Brevard, N.C. - Brevard opened up their 2009 South Atlantic Conference schedule with a bang, defeating Lenoir-Rhyne on the road in Hickory this past Saturday, 14-9, for the program’s first SAC win since becoming full members last season.
The Tornados relied heavily on their defense in the win against L-R, holding the Bears’ powerful rushing attack to only 152 yards on 54 carries, well below their 353 yard average coming into the game. Lenoir-Rhyne was also averaging a SAC-leading 6.7 yards per carry prior to the game, but despite possessing the ball more than 33 minutes in the game and forcing the Tornados defense to stay on the field for 75 plays, the Bears struggled to average 2.8 yards per carry.
Now, Coach Paul Hamilton’s team is facing another solid two-headed rushing attack in Wingate’s Vince Jordan and Nelson Woods. The duo paced the Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 SAC) this past Thursday in a nationally televised game to the tune of 232 yards and four touchdowns as the Wingate came out with the win over Tusculum in a high scoring affair, 42-31.
Jordan receives the bulk of the carries and has capitalized on the opportunity, averaging 114.0 yards per game, second in the South Atlantic Conference. Woods, a redshirt junior the Tornados remember from last season where he carried the ball 21 times for 126 yards and a touchdown broke out against the Pioneers with 133 yards on 17 carries, with three touchdowns to spark the victory.
Brevard’s defense looks up to the task, looking to put last season’s 44-13 loss at home to the visiting Bulldogs behind them as the Tornados come into the game with the top-scoring defense in the South Atlantic Conference at 9.8 points per game and the second-rated defense in the SAC, only allowing 247.8 yards per contest.
Brevard, led by a trio of Preseason All-SAC performers in Stanley Jones, Brandon Rawls and Michael Gist, have all wreaked havoc on the opposing teams so far. Jones leads the conference with 46 tackles, averaging 9.2 per game. Last season, due to injuries among the linebacker corps, Jones was forced to stay at home more, this season, with the added depth, he has been unleashed, with 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks on the season, and has received SAC defensive player of the week honors once already this season.
Rawls is third on the team in tackles, but has done a great job in mentoring sophomore outside linebacker Prince Simunyu as the duo sit second and third on the team in tackles, combining for 14 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, an interception and two forced fumbles on the season.
Gist has already made improvements on last season’s totals. With only three interceptions last season, the sophomore from North Augusta, Ga. has already exceeded that total, with four picks in the past three games, returning two for touchdowns to lead the SAC.
Another bright spot for the Tornados this season has been the play on the defensive line, as Richard Ray and Justin Jefferson have combined for 41 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks from their defensive end positions. Jefferson is currently on a four-game sack streak and combines with Ray for one of the more memorable plays in Brevard Football history as Jefferson’s strip-sack of Lenoir-Rhyne’s Justin Sanders with time expiring and Ray diving over the pile to recover the fumble and clinch the win led to the Tornados most impressive victory as of late.
Brevard will need the defense to step up to avoid a game like last season when the Bulldogs came to Brevard Memorial Stadium last season, defeating the Tornados 44-13. The Tornados did have their bright spots in last season’s matchup as Jones and John Hardee both had interceptions and Tyrone Arrington and Donald Hudson both scored on running plays, but the Bulldogs proved to be too much as Nelson Woods rushed for 126 yards on 21 carries and scored a touchdown for Wingate. Quarterback J.D. Moore went 18-of-33 for 182 yards and two touchdowns and then-redshirt freshman Cody Haffly played two series and was 4-of-5 for 69 yards.
For this contest, the Tornados offense looks to rebound after last week, where they were held for 113 yards on 44 carries and only possessed the ball for 11 minutes in the first half. When the Tornados did have the ball early, they capitalized with Michael Crumbaker hooking up with freshman Lawrence Martin on a 73-yard touchdown pass off the play-action fake on Brevard’s second possession of the game. That was the only time the Tornados offense was able to find the end zone however, as they were 0-for-12 on third down throughout the game.
Derek Church provided fireworks late for Brevard as they looked to put the game away in the fourth quarter, rushing for 54 yards on five carries helping the Tornados milk the clock, including a 36-yard run which finally gave the Brevard offense momentum to run out most of the clock, before being forced to turn the ball over on downs, leading to Jefferson and Ray’s heroics.
Despite the offense’s struggles against Lenoir-Rhyne, the Tornados are still averaging an NCAA Division II’s best 322 yards per game on the ground and lead the South Atlantic Conference in averaging 34.8 points per game. A large part of this is due to theTornados having outscored their opponents 62-6 in the first quarter so far this season.
Attempting to stop the Tornados offensive onslaught will be the combination of Robert Fletcher (26 tackles), Terrence Stephens (24 tackles), Aaron Plyler (24 tackles) and the reigning SAC defensive player of the week in Tylan Merkerson (22 tackles, three interceptions). Merkerson recorded six tackles, had one pass breakup and two interceptions last Thursday in the end zone to earn these honors.
Those unable to make the game in person can follow the game via live broadcast brought to you by the “Voice of the Tornados” Jim Stewart over the radio at WSQL 1240 AM or over the Internet at www.wsqlradio.com or through the LiveStats link posted below.
Week 5 Game Notes - Wingate
Live Stats link provided courtesy of the Wingate Sport Information Staff:
Wingate vs. Brevard, October 3rd