Runningback Josh Sheridan gets to the edge of the defense for a big gain. PN Photo/Trevon Knightproved
The UNCP football team hasn't lost a game at Grace P. Johnson Stadium on homecoming weekend in three years, since the 2015 season and this year’s squad wasn’t looking to end that recent tradition when they took on and defeated the Mountain Lions of Concord University on Oct.20 in a 48-34 victory.
“It feels great. 3-0 the last three years in homecoming (games) so we didn’t want to lose on homecoming because our tradition is winning…things go a lot better when you’re on the winning side,” said runningback Josh Sheridan.
The Braves used big plays from all three phases of the game to end their three-game losing streak and pick up their first win in over a month. With a balanced offense and an opportunistic as well as tenacious defense, the Black and Gold were able to outpace a potent Concord offense.
“To stay balanced offensively is one of our goals and one of our objectives as a coaching staff and we want to try to do that the best we can, so it was good to see that,” said Head Coach Shane Richardson.
After yielding just a field goal on the opening drive of the game, defensive back Devin Jones put the early momentum in the hand of the home team when rocketed down the right sideline for 97-yard touchdown on the Braves first kickoff return of the game.
“I think it was a great momentum creator and a lot of guys got fired up about that,” said Richardson about what the play did for his team early on.
The Mountain Lions would respond with a quick five-play touchdown drive of their own to take a 10-7 lead, but the Braves would hit right back with a scoring drive that ended with runningback McKinley Nelson catching back to back passes with his second being a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Josh Jones.
“My confidence is growing every week. I feel like I have the teammates that encourage me everyday in practice and we get better and I really think that helps as an offense which is my confidence in them and their confidence in me,” said Jones.
Concord would take the lead back almost midway through the second quarter 17-14, and after the offense stalled out on a couple drives the coaching staff inserted quarterback Josh Dale in the game with five minutes left in the opening half.
Dale completed his only throw of the drive on his first attempt as the Braves rumbled their way down the field on the ground with runningbacks Josh Sheridan and Quadrin Williams who combined for 48 rushing yards before Dale would give his team the lead back21-17 with a seven-yard touchdown rush of his own.
The Black and Gold would go up 28-17 with 15 seconds left in the second quarter with a quick 14-yard touchdown strike to Quay Threatt in the back of the endzone from Jones.
The short scoring drive was set up after defensive end Tyler Hinton strip sacked Concord’s quarterback and linebacker Amari Brice-Greene returned the fumble deep into the den of the Mountain Lions.
The Braves would go up 35-17 on their second drive of the third quarter after Jones hit tight end Tyzaiah Eller for a 40-yard pick up and then dumped the ball off to Sheridan for a 25-yard chunk.
Sheridan would cap off the drive on back to back rushes for six yards and a touchdown.
The fourth quarter was a back and fourth shootout with the two teams trading blows in the passing game with Concord refusing to go down without a fight.
Dale completed his two of his three completions on the day in this quarter and they both went for long touchdowns.
The first came on a shovel pass to Williams in which he weaved through the defense and took it 47 yards to the house and the second put the game away for good when he found tight end Jalon Nixon on a 27-yard dart off of a play action rollout.
“I was just trying to play my best every time I got in there and that’s what I did. I just took advantage of what I had…and I just did what I had to do,” said Dale.
Quarterback Josh Jones lead both passers in yards (153), completions (14/20) and completion percentage (70).
Sheridan lead the team in rushing with 81 yards on 16 carries for a touchdown ad a healthy 4.9 average.
The Braves had nine different pass catchers register a catch for a combined 242 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensive end Tyler Hinton lead the team’s pass rush with 3.5 sacks and forced a fumble that led to a eventual touchdown.
Defensive back Josh Manns led the team in total tackles with seven and fellow defensive back Jordan Howard registered a game sealing interception that ended a last-ditch comeback effort by Concord.