MARS HILL, N.C. –-- The Mars Hill University football team edged visiting Tusculum College in a thrilling 28-27 overtime victory Saturday afternoon at the Ammons Family Athletic Center and Meares Stadium. Mars Hill improves to 4-5 on the season and 2-3 in the South Atlantic Conference. The Pioneers fall to 2-7 overall, 1-4 in the league.
MHU quarterback Austin Brown rushed for 128 yards and threw for 138 yards to lead the Lions offensively. He completed 20-of-28 passes and threw one touchdown and rushed for another. Running back Malik Prescott rushed 36 times for 172 yards and one score. Craig Rucker was on the receiving end of nine passes for 70 yards and one touchdown. Tray Smith led MHU with eight tackles followed by Tyler Guy-Parrish with five tackles and a sack. Robert Morgan, Jr., had three tackles and an interception. The Lions' defense held the Pioneers to 76 yards rushing and 225 total yards.
Tusculum signal caller Luke Lancaster completed 9-of-28 passes for 149 yards and three touchdown passes to pace the Pioneers offensively. Deres Benn and L'Keith Brown recorded a game high 13 tackles to lead Tusculum on the defensive side of the ball. Benn also added three tackles-for-loss.
Tyler Stewart gave the Lions a 6-0 advantage in the first quarter hitting field goals from 29 and 34 yards, respectively. Lancaster hit Lorenzo Mitchell on a nine-yard pass play to give the Pioneers a 7-6 advantage at the 5:55 mark in the second quarter. After a Lion fumble caused by Jaylynn Kesterson, Lancaster found Rodnell Cruell on a 17-yard scoring strike with 4:27 left in the first half to extend the Pioneers lead to 14-6. Mars Hill trimmed the deficit to one point (14-13) with 31 seconds left in the half after Rucker caught a seven-yard pass from Brown. The teams carried that score into the locker room.
A one-yard dive by Prescott with 10:06 left in the third quarter put Mars Hill back on top. The Lions went for the two-point conversion and Brown found Matthew Maennle in the endzone to give the Lions 21-14 lead. The score capped off a 12-play, 83-yard drive that consumed 4:46.
Lancaster tied the contest on a 44-yard strike to Evan Altizer with 10:01 left in regulation. After that score, the teams traded possessions twice before Mars Hill had a chance to win the contest, but Stewart's 40-yard field sailed wide left with 13 seconds left sending the contest into overtime.
Mars Hill won the coin toss and elected to go first on offense. Brown hit Rucker for a 14-yard gain on second and 11 yards to go before finding the endzone himself on a 12-yard scamper. Stewart's PAT kick was good and the Lions enjoyed a 28-21 lead.
After a couple of penalties and a pair of incompletions, the Pioneers were looking at fourth down and 30 yards to go from the Mars Hill 45 yardline. On a hook-and-ladder play, Lancaster hit Cruell at the MHU 30 who lateralled the ball to Altizer who ran 21 yards down the sideline to the Lion nine yardline. On the next play, Jordan Shippy rushed seven yards to the MHU two yardline but fumbled the ball after contact. The ball was projected into the endzone where freshman offensive tackle Keveon Broadwater recovered the ball for a touchdown. It was Broadwater's second fumble recovery for a TD this season.
The Pioneers opted to go for the two-point conversion and the win. Lancaster's pass attempt to Lorenzo Mitchell was broken up by Germell Jenkins in the endzone as the Lions held on for the one-point victory.
Tusculum returns to action next Saturday as they travel to Salisbury, North Carolina to face Catawba College for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.