MARS HILL, N.C. – The Lions defeated UNC Pembroke 56-44 in non-conference football action on Senior Day in the Ammons Family Athletic Center and Meares Stadium. Two school records were tied in the victory. Mars Hill improved to 3-6 overall while the Braves fell to 2-7 on the season.
Prior to the game Mars Hill recognized their senior football players, senior student athletic trainers and senior cheerleaders. At halftime, Mars Hill recognized the 2017 Mars Hill Athletics Hall of Fame inductees. This year's inductees included Nichole Gilstrap Criminger (Volleyball - 1998), Terrance Stokes (Football - 2000) and Daniel Waymont (Men's Soccer - 2007).
Keshaun Taylor tied his own school record with four touchdown receptions in today's win. He caught nine passes for 183 yards and threw a pass to Craig Rucker that covered 54 yards that directly setup another Mars Hill score. David Salmon tied Jon Richt's record with six touchdown passes in a single game. Salmon threw for 348 yards completing 18-28 passes. Rucker hauled in six passes for 174 yards and one touchdown. Malik Prescott rushed 32 times for 168 yards and one score. Earl Adams led the Lions' defense with nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles-for-loss. Anthony McGill added eight tackles (7 solo), a sack and two for loss. Tyson Daniels posted six tackles (4 solo) and a game high three sacks. Mars Hill set new season highs in rushes (45), yards rushing (201), touchdown passes (6), total offense (603), points (56) and sacks (7).
JoJo Spann led the Braves offense with six catches for 163 yards and two scores. Auston Foley and Dominick Samson split time at quarterback to combine for 407 passing yards completing 20-26 pass attempts. Josh Manns led UNC Pembroke's defense with 10 tackles (7 solo). Colton Weeks followed with eight tackles (3 solo).
The teams combined for 1,094 total yards and 100 points in the game. Mars Hill had 603 of those yards, 402 in the air. Forty-nine combined points were scored in the first quarter alone.
Taylor caught a 61-yard touchdown pass with 13:47 left in the first quarter to start the scoring. A 20-yard field goal by the Brave's kicker, Alex Alvarado, with 10:58 left in the first period made the score 7-3. Taylor then snagged a two-yard pass from Salmon with 8:33 on the clock to extend the Lions' lead to 14-3. Spann then converted a 78-yard scoring pass from Samson 26 seconds later (8:17) to bring the Braves within three points (14-10) of the Lions. Rucker then scored on a 72-yard pass 13 seconds later to make the score 21-10. Samson then hit Jalon Nixon on a 16-yard touchdown strike and after a successful two-point PAT pass play, the Braves trailed by only three points (21-18) at the 6:12 mark. Again, Salmon and Taylor answered for the Lions converting a 17-yard scoring pass to put the Lions ahead by 10 (28-18) with 2:45 left in the opening quarter. Alvarado ended the scoring frenzy in the first quarter with a 38-yard field goal with 35 seconds left in the first quarter of play to cut the Braves deficit to 28-21.
Taylor's fourth score of the day came with 7:31 left in the second quarter on a nine-yard pass from Salmon to give the Lions a 35-21 advantage. Spann caught his second touchdown pass in the contest with 6:41 left in the first half when he pulled in a 14-yard pass from Samson (35-28). A 33-yard field goal by Alvarado made the score 35-31 with 2:22 left in the second stanza. Salmon then found Javon Harbison with 13 ticks left in the half to send the teams into the locker room at the intermission with the Lions holding a 42-31 lead.
Mars Hill's defense stifled an almost certain Braves touchdown on fourth and one at the MHU two yardline with 10:28 left in the third quarter. Later in the period (3:25), a 42-yard touchdown pass from Foley to Shammond Hicks was the only score of the third frame. The Braves two-point PAT failed and UNC Pembroke trailed MHU, 42-37. The Lions' defense held strong again when Aundreas Hill stopped Foley at the line of scrimmage to halt a fourth and one attempt by the Braves at the Lions' 45 yardline as time expired in the third quarter.
Mars Hill added two insurance scores in the final period when Jamel Hall dove in from a yard out with 14:38 on the clock and then Prescott broke loose for a 31-yard scoring rush with 11:33 left in the game to extend the Lions' lead to 56-37. Foley hit Quay Threatt for a 23-yard pass play with 9:58 left in the fourth quarter to end the scoring contest and make the final tally 56-44 in favor of the Lions. In UNC Pembroke's final possession of the game, Daniels sacked Foley on three separate plays to help seal the win for Mars Hill.
The Lions will close out the 2017 campaign at SAC rival Newberry College next Saturday, November 11. Kickoff at Setzler Field is set for 1 p.m.