MARS HILL, N.C. - The No. 24 Newberry Wolves fell behind in the first half and were victims of the big play in a 35-28 loss to the Mars Hill Lions at the Ammons Family Athletic Center and Meares Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The loss snaps a five-game win streak for the Wolves, who fall to 4-1 overall and 2-1 in South Atlantic Conference play entering next weekend’s non-conference game at North Greenville (0-5), set for a 7 p.m. start. Mars Hill rises to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the SAC.
Wide receiver Corey Washington (North Charleston) had 10 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown and true freshman Jalen Cook (Lexington) had a 27-yard touchdown reception.
Quarterback W.T. Murden (West Columbia) was 16-for-42 passing for 170 yards with the two touchdown passes and one interception. He was sacked twice, marking the first sacks allowed by the Wolves this season and the first multiple-sack game by a Wolves’ opponent since the Catawba game in 2010.
Dureal Elmore (Abbeville) was the Wolves’ leading rusher with 17 carries for 88 yards and a 4-yard touchdown, while Ryan Williams (Gainesville, Fla.) had a 2-yard touchdown carry.
The Wolves’ defense picked off three passes with A.J. Booker (Spartanburg, S.C.), Brian Spencer (Columbia) and Apollo Stretch (Columbia) each snagging picks. Unfortunately, big scoring plays led to Newberry allowing 514 total yards to the Mountain Lions.
After a Newberry three-and-out on the game’s opening drive, Mars Hill put together a methodical 12-play, 64 yard drive which took 6:32 off the clock, with a Deunta Jennings 8-yard carry on the Lions’ second fourth down conversion of the drive giving the hosts a 7-0 lead.
The Wolves needed just over a minute and a half to go 66 yards on five plays, with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Murden to Washington tying the game at 7-all. Spencer intercepted MHC quarterback Jon Richt on the first play of the next drive, but the Wolves were unable to convert the turnover into points
Neither team would find a scoring chance again until the second quarter, when the Lions went 81 yards in eight plays, with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Richt to Jennings gave MHC a 14-7 lead. Murden had a tipped pass intercepted on the next drive, but Bookeravenged him on MHC’s next drive with an interception of his own.
The Wolves were held to a three-and-out on the next drive and JoJo Morris’ (Lancaster) was downed at the MHC five. After a pair of short gains, Richt found Dmitri Holmes on a double move route which he broke for a 92-yard touchdown pass, providing the Lions with a 21-7 lead they would carry into halftime.
Stretch intercepted a Richt pass on the opening drive of the second half and 7-play, 39-yard drive was capped off by Ryan Williams’ 2-yard carry to narrow the deficit to 21-14. The Lions responded with a four-play, 76-yard drive ended by a 52-yard touchdown pass from Richt to Jennings to put MHC back up by two scores.
Newberry took the next drive 60 yards in seven plays, with Murden’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Cook bringing the Wolves back to within one score at 28-21. That score would carry into the fourth quarter, but on the first play of the final period, Richt found Holmes for a 75-yard touchdown pass on third down to go up 35-21.
The Wolves immediately responded with a nine-play, 57-yard drive and Elmore’s four-yard touchdown carry brought Newberry’s disadvantage down to one score once again at 35-28.
Newberry forced Mars Hill to punt on each of its next two drives, but a fumble ended a Newberry drive prematurely and the Wolves’ last-gasp attempt to tie the game fell short with four straight incompletions.
Stretch was Newberry’s defensive leader with nine tackles and the interception, while Edmond Robinson (Wadmalaw Island) had eight stops. Morris averaged 43.7 yards per punt.