CLEVELAND, Miss. – Richard Freelon rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns to lead the No. 8 ranked Delta State Statesmen to a 28-23 victory against No. 20 North Greenville to advance to the national semifinals as Super Region 2 Champions.
Freelon, a sophomore transfer from Jacksonville State tied for third in Statesmen (11-2) playoff history with the three touchdowns and had the third-highest rushing total in Statesmen playoff history.
On Delta State’s first drive of the game, Freelon put the Statesmen up 7-0 with a 4-yard touchdown run that capped off a 76-yard drive.
The drive started with a Micah Davis pass to Erick Clayton that went for 44 yards. Tim Smith then caught an 8-yard pass on third down to set up Freelon’s touchdown run on the next play.
The Crusaders (11-3) answered with a touchdown to tie the game, taking advantage of short field position after a Statesmen turnover at the 16-yard line. Willy Korn connected with Taylor Malphrus on a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
On the ensuing drive, the Statesmen answered with a 80-yard touchdown drive capped off with a 2-yard run by Micah Davis for the score. Freelon started the drive off with a 12-yard run to get the Statesmen offense in motion.
However, turnovers were an issue for the Statesmen in the first half, setting up another North Greenville short touchdown drive. After a fumble gave the Crusaders short field at the Statesmen 22, Korn capitalized, finding Sean Wright for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
The Crusaders added an 18-yard field goal at the end of the first half to take a 17-14 lead into the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Freelon gave the Statesmen a lead they never relinquished when he scored on a 1-yard run that capped off a 67-yard drive.
The Statesmen defense protected the lead and forced the Crusaders into a three-and-out on the following drive, setting up the offense with good field position.
Freelon and the offense capitalized, scoring the winning touchdown on an 11 play, 52 yard drive. Freelon had six rushes on the drive, including his third touchdown on the afternoon, another 1-yard run.
North Greenville answered with a touchdown to bring the score to 28-23 after a failed two-point conversion attempt, but the Statesmen offense ran off the final 6:42 to clinch the victory.
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