield led to the ball being placed on the ground where it was covered up by the Bears’ Dewayne Jones at the Tornados 17.
Three plays later, Corpe knocked home a 25-yard field goal as Lenoir-Rhyne cut the lead within a touchdown, 14-9 with 3:28 gone in the third quarter.
The defenses took over from here as field conditions worsened and the rain continued to fall as both offenses combined for only two first downs in the last 11:32 of the quarter with Brevard’s Bryce picking up one with a five-yard carry and Major Herron rushing for five yards on a quarterback scramble for the Bears.
With both teams struggling to get anything going, the game turned into a field position battle and Brevard’s Eric Watts came through in the clutch, with nine punts going for 360 yards for a 40.0 yard average. In addition to his 64-yard monster, Watts also nailed kicks that sailed 52 and 50 yards, pinning the Bears inside the 20 three times during the game.
The Tornados turned to Church in the fourth quarter, trusting the redshirt junior fullback from Franklin, N.C. and he delivered, carrying the ball three times on one drive for 17 yards and a first down.
A muffed snap on the punt gave the Bears great field position at Brevard’s 30-yard line with 5:27 left. Justin Sanders ran the ball three times, moving it up to the Tornados 28-yard line, but on the fourth-down, facing the blitz from the Tornados defensive line, Sanders threw it high over his intended target, turning the ball over on downs.
Church took the subsequent snap, going untouched up the left side for 36 yards, putting Brevard deep in LR territory, forcing the Bears to use all three timeouts before getting the ball back with 2:30 left on the clock.
Helped by a pass interference call, Sanders continued the drive, stepping up in the pocket scrambling or looking for an open receiver. He held onto the ball too long on the Bears’ final play of the game getting stripped by Jefferson coming in from his defensive end position. Ray hurdled over the fallen quarterback and cradled the ball as the Tornados regained possession, kneeling three times to clinch their first SAC win since the program was granted full membership in 2008.
The Tornados continue conference play next weekend as they travel to Wingate, N.C. to take on the host Bulldogs. Kickoff for the South Atlantic Conference game is set for 1:30 p.m.