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North Greenville defeats Tusculum 31-7 in non-conference clash

North Greenville defeats Tusculum 31-7 in non-conference clash

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Will Hunter threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score and North Greenville University erased an early deficit by scoring 31 unanswered points in a 31-7 victory over Tusculum College Saturday afternoon at Pioneer Field.

Hunter completed 16-of-30 passes for the Crusaders (4-3), who piled up 465 yards of total offense while limiting the Pioneers (1-6) to 199 total yards. Hunter connected with Bobby Foos on a 64-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter and a 17-yard strike to Mason sanders late in the third quarter. Christian Bruce had seven catches for 124 yards for the Crusaders, while Ashton Heard led all players with 52 rushing yards on 17 attempts.

Tusculum's lone touchdown came on the Pioneers' opening drive as Josh Jackson scored on an 11-yard run, but the Crusader defense twice turned away the Pioneers in the red zone. North Greenville controlled the ball for 18:22 in the second half and limited Tusculum to a total of 20 offensive plays after halftime. The Crusaders also converted on 10-of-16 third-down attempts in the game, while the Pioneers succeeded on just 3-of-13 conversions on third down.

The Crusaders received the opening kickoff but moved backwards eight yards thanks to a pair of false start penalties. After a punt, Tusculum took over at its own 43 and marched 57 yards in eight plays, aided by a personal-foul penalty and a 12-yard pass from Malcolm Pendergrass to Nick England. Jackson finished off the drive by just barely breaking the plane at the goal line with 9:49 left in the first quarter.

North Greenville came back by moving 48 yards in 11 plays, helped by completions from Hunter to Sanders for 16 yards on third-and-12 and 23 yards to Bruce on third-and-17. The drive stalled just inside the Tusculum 30, and Matt Gravely drilled a 45-yard field goal to cut the Pioneer lead to 7-3 with 4:59 left in the opening quarter.

Following a series of punts, the Crusaders moved 57 yards in nine plays on their first drive of the second quarter to take the lead on a sneak by Hunter from the 1-yard line. During the drive, the Crusaders caught a break when a pass by Hunter caromed in the air off two Pioneer defenders and fell into the arms of Bruce for 19 yards on third-and-11. North Greenville also converted a third-and-6 from the Pioneer 10 on a nine-yard run by Tristen Jackson immediately prior to Hunter's touchdown with 11:07 left in the half.

Tusculum moved the ball into North Greenville territory on each of its next two drives, but were unable to get inside the 40 and were forced to punt. Hunter Cantrell dropped a punt inside the 10 with just under five minutes left in the half, but the Crusaders needed just four plays to find the end zone. Hunter hooked up with Foos down the middle for a 64-yard touchdown with 2:58 remaining in the half, pushing the North Greenville lead to 17-7.

The Pioneers used a 60-yard kickoff return by Jay Boyd to move into Crusader territory and completions by Pendergrass to Chavis Williams for 15 yards and Eric Lynch for seven yards brought Tusculum into the red zone, but a 34-yard field goal attempt went awry and the Crusaders went to the locker room with a 17-7 advantage.

In the second half, Tusculum's opening drive ended on a punt by Hunter Cantrell that was downed at the North Greenville 1-yard line. The Crusaders gave themselves breathing room by driving 46 yards in 10 plays, with North Greenville punter Foos returning the favor by dropping a 50-yard punt at the Tusculum 3. With the field position game recaptured, the Crusaders needed to go 46 yards on five plays on the next drive, which was capped by a 17-yard pass from Hunter to Sanders for a 24-7 North Greenville lead with 2:53 left in the third quarter.

On their next drive, North Greenville marched 81 yards on eight plays, with third-down conversions by Hunter of 17 yards to Pedro Manigault on third-and-10 and 24 yards to Bruce on third-and-11. Tracy Scott closed out the drive by scampering 24 yards up the left side to give the Crusaders a 31-7 lead with 10:53 to go. Tusculum moved the ball inside the North Greenville 10 on their next drive, aided by a completion of 12 yards from Pendergrass to Jordon Shippy and a 17-yard run by Shippy.

However, the drive was cut short when Pendergrass was picked off on the sidelines at the 2-yard line by the Crusaders' Tiko Thompson. North Greenville then closed out the game by controlling the ball for the final 6:38, moving 62 yards on 12 plays behind backup quarterback Collin Sneed and reserve tailback Latif Hughes.

North Greenville ran the ball 41 times for 159 yards against Tusculum, with Jackson tallying 50 yards on four carries and Scott adding 37 yards on seven rushes. Jackson paced the Pioneers on the ground with 33 yards on eight carries, while Tony Belle had 14 carries but mustered just 21 yards.

Pendergrass finished the game 13-for-23 for 131 yards and one interception for the Pioneers, with England as his favorite target as he made six receptions for 49 yards. Lorenzo Mitchell and Lynch each had two catches for the Pioneers, who saw six different players with at least one reception in the game. Sanders had five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown for the Crusaders, while Manigault had two grabs for 29 yards.

On defense, Brandon Williams led the Pioneers with seven tackles, including 4 1/2 for a total of 11 yards in losses. Deres Benn had a team-high nine tackles (five solo) for the Pioneers and had a pair of pass breakups, while L'Keith Brown had seven tackles (four solo) and had 2 1/2 for loss. Brent Williams and Colton Strickland were credited with sacks for the Pioneers, while Boyd and Cameron Thomas each had five solo tackles among their six stops. The Crusader defense was led by Quan Weeks, who had seven tackles (three solo) and one for loss. The Crusaders sacked Pendergrass three times and piled up 31 yards in losses on the ground, including 17 against Pioneer running backs.

Boyd had a solid afternoon on kick returns, piling up 132 yards on four runbacks (33 yards per return). Cantrell enjoyed a fine afternoon punting the ball for the Pioneers, averaging 41.7 yards on seven punts with a long of 56 yards, three inside the 20 and a net of 39.7 yards. Foos had four punts for the Crusaders, averaging 45.8 yards with two inside the 20 and a long of 50 yards.

North Greenville had 26 first downs in the game to 12 by Tusculum, including 15 through the air. The interception by the Crusaders' Thompson in the fourth quarter was the only turnover of the game, and the Crusaders ran 72 plays on offense to 53 by the Pioneers in the game.

Tusculum will continue its non-conference schedule next Saturday, Oct. 22 when Limestone College visits Pioneer Field for a 2:30 p.m. Homecoming kickoff.

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