The UNCP football team finally found a way to defend its home field, topping Lenoir-Rhyne 14-10 on Oct. 28 at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
Redshirt junior Tyler Hinton set a new program record in the process, notching his 20th sack to pass current running back coach DeVante Bush as the all-time leader. He officially passed Bush’s mark by sharing a strip-sack with senior Khalil Vance in the game’s closing moments.
“It’s great to end the game that way,” Hinton said. “Hard fought game by our defense, our whole team, our offense. It’s just a great feeling.”
UNCP (2-6) outgained the Bears (3-5) 355-209. Redshirt sophomore Miles Grant led the ground attack for the Braves with 100 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Fellow sophomore Josh Sheridan added 54 yards on 14 attempts.
Their efforts took some pressure off of redshirt freshman quarterback Dominick Samson, who finished 17 for 31 with 158 yards.
UNCP’s only passing touchdown came from a receiver. Senior E.J. Williams, who posted 33 yards on three receptions, found JoJo Spann for a 35-yard score to put the Braves on the scoreboard with less than a minute left in the first quarter. Williams took a pitch from Spann to initiate the trick play.
“Usually it’s supposed to go to the outside receiver,” Spann said. “This play, [the receiver] was pressed off, so I had to stop block for a second and come around him. When I ran, I was just wide open.”
It was the highlight of an offensive effort that was relatively lackluster, as the Braves punted nine times over the course of the game. The hosts were able to push the ball down the field when they needed to, however.
The connection from Williams to Spann was in response to a 54-yard field goal by Lenoir-Rhyne’s Chase Allbaugh. The Bears reclaimed the lead in the third quarter with a quick 2-yard touchdown by Nelson Brown, who led the team with 61 yards on the ground.
UNCP put the Bears away for good minutes into the fourth quarter when Grant broke away from several defenders to earn a 40-yard run.
The game-ending strip sack took place with five seconds left on the clock. The Bears faced a critical 4th down from their own 35-yard line, but Hinton and Vance hit Lenoir-Rhyne quarterback Jarrod Kellar in the backfield to seal the victory.
“Our second half, we were able to fight from behind when little bit of adversity came our way,” UNCP head coach Shane Richardson said. “We really showed a lot of great energy out there as a team.”
Before the game, UNCP’s seniors were honored as they took the fields for the last time at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
Alpha Lamin, Spann, Vance, Williams, Albert Wright and Chris Plochare wrapping up the final year as collegiate athletes.
They have been increasingly looked to for their leadership this season on a team that features mostly newcomers and inexperienced players.
Lamin, a defensive lineman, is a Fayetteville native. He played at Elizabeth City State for a season before transferring to Pembroke.
Spann hails from McDonough, Ga. After spending two seasons at North Carolina A&T, he came to UNCP. Spann was forced to sit out last season due to an injury.
Wright played a season at Louisburg before UNCP.
Williams transferred from Winston-Salem State.
Vance, a key part of UNCP’s defensive line, hails from Greensboro.
Ploch, a transfer from Concordia-St. Paul, is from Florida.