The North Greenville University football program opened South Atlantic Conference alliance play with a come-from-behind win over Tusculum College 39-36 on Saturday night in Younts Stadium.
The Pioneers gained an early two-score lead in the first quarter, scoring twice on touchdown runs by Fernando Smith before redshirt freshman DeVontez Rouse and quarterback Nelson Hughes connected on a 19-yard reception to bring the Crusaders within seven with 5:57 remaining in the first quarter.
Tusculum scored again with 47 seconds remaining in the quarter on a touchdown pass from quarterback Bo Cordell to go ahead 21-7 after the first quarter of play.
Hughes tossed his second touchdown pass of the day, this time a 10-yard connection to senior Freddie Martino, to close the gap before a 27-yard field goal by Justin Gravely brought the halftime score to 21-17 in favor of Tusclum.
The Crusaders opened the second half in exciting fashion as freshman Tyrecous Garrett scored his first career touchdown on a 71-yard reception on the first drive of the second half to go ahead by three points.
Freshman Quan Weeks recovered a fumble by the Tusculum punter in the endzone to put the Crusaders ahead 30-21 with 12:39 remaining in the third quarter before freshman running back Simeon Byrd scored his first career touchdown on a five-yard run to give North Greenville a 37-21 lead.
Tusclum ended the third quarter with a 14-yard touchdown from Cordell to Justin Houston to bring the Pioneers within nine points before the Crusader defense forced a safety on a fumbled punt out of the back of the end zone.
The Pioneers scored a touchdown on the ground with 5:37 remaining in the game but North Greenville ran out the clock to secure the three-point victory.
The Crusader offense totaled 363 yards, led by Hughes who finished the game 23-for-38 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Martino led the Crusaders with 10 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown, setting the North Greenville University record for career receptions.
Rouse caught three passes for 33 yards, while Garrett's 71-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was his only catch of the contest. On the ground North Greenville was led by Trey
Walker who carried the ball 18 times for 54 yards as Byrd totaled 24 yards and a touchdown on six carries, while catching four passes for 30 yards through the air.
On defense, sophomore Antonio Barron had the best performance of his young career, totaling 11 tackles, including two tackles for a loss and one sack, while Reubyn Walker also totaled 11 tackles in the game.
Redshirt freshman KJ McDonald was also in double-digits with 10 tackles in the game. Freshman Tony Godbolt put together seven total tackles and his first career interception, while Eric Mitchell, Braelen Meredith and Shaquan Burney each recorded seven tackles of their own.
North Greenville (3-0) will hit the road for a contest with SAC member Brevard College on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. in Brevard, NC.
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