HICKORY, N.C. – The Mars Hill football team (0-3, 0-1 SAC) were defeated by Lenoir-Rhyne (2-1, 1-0 SAC) on Thursday afternoon by a score of 59-27 to open up South Atlantic Conference play.
James Urzua led the Lions from the quarterback position, going 9-of-15 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Craig Rucker hauled down 10 receptions for 132 yards and two scores. Austin Brown threw for 110 yards and one touchdown and led the Lions rushing attack with 84 yards on 10 carriers. Carl Robertgeau paced the Lions' defense with 15 tackles.
The potent Bears offense struck early and often, scoring three touchdowns in the first quarter. At the 8:20 mark of the opening stanza,Grayson Willingham connected with Ryan Carter for an 11 yard touchdown pass to put the Bears up 7-0. Just shy of four minutes later, Jaquay Mitchell scored his first touchdown of the afternoon, punching the ball home on a seven yard run. A pass from Chase Allbaugh to Michael Owen completed the two-point conversion to put Lenoir-Rhyne up 15-0 with 4:39 left in the first quarter. Mitchell, with 20 seconds left in the first, caught a 16 yard pass from Willingham for the Bears' third score in the opening 15 minutes. A missed extra point attempt kept the score at 21-0.
Mars Hill broke the shutout 1:32 into the second quarter when Jaqueveon Watkins scored his first collegiate touchdown, breaking 32 yard run to cap off a five play, 68 yard drive to pull within two scores.
However, the Bears would reestablish that three score advantage with a one yard run from Xzavion Huff. Following a botched punt from the Lions,Lenoir-Rhyne struck for another score on their first play of the drive that began at 3:37, a 22 yard touchdown pass from Willingham to Drake Starks. Just over two minutes later, Willingham tossed his fourth touchdown pass of the game with a 41 yard strike to T.J. Smith.
The Lions began the second half with the ball, but were unable to score on their first possession. The Mars Hill defense was able to slow down the Bear offense, only allowing a 37 yard field goal in the third stanza to fall behind 45-7 just 4:49 into the frame.
The Lions scored two touchdowns to pull within 24 points, one at the end of the third and then the second to open up fourth. Both scores came on behalf of Craig Rucker.
Rucker scored his first touchdown of the game on a seven yard rush with just under five minutes left in the quarter. He added his second score 2:42 into the final frame when he caught a 20 yard pass from Urzua.
Lenoir-Rhyne answered with a five yard run from Dareke Young with under seven minutes to play. Clarenton Cowart caught his first touchdown of his career, a 13 yard pass from Urzua less than a minute after the Bears' score. The Bears added another score with just over two minutes remaining in the contest to bring seal the Bears' victory by a score of 59-27.
The Lions set season-highs in points scored (27), yards rushing (266) and total offense (553). Mars Hill also controlled the ball 33:36 of the contest.
Mars Hill returns home to Meares Stadium on Saturday, September 22 when they take on Catawba. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.