Brevard, N.C. - Derek Church found the end zone twice for the Tornados and the defense held the NCAA’s leading rusher to a mere 59 yards on 18 carries, but Mars Hill’s quarterbacking duo combined for 258 yards and three touchdowns as the Lions broke the Tornados three-game home winning streak, 28-13.
Brevard (6-2, 2-2 SAC) battled both the muddy field conditions and the Mars Hill defense as the Tornados were held under the 100 yard rushing mark for the first time this season, as the Lions held the duo of Neville Bryce and Michael Crumbaker to 45 yards on the ground.
Matthew Gaines was able to find some success through the passing game for the Tornados, connecting with Shaton Pratt for a 36-yard gain late in the fourth quarter, setting up Brevard’s second score of the evening, finishing 4-11 for 65 yards. Eric Watts was the Tornados leading receiver for the evening, with two catches for 20 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Preseason All-SAC linebacker Stanley Jones led all tacklers with 15 stops and the Tornados were able to extend their sack and interception streaks to 10 games as the Salonik Amos picked off a pass late in the second quarter and Justin Jefferson and Richard Ray combined for a sack in the third quarter.
Mars Hill (5-2, 3-1 SAC) came into the game led by Jonas Randolph, the NCAA’s leading rusher at 187.0 yards per game, but the Tornados SAC-leading rushing defense held the sophomore to 59 yards, an average of 3.3 per carry.
Most of the damage the Lions did throughout the game came in the air, as Jon Richt was 8-12 for 146 yards and a touchdown, while Luis Cruz finished the game 8-16 for 112 yards and a pair of scoring tosses to go with the interception. Josh Johnson was the team’s leading target, with six catches for 52 yards and a score, while Travis Prince turned both of his receptions for 146 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown reception on the Lions opening possession of the game.
The Tornados opened the game with the ball, but the Mars Hill defense stood strong, forcing a three-and-out. Reigning SAC Special Teams Player of the Week, Watts booted a 55-yard punt down to the Mars Hill 10, pinning the visiting team deep in their own territory for their opening possession.
Off a play-action fake, Richt stepped up into the pocket and delivered a strike to Prince who slipped behind the Tornados secondary and out-raced the Brevard defenders the rest of the way to the end zone to give the guests the 7-0 lead 1:34 into the game.
Brevard wasted no time coming back and putting points of their own up on the board as the Tornados churned out 63 yards on 12 plays, with Church rumbling in from 10 yards out as the Brevard tied the game up at 7 with 6:12 remaining in the opening period.
The Lions would strike on their second possession in the second quarter, breaking the tie as Cruz found Allen Woerner in the back of the end zone to cap off an 83-yard drive in 3:52 and Michael Pinkerton’s extra point put the game at 14-7 with 4:03 remaining in the half.
The Tornados were forced to another three-and-out on the following possession, with mars Hill taking over on the Lions 38-yard line. On third down, Cruz attempted to put the game away early, launching a bomb down the left hash, but Amos, making a great read on the play, picked off the ball and slipped to the ground at the BC 21-yard line.
The joy for the Tornados was short-lived as Bryce, carrying the ball up the middle, had it slip out of his hands down to the turf where it was recovered by Mars Hill’s Mazarius Samon at the Brevard 19, and two plays later Cruz found Josh Johnson up the middle for 13-yards and score to put the Lions up 21-7.
The score would remain the same through halftime and through most of the third quarter before the Lions put together a drive with time running out in the period, capped off by Garrison McDowell’s one-yard plunge to take a commanding 28-7 lead with 15 to play.
The Tornados mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter as Gaines found a streaking Shaton Pratt on fourth-and-seven at the Mars Hill 37-yard line for a 36-yard pick-up at the goal line, where Church bulldozed his way through the pile for his second score of the evening.
A muffed hold on the extra point kept the score at 28-13.
The Tornados had possession one more time in the contest, but Brevard was unable to convert on fourth-down as the stretch by Cory Pertz on fourth-and-nine came up just short and the Lions were able to run out the clock to seal the victory, 28-13.
Brevard takes the road next weekend as they travel to Jefferson City to take on SAC leader Carson-Newman College, with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m., while Mars Hill returns home to host Lenoir-Rhyne for a 2:30 kickoff.