BREVARD, N.C. - The Brevard College football team (3-2, 1-2 USAS) hung around all afternoon with the visiting Huntingdon Hawks (4-2, 3-0 USAS), forcing three turnovers on defense in the first half before a late 83-yard rushing touchdown sealed victory for the Hawks, 21-10, on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon game at Brevard Memorial Stadium.
The Tornado defense, pitted against one of the most high-powered offensive attacks in the USA South Conference and Huntingdon quarterback Michael Lambert - who leads the conference in passing yards and touchdowns - held the Hawks in check for a majority of the contest.
Brevard battled all afternoon with Huntingdon, who is now just one of two teams left who are undefeated in USA South play.
Led by Defensive Coordinator Luke Jaicks, the havoc-causing Brevard defense held Lambert to under 300 yards passing. The Huntingdon offense was smothered early, as the Tornados forced three turnovers - including a pick-six touchdown from sophomore linebacker JeQwan George.
George's touchdown score was one of many highlights produced by BC's defense on the afternoon. Freshman Joc Pledger, who had not before recorded statistics thus far in 2019 in the defensive backfield, was thrust into action due to injuries. Pledger shined, picking off Lambert twice in addition to recording five tackles and three pass breakups.
Thanks to George and Pledger's interceptions, the Tornado defense now has totaled 13 picks in the 2019, which far and away leads the USA South. Brevard's 13 interceptions this season also set a new team single-season NCAA-era record for interceptions, supplanting the record held by the 2009 Tornados, who recorded 12 picks.
Junior Steffon Canady led all Tornados with 13 tackles, recording one of Brevard's two sacks as well. Fellow juniors Dante Anderson and Wesley Ross each joined Canady in recording double-digit tackle totals, as the duo each recorded 11 tackles.
Freshman Jerome Bass added seven tackles and a critical quarterback hurry on George's pick-six that gave the Tornados their first points of the contest.
Despite Brevard's strong efforts on defense, the Hawks managed to out-gain the Tornados in offensive yards, 497-181. Brevard's third-down efficiency (3-of-14, 21%) proved a key factor in Saturday's narrow setback.
The Hawks used an 11-play, 78-yard game-opening drive to get their first seven points on the board with a two-yard rushing touchdown.
Following a Brevard punt on the Tornados' ensuing possession, Bass' hurry on Lambert led to an off-the-mark pass that landed right into the arms of the surging George, who took the interception back 25 yards to tie the game up at 7-7 right before the quarter ended.
Both sides traded punts on their next possessions before the Hawks put together a promising 10-play, 43-yard drive. However, Brevard's defense held firm, as the combo of Anderson and Brandon Crawford got a pivotal fourth-down stop to give the Tornado offense the ball back.
Brevard's ensuing nine-play, 25-yard drive that was stalled thanks to a key sack by the Hawks ended in a missed 48-yard field goal, keeping the score deadlocked at 7-7.
On the ensuing Huntingdon possession, a six-play, 26-yard drive was stalled with the first of Pledger's two interceptions. Following a Jaxon Youngblood punt, Pledger again came up clutch, halting a lengthy nine-play, 58-yard drive with an interception in the end zone, sending the contest into the halftime intermission deadlocked at 7-7.
Lambert opened the second half by leading the Hawks down the field, connecting with fellow senior standout Otis Porter for a 26-yard touchdown that gave Huntingdon a 14-7 lead.
Brevard's offense then strung together its longest drive of the day thanks to solid work on the ground from Bennett and Rouse. The Tornados' 16-play, 69-yard drive stalled at the Huntingdon nine-yard line, setting up Stamati Damalos with a 26-yard field goal that trimmed Huntingdon's lead to a 14-10 advantage.
Both teams traded punts on their next two drives as each team's defenses held strong. Brevard got a big fourth-down stop to halt Huntingdon's long 12-play, 42-yard drive. However, the Hawks' defense forced Brevard's offense to go three-and-out on back-to-back drives down the stretch, negating any opportunity for the Tornados to regain the lead.
On third-and-five deep in their own territory, the Hawks broke through as Kobe Smith scorched past BC for an 83-yard touchdown run that wrapped up the victory for Huntingdon, 21-10.
The Tornados now hit the road for back-to-back conference road games. Brevard heads to Rocky Mount, North Carolina next week to take on N.C. Wesleyan College (3-3, 2-1 USAS) on Saturday, October 26 at 1 p.m. before making the trip to LaGrange, Georgia for a matchup with LaGrange College (3-3, 1-2 USAS) on Saturday, November 2 at 2 p.m.
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