MARS HILL, N.C. – The Lions' football team defeated Newberry 21-17 in a nail biter in their season finale' Saturday afternoon at the Ammons Family Athletic Center and Meares Stadium. Mars Hill ends the 2018 campaign 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the South Atlantic Conference. The Wolves complete the season 5-6 overall and also 3-4 in the league.
Prior to the game, Mars Hill recognized their 11 senior players. Brandon Berridge, Austin Brown, Justin Cook, Joshua Dawkins, Chris Ferdinand, Connor Jackson, Spencer McCoy, Jake Sell, Tray Smith, Jacari Williams, Brandon Wilson and Eldrick Wilson played in their final game as a the Lion.
Mars Hill's defense was the key in the win. Besides holding the Wolves at the goal line with one second left in regulation, the Lions forced Newberry into five turnovers in the game, three interceptions and two fumbles. Two of the Lions' interceptions were in their own end zone that led to touchbacks and prevented possible Newberry scores.
Tray Smith led Mars Hill with 10 solo tackles including the stop at the Lions' one-yard line at the end of the contest that sealed the win. He added a sack, a tackle-for-loss, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble. Chris Ferdinand followed with eight tackles, two sacks and three tackles-for-loss. Carl Robertgeau recorded nine solo tackles and an interception that included a 38-yard return. Cameron Wrice had six tackles and a game high two interception in the win. Austin Brown threw for 166 yards and one score completing 14-32 passes. Craig Rucker caught five passes for 55 yards while Tyler Ferguson was on the receiving end of four passes for 37 yards and one touchdown. Tanner Fox had a long punt of 48 yards and placed three punts inside the Wolves 20 yard line. These numbers tied season highs previously set by MHU. Christopher Roberts led the rushing attack for the Lions with 45 yards on 19 carries. He crossed the goal line once.
Dre Harris completed 22-34 passes for 232 yards to pace Newberry. Markell Castle caught eight passes for 59 yards. Jamarcus Henderson led all players with 14 tackles (12 solo), a sack and four tackles-for-loss. Joe Blue followed with the same number of tackles (9 solo) and an interception.
Jacques Buchannon scored the first points in the game in the Lions' first possession with 10:03 on the clock in the first quarter when he dove in from three yards out. Austin Barnes knotted the game at 7-all with 12:07 left in the second quarter after he scored on a 21-yard rush. Brown then found Ferguson on a six-yard pass play to give the Lions a 14-7 lead. That would later prove to be the game winning score as the Lions would never trail again. Roberts scored from two yards out with 18 seconds left in the first half to send the teams into the locker room at the intermission with the Lions holding a 21-7 advantage. Harris ran in from seven yards out with 7:36 left in the third frame to trim the Lions lead to seven points (21-14). Kevin Weber ended the scoring in the contest with 2:05 left in the third quarter after he nailed a 42-yard field goal (21-17).
The fourth quarter was a defensive battle, eventually won by the Lions. Newberry's first possession in the fourth quarter ended with an interception by Robertgeau. Mars Hill was forced to punt on the ensuing possession. The Lions stopped the Wolves on fake punt on Newberry's next possession and then the Lions were forced to punt the ball back to Newberry with 2:18 left in the contest. The Wolves drove 66 yards on 11 plays to the Lions one yard line with one second left in regulation. On fourth and goal at the Lions' one yard line, Austin Barnes was met at the line of scrimmage by Smith and Joshua Dawkins who stopped forward progress and the Lions took over possession of the ball and ultimately the win. MHU ran out the final second to make the final tally 21-17 in favor of the hosts.
At halftime of the game, Mars Hill inducted three new members into their Athletic Hall of Fame. This year's class of inductees included Michael Grant (football), Kristina Osborn (softball) and Jerome Ramsey (men's basketball). To read the full release about the 2018 Hall of Fame inductees, click here...