NEWBERRY — A monster day by Jamarcus Henderson and a career-high two touchdown catches from Keinan Lewis keyed Newberry to a 27-14 win over visiting Virginia University of Lynchburg in a game moved up two days for safety concerns stemming from Hurricane Florence.
Lewis opened and closed the scoring for Newberry (1-2), tiptoeing the back of the end zone a 25-yard first-quarter pass from Nick Jones on a fade route after an apparent offsides penalty against the Dragons (1-2) gave the Newberry offense a “free play.” The score capped a 9-play, 85-yard drive that marked Newberry’s second scoring drive of 85-plus yards in as many games.
With time winding down in the fourth, Lewis again found the end zone to turn a one-possession game into a much more comfortable margin. Newberry appeared content to chew up clock with handoffs to Austin Barnes, with the bruising running back breaking off a 23-yard gain and then forcing the Dragons to use timeouts on two consecutive runs up the middle.
As Newberry faced a third and eight with 1:31 on the clock, quarterback Greg Ruff found Lewis in the end zone for his second scoring play of the day. He finished with four catches for 64 yards and was targeted a team-high six times.
Henderson, meanwhile, made a living in the backfield Thursday afternoon with one of the best performances by a Newberry defensive lineman in recent memory. He was credited with three sacks, second-most in a single game in school history, and tied for third with five total tackles for loss. One of his sacks included a forced fumble.
Those five stops behind the line of scrimmage, four solo and two assisted, accounted for 24 yards lost and gave him 247 tackle for loss yards in his career. That total leads all active Division II players and is the second-most among active players at any level of NCAA football.
Henderson was a key contributor to another impressive day by the Wolves’ defense, which limited the Dragons to 2.9 yards per play and allowed just 30 rushing yards on 42 carries. Over Newberry’s last two games, Florida Tech and Virginia University of Lynchburg have combined for 71 rushing attempts and just 38 yards, an astounding 0.54 yards per carry.
Newberry finished with eight sacks and 14 total tackles for loss on Thursday afternoon in addition to breaking up six passes and being credited with 11 quarterback hurries.
The Dragons entered the game sporting a 1-1 record. Despite coming off a 79-16 thumping at the hands of Division I Bethune-Cookman last week, VUL was riding high after an excellent start to the season. The Dragons broke a 44-game losing streak with a 30-28 win over junior college powerhouse Louisburg, forcing five turnovers to hand the Hurricanes their first loss since 2015.
VUL moved the ball well in spurts and finished with 213 yards of total offense. The Dragons took advantage of a short field to even the score at seven points apiece nearly four minutes before halftime. Attempting to rally from a 20-7 fourth-quarter deficit, the Dragons put together their most impressive drive of the day, covering 76 yards in seven plays and cutting the deficit to six points on a three-yard scoring jaunt by To’mas Newman.
The drive was helped by a 46-yard completion, representing the second-longest play from scrimmage against the Wolves this season.
But the Newberry defense still reigned supreme, forcing punts on each of the Dragons’ six possessions and 10 overall, forcing two turnovers on downs, and the first interception of Javhanee Neal’s career on a ball that caromed off the receiver’s hands in the third quarter.
Darryl Foster matched his career high with nine tackles to lead the Wolves, while Troy Cunningham established a new career high with eight total tackles, broke up two passes, and contributed half a sack.
Darius Clark finished with three receptions for 42 yards and also adding a four-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter. Greg Ruff led the Wolves with 90 yards passing on seven completions, while Nick Jones completed five passes for 66 yards. Both tossed one touchdown.
Newberry offered free admission to those displaced by Hurricane Florence, with 28 fans from across the state taking advantage of the offer. A sun-drenched crowd of 2,107 enjoyed the game at Setzler Field, an impressive gathering with less than 48 hours’ notice of the shift in game time.
Newberry opens South Atlantic Conference play next Saturday with a home game against preseason favorites and 21-time conference champions Carson-Newman. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.