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Crusaders upended by North Alabama in Quarterfinals

Florence, AL—North Greenville’s football season came to an end on Saturday afternoon after suffering a 38-0 loss to North Alabama in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II playoffs.

The Crusaders were shutout on offense for the first time since 2009, breaking a streak of 86 consecutive games with at least one score. The North Alabama defense stifled North Greenville’s typically efficient offense, limiting the unit to 181 total yards of total offense. Familiar faces were held in check as Tracy Scott was held to just 52-yards on eight carries while Will Hunter, who had just four interceptions on the year, tossed four picks to UNA defenders, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

The first quarter was uneventful as the defenses were able to keep opposing offenses in check. The first points of the game came from the Lions who capitalized on a 65-yard Jaylan Jackson punt return which set the offense up first and 10 inside the NGU 20-yard line. NGU’s defense limited the UNA offense to a field goal, holding the Lions after they connected on a six-yard pass to open the drive. A Matthew Thomas tackle for a loss on the next play and an incomplete pass on third down.

The Lions, which typically took over games in the third quarter, put together a three-score second frame to take a 24-0 lead before halftime. North Greenville had chances on offense to change the momentum of the game as the defense forced a pair of UNA punts. The Lions tacked on a touchdown with 11:52 left in the opening half.

The Crusaders put together their best drive of the half but still came up empty after marching 24-yards on nine plays. The Lions tacked on their second touchdown of the game two drives later as Jacob Tucker found Julius Jones in the corner of the end zone to extend their lead to 17.

North Greenville suffered its first self-inflicted wound of the game on the ensuing drive when Philbert Martial picked off a Will Hunter pass with one hand, setting up the UNA offense with a first down at the North Greenville 25. Five plays later UNA’s lead was 24-points as Tucker found Dre Hall for six.

NGU’s defenders did their best to keep the game close, holding UNA scoreless in the third quarter, the first time this season the Lions failed to find pay dirt during the frame all season. Matthew Thomas led NGU with 2 tackles for a loss while he and Tony Godbolt led with 10 total tackles. Thomas also accounted for NGU’s only turnover, intercepting Jacob Tucker in the end zone late in the game.

An interception return and a Tucker rushing touchdown accounted for UNA’s two, second half touchdowns. The Lions finished with 401-yards of total offense, using a balanced attack to eliminate North Greenville. Tucker led the charge with 96-yards rushing and 226-yards through the air. Tucker also threw for two touchdowns.

The loss to UNA marks the end of a five game winning streak. The Crusaders wrap up the 2016 season with a record of 9-5. The Lions improve to 10-1 overall as they look towards the Division II semi-finals that are scheduled to be played on December 10.

 

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