Brevard, N.C. - The Tornados (6-1, 2-1 SAC) welcome local rival Mars Hill Lions (4-2, 2-1 SAC) to Brevard Memorial Stadium for a 6:00 pm kickoff Saturday, October 17, in a clash between two of the top four teams in the South Atlantic Conference on the season.
Last year featured a hard-hitting game by the visiting Tornados at Mars Hill, but a late comeback ended the game in favor of the hosts, 28-14. Brevard opened the each half with drives, going 66 yards on five plays ending in a one-yard touchdown run by John Taylor in the first quarter and the Tornados scored first in the third quarter as Matthew Gaines took an option pitch from Trey Wilborn four yards for a score.
In the game, Wilborn rushed for a team-high 90 yards on 16 carries while Gaines finished with 48 yards on eight attempts and a score. Brandon Rawls made seven stops for the Tornados defense, including a sack of Lions quarterback Rickey Spradling, but Spradling went 13-18 for 145 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in leading the comeback and last year’s Second Team All-SAC running back George Washington had a team-high 92 yards on 20 carries and two scores.
This season, the landscape has changed as Brevard is coming off a thrilling 27-24 overtime victory over Tusculum College this past Saturday night at Brevard Memorial. Eric Watts caught the game-winning 33-yard yard touchdown pass from Michael Crumbaker in the left front corner of the end zone clinching both Brevard’s first winning season in modern program history since football was reinstated at the college in 2006, as well as their first home winning season in the same period.
The visiting Lions are coming off their own landmark victory, winning on the road at Newberry College this past weekend, 34-28, to move up to fifth in the NCAA DII Southeast Region Rankings, putting them on the cusp of receiving a bid to the NCAA playoffs.
The game between the scarlet and gray and Mars Hill went back and forth until a pair of touchdown runs by the Lions’ Jonas Randolph late in the game put the Lions in the lead for good and they coasted to the victory.
The Tornados come into this game boasting the leading run defense in the South Atlantic Conference and the 22nd ranked run defense in the NCAA, averaging only giving up 93.9 yards per game on the ground. Coach Scott Brumett’s squad will be tested severely by the rushing prowess of Randolph as the sophomore running back comes into the game leading the nation with 1,122 yards picked up the ground this season, averaging 187 yards per game and has found the end zone nine times. Randolph is coming off a week when he was recognized as the SAC Offensive Player of the Week by the South Atlantic Conference Office, having gained 248 yards on 40 carries, with four touchdowns against Newberry.
Brevard will also look to test the Lions on the ground as well, as the Tornados come in boasting the NCAA’s #4 rushing attack, averaging 297.7 yards on the ground per game, led by the talented duo of Neville Bryce and Michael Crumbaker. The two transfers from Feather River (Calif.) College have combined for 953 yards on the ground this season and eight scores and will look to make a dent in the Lions’ fourth ranked defense in the conference against the run, allowing only 145.3 yards per game.
Both teams have also found some success through the air this season, with Crumbaker going three for four last week for 94 yards and the game-winning toss in overtime, while Mars Hill is lead by redshirt freshman Jon Richt, son of Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt, with 598 yards for the season and five touchdowns.
The all-time series is 5-9-2 in favor of the Lions and the Tornados will look to add a win to the column based on two areas of strength in both the field position game and in their defense.
Sophomore punter Eric Watts played the game of his life last week, averaging 45.4 yards per kick, unleashing a massive 75-yard boot for the second-longest kick in the conference this season to go with punts of 55 and 54 yards, pinning Tusculum inside their 20-yard line twice. Watts, in addition to his punting prowess, also lined up at wide receiver for the Tornados and caught two passes for 67 yards and the game-winning touchdown. In recognition of his efforts, Watts was selected as the Week 7 South Atlantic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and he is leading the SAC in punting average, with 41.3 yards per attempt.
The other standout group for the Tornados this season has been the play of their defense as a whole as Preseason First Team All-SAC linebackers Stanley Jones and Brandon Rawls put on a tackling clinic last week against Tusculum College with each racking up 12 stops and Preseason Second Team All-SAC safety Michael Gist picked off his SAC-leading fifth pass of the season and returned it all the way to the end zone, scoring for the third time this season. The play of these three, plus the addition of defensive ends Justin Jefferson (the SAC leader in sacks with eight) and Richard Ray (tied for fourth with four) and linebacker Prince Simunyu (fifth in the conference in total tackles with 54) give the Tornados proven playmakers capable of forcing a turnover or stopping a drive at any given time, which could spell trouble to a Lions’ offense which has turned the ball over 19 times this season.
Three of Mars Hill’s victories have come by less than six points on the season, which could turn the game in favor of the Tornados as Brevard comes into the game outscoring all opposition 46-22 in the fourth quarter and the Tornados also have the advantage in quick starts to the game, scoring 76 points in the opening 15 minutes.
The kickoff time for Saturday’s game is set for 6 p.m. at Brevard Memorial Stadium in Brevard, N.C. The shuttle buses begin running at 4 p.m. and the gates will open at that time as well, two hours prior to the opening kickoff.
General admission to the game is $10 for adults and tickets will be given away all week by WSQL Radio, with an average of four given away per hour. Lucky winners will also have the chance to win two sets of four VIP passes (which grant the winner access to the hospitality tent and priority seating at the football game).
As always, if you are unable to make the game in person, you can catch 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. You may also visit the Brevard College Athletics website at www.BCTornados.com and click on the LiveStats link located on the left-hand side under the "Tornados Links" section.
Week 8 - Game Notes vs. Mars Hill