NEWBERRY — Visiting Florida Tech exacted its revenge on Newberry a year after the Wolves’ dramatic victory in Melbourne, staving off a late rally with an interception in the end zone to seal a 42-28 win at Setzler Field that kicked off the 2016 season.
The Panthers (1-0) fell victim to Newberry (1-0) a season ago, giving up a touchdown in the final minute before seeing a potential game-tying field goal clang off the upright as time expired in a 31-28 thriller.
But Florida Tech returned the favor this season, netting 557 yards of total offense and forcing six turnovers to spoil Newberry’s home opener.
The game marked the emergence of Markell Castle, a sophomore York native who saw his first significant action at wide receiver.
His 181 receiving yards on 10 catches ranks sixth in school history in a single game. Among Castle’s highlights included his second career receiving touchdown on a 72-yard heave from quarterback Raleigh Yeldell and an Odell Beckham Jr.-esque leaping, one-handed grab late in the first half to set up Newberry’s third score.
Castle hauled in the lion’s share of Yeldell’s school-record 37 completions. The preseason first team all-South Atlantic Conference selection threw for a career-high 447 yards, good for third in school history, on 55 attempts.
The Wolves and Panthers combined for 1,097 yards of total offense, while the defenses created nine turnovers. Florida Tech came away with four interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries, snuffing out promising Newberry drives to retain the momentum for wide swaths of the second half.
Trailing by two scores with just under four minutes to play, Newberry drove down the field and managed to get into Panther territory as the clock ticked below two minutes. Yeldell’s pass was picked off in the end zone with 1:26 remaining in fourth quarter, ending the Wolves’ final drive and allowing the Panthers to run out the clock.
The Panthers struck first on a 52-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Johnson from Mark Cato, capping a 90-yard, six-play drive to jump out to the advantage six minutes into the contest.
Both offenses sputtered throughout the remainder of the quarter before Yeldell found Cole Watson open in the seam for a 38-yard touchdown pass. Watson nearly went down on the play, slipping a tackle and regaining his balance on his way to the goal line.
Yeldell’s second scoring play of the day came with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter as he found a wide-open Baptiste Staggers from 11 yards out to bring the Wolves within a point. Following another Panthers’ score, Yeldell led the Wolves on a four-play, 73-yard drive that took just 36 seconds off the clock, with Castle’s acrobatic grab leading to Watson’s second receiving touchdown a play later. The two-point conversion knotted the score at 21 at the intermission.
Watson joined Castle with over 100 receiving yards, hauling in eight Yeldell passes for a career-high 108 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The pair gave Newberry its first 100-yard receiving duo since current Atlanta Falcon Corey Washington and Jason Livingston had 148 and 102 yards, respectively, against Brevard in 2013.
Yeldell rushed for a team-high 49 yards in addition to his passing exploits. Romelo Doctor chipped in 24 yards on the ground and 47 through the air. The Panthers were led by 101 rushing yards from Trevor Sand and 86 from Antwuan Haynes to complement 298 yards and four scores through the air from quarterback Mark Cato.
Newberry’s defense snuffed out nine of the Panthers’ 12 third-down conversion attempts. Joe Blue had a game-high 12 tackles, eight of them solo efforts, and broke up a pass, while Jamarcus Henderson chipped in half a sack and 1.0 tackles for loss among his nine stops. Jimmy Holmes, LaQuan White, and Rashaad Smith all tallied interceptions against Cato.
The Wolves return to action next Saturday against non-conference foe Virginia Union. Kickoff from Setzler Field is set for 4 p.m.
This release provided by Newberry College.