The Lenoir-Rhyne Football Team (6-2, 4-1) picked up its fifth straight win and stayed in the hunt for the South Atlantic Conference crown with a 44-13 victory over Wingate (5-4, 4-2) Saturday afternoon at Irwin Belk Stadium. The Bears,
the top-ranked rushing team in NCAA Division II, ran for 390 yards and forced six turnovers as Lenoir-Rhyne defeated Wingate on the road for the first time since 2000.
Lenoir-Rhyne remains a half-game behind Mars Hill (6-3, 5-1), who defeated Tusculum (2-7, 1-4) at home by 23-20 score in overtime. L-R sophomore halfback Jarrod Spears (Bunnlevel, N.C.) ran for a game-high 150 yards on just nine carries and a touchdown as the Bears broke open a close contest with 34 points in the second half en route to the win.
Lenoir-Rhyne opened the scoring when senior quarterback Reuben Haynes (Commerce, Ga.) crossed the goal line on a sneak from one yard out with 3:26 remaining in the first quarter. The touchdown capped a nine-play, 72-yard drive.
Three field goals in the second quarter made the score a 10-6 Lenoir-Rhyne advantage entering halftime.
The teams traded touchdowns to start the third quarter with Wingate quarterback Robbie Nallenweg (Asheville, N.C.) hitting Bryan Caffrey (Bayside, N.Y.) for an eight-yard touchdown pass with 4:58 remaining in the stanza to cut the lead to 17-13 but the Bulldogs couldn't get any closer.
Lenoir-Rhyne took over from there and scored the game's last 27 points. Spears' 64-yard touchdown run and senior linebacker Cle-Artiss Davis' (Miramar, Fla.) 27-yard fumble return for a score on Wingate's ensuing possession early in the fourth quarter were key scores in the run.
L-R sophomore fullback Isaiah Whitaker (Salisbury, N.C.) added 98 yards rushing while Nallenweg finished with 325 yards through the air but was picked off four times in the setback. The Bulldogs' Chris Bowden (Forsyth, Ga.) added a game-high 12 receptions for 108 yards as well.
On defense, Lenoir-Rhyne sophomore linebacker Tanner Botts (Lawrenceville, Ga.) led the way with 15 tackles to go along with two key second-half interceptions. Wingate's Jared Seate (Charlotte, N.C.) led all tacklers with 16 on the day.
Lenoir-Rhyne remains on the road to take on Newberry in a South Atlantic Conference football game next Saturday beginning at 2:00 p.m. The game is for the Bishops Trophy, the annual battle between the two Lutheran schools of North and South Carolina.
Wingate steps out of league play to face North Greenville next Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m., in Tigerville, S.C.
Photo Courtesy: Jarrod Spears, L-R Athletics