Story and photo courtesy of North Greeneville Athletics
– 212 was the number North Greenville University senior linebacker Carl Dukes posted on Facebook the week before NGU’s first ever NCAA Division II football national championship playoff appearance against Albany State of Georgia. “212 is the boiling point of water and we want to be boiling all week,” Dukes said.
His prediction held true as the Crusaders set a school record for points scored for the second consecutive week by blowing out the Albany State Golden Rams (8-4) of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference 63-14 at Younts Stadium. NGU (10-2) has outscored its last three opponents 179-21 and tied the school mark with eight straight victories. The Crusaders also amassed a school best 145 unanswered points dating back to the Wingate game three weeks ago. That streak was snapped in the second quarter when Albany scored. North Greenville, which leads the NCAA Division II in time of possession, held onto the ball for 36:25, to only 23:35 for Albany.
NGU advances to the second round of the Division II playoffs to face second seeded Mars Hill College on Saturday, Nov. 26 at noon in North Carolina. The last loss the Crusaders suffered this season was to Mars Hill 38-28 on September 24.
The rout started early when the Crusaders’ Isaiah Johnson intercepted Albany’s Stanley Jennings pass on the second play of the Golden Rams’ first series. Idris Anderson put NGU on the board first on a nine yard run with 6:10 left in the first quarter. Justin Gravely’s extra point made it 7-0.
After forcing an Albany punt, senior quarterback Willy Korn guided NGU into the end zone quickly when Teryan Rucker went in from 15 yards out with 13:42 left in the second. Albany started a drive on its next possession, but had it end quickly when senior cornerback Jereme Green picked off the first of his two interceptions. He returned the ball to the Albany 14, and Willy Korn hit Sean Wright on a scrambling play with a 10 yard touchdown pass. Gravely’s point after made it 21-0. After Albany’s Australian punter Luke Jones kicked it away, Isaiah Johnson took the ball into the end zone for a 62 yard punt return touchdown. Albany’s Brandon Hamilton missed a 35 yard field goal attempt on the Rams’ next series, and Korn then marched NGU down the field on an 8 play 80 yard drive, culminated when Marcus Wilson scored on a 22 yard run that make it 35-0.
North Greenville saw its streak of 145 unanswered points ended when Stan Jennings hit Ronnie Tubbs with a 35 yarder to the one yard line inside 25 seconds. Jennings then sneaked into the end zone with 22 seconds left to make it 35-7 NGU.
Jennings was flagged for a personal foul after the touchdown, and Albany kicked off from its own 20 yard line. That was a crucial mistake the for Rams, as NGU’s Cedric Proctor, who was playing his first game since Oct. 1 coming off a foot injury, took the kickoff and raced 75 yards into the end zone for a North Greenville touchdown with 12 seconds left. Gravely’s boot gave NGU an insurmountable 42-7 lead at halftime.
North Greenville would score three more touchdowns in the game, with Korn hitting Freddie Martino with a seven yard TD at 8:28, Jereme Green picked off his second pass from Albany’s Jennings and carried it into the end zone for his first ‘pick six’ touchdown this season, and sophomore quarterback Aaron Seigler scored from 33 yards out in relief of Korn with 12:14 left in the fourth quarter. It was Seigler’s second rushing touchdown in two weeks. Albany added another touchdown with 9:12 left when Darius Nelson caught a touchdown pass from Blaize Schaeffer.
North Greenville head coach Jamey Chadwell was elated over his team’s performance. “We just keep getting better every week, and I think we showed yet another complete game this week,” he said. “Our defense has been solid all week, but our special teams were awesome today. That’s the first time we’ve scored on a punt return and a kickoff return in the same game, so we were clicking on all cylinders.”
Senior quarterback Willy Korn, who completed 10-15 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, said the Crusaders are ready for the rematch with Mars Hill. “We have been playing some pretty good football, and Mars Hill is a great team, so it should be an exciting game next Saturday.”