PEMBROKE, N.C. — The Newberry Wolves held a seven-point halftime lead, but the UNC Pembroke Braves scored on three of their first four drives of the third quarter and held on for a 31-24 victory at Grace Johnson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With the loss, Newberry falls to 5-4 overall on the season and will host Lenoir-Rhyne (6-2) in the annual battle for the Bishops Trophy on Saturday, November 3, at 2 p.m. UNC Pembroke is now 6-3 on the year.
Things looked fantastic offensively for the Wolves in the early going, as the scarlet and gray scored on their first two drives of the game. After taking the opening kickoff, Newberry went 75 yards in 12 plays over the course of 5:31, with W.T. Murden (West Columbia) finding Corey Washington (North Charleston) from 10 yards out to make it a 7-0 game.
After forcing a UNCP three-and-out, Brice Green (Columbia) returned the punt 43 yards to the Braves’ 38, and Newberry needed just four plays and 1:11 to find paydirt, as Ryan Williams (Gainesville, Fla.) punched it in from one yard out to make it 14-0. Byron Dickerson (Atlanta, Ga.) set up the score with a 34-yard reception on third down.
The Braves cut the lead to 14-3 on a 23-yard field goal with 3:51 left in the first quarter and made it even closer at 14-10 after a 16-play, 65-yard drive over the course of 6:41 capped by Elliott Powell’s 1-yard touchdown carry.
Newberry missed a field goal, but forced a punt and drove 61 yards in 29 seconds, with a Kyle Mackey (New Ellenton) 19-yard field goal as time expired made it a 17-10 game at the intermission.
Pembroke had only 132 yards of offense at the half, but struck quickly to swing the advantage in the Braves’ favor. A six-play, 60-yard drive ended by a Luke Charles to T.J. Johnson 10-yard touchdown tied the game on the opening drive, and the Braves took the lead for the first time on a 42-yard receiver pass from Johnson to Donald Britt to take a 24-17 lead with 11:41 left in the third.
A Murden pass was intercepted along the sideline in Braves’ territory, but the hosts couldn’t convert. Jason Livingston (Conway) had a great punt return into Braves’ territory, but Newberry was unable to move the ball. A long completion on the drive’s first play aided UNCP, as the hosts went 71 yards in five plays and extended the lead to 31-17 on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Charles to Te’Vell Williams with 6:09 left in the third quarter.
Neither team threatened to score again in the third quarter, but just two plays into the fourth period UNCP was just outside the Newberry redzone. On the next play, Brian Spencer (Columbia) came up with his fifth interception of the season to snuff out the drive.
Newberry marched down the field and were at the UNCP 11 with first down, but a loss on first down followed by three incompletions put a scoreless end to a 16-play, 67-yard drive.
The Wolves forced a three-and-out and on the next drive the Murden-to-Dickerson connection was in full force, with a 36-yard completion setting up a goal-to-go situation, which was converted into seven points on second down on Murden’s 5-yard scoring completion, making it 31-24 with 5:22 to play.
The Braves sealed the game by holding onto the ball and earning four first downs, not giving Newberry a chance to get their hands back on the ball.
UNCP had 448 yards of offense compared to Newberry’s 408, with each team running 74 plays. Murden completed 29-of-46 passes for 298 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but the Wolves managed only 111 yards on the ground, with Wesley Brown (John’s Island) leading the team with 26 yards rushing.
Apollo Stretch (Columbia) had a game high 10 tackles and a pass breakup, while Kelton Hall (Clinton) had seven tackles with a tackle for loss.