HICKORY, NC – Lenoir-Rhyne advanced to the second round of the 2012 NCAA Division II Playoffs with a 21-6 victory against Fort Valley State.
Lenoir-Rhyne, winners of eight consecutive games, moves on to face Carson-Newman (8-2) next Saturday.
The two South Atlantic Conference squads met earlier this season on September 15 with the Eagles prevailing by a 47-23 score at home.
Lenoir-Rhyne sophomore fullback Isaiah Whitaker rushed for a game-high 117 yards with two scores to lead the Bears in their first postseason appearance in 50 years.
Junior defensive back Michael Green added a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown as the Bears won their first postseason game since a 20-7 win over Northern State (S.D.) at home on December 1, 1962. The 1962 squad would eventually fall in the NAIA National Championship game.
Whitaker’s 57-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter proved to be the lone score in the first half for either squad.
Whitaker’s second score of the contest, a one-yard run, was set up by a 99-yard kickoff return by sophomore halfback Jarrod Spears to start the second half.
The Bears pushed the advantage to 21-0 on Green’s interception return for a score with three minutes remaining in the third quarter before the Wildcats finally got on the board in the final stanza.
Fort Valley State quarterback Antonio Henton found wideout Stephen Stroman for an 11-yard touchdown reception with 9:57 remaining in the contest. Henton finished with 242 yards passing in the losing effort.
Lenoir-Rhyne, which rushed for 243 yards in the game, held Fort Valley State on downs in the Wildcats’ final drive of the contest and possessed the ball for the last five minutes to take the win.
Senior linebacker Demetrius Green led the defense with a game-high 12 tackles as the Bears held the Wildcats without a score four times in the red zone.
Lenoir-Rhyne also won its 12th consecutive game at home and picked up its most wins in the regular season since an 11-1 mark during the 1962 campaign.
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