Lenoir-Rhyne wins 12th consecutive game; outlasts North Alabama
Hickory, N.C. -- Lenoir-Rhyne (12-1) held on to defeat North Alabama (10-3) 42-39 on Saturday afternoon at Moretz Stadium in an NCAA Division II national quarterfinal game.
Lenoir-Rhyne, winners of 12 consecutive contests, will face 15th-ranked West Chester (13-1) in the national semifinals next Saturday.
West Chester downed Shepherd, 28-7, in a quarterfinal game Saturday afternoon in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Lenoir-Rhyne senior quarterback Josh Justice rushed for two touchdowns in the second half and senior defensive back Michael Green returned an interception 55 yards for a score on the second play of the game to lift the Bears to the win.
Lenoir-Rhyne, ranked No. 13 in NCAA Division II, also rushed for 377 yards in the contest and held on to win after taking leads of 28-7 and 35-14.
North Alabama's Luke Wingo passed for three touchdowns while Jason Smith caught seven passes for 169 yards including touchdown receptions of 71 and 48 yards, respectively, but the Lions' rally came up short.
Smith's 48-yard touchdown reception came on a flea-flicker and cut the margin to 35-32 with 9:04 remaining in the contest but L-R responded with a seven-play, 53-yard drive capped off by a 22-yard touchdown run by Justice for a 42-32 advantage with 2:38 left.
North Alabama, ranked No. 16 in the nation, scored with 1:24 on the clock but Lenoir-Rhyne recovered an onside kick and ran the clock out for the win. The Lions also saw their nine-game winning streak snapped.
Justice led the Bears with 89 yards on the ground and junior halfback Jarrod Spears added 80 yards rushing and a 40-yard touchdown run while Green finished with nine tackles and two fumble recoveries to lead the defense. Lenoir-Rhyne also won 12 games in a season for the first time in school history.
North Alabama's Lamonte Thompson scored on a 90-yard kickoff return and a six-yard reception while Gabe Poe led the defense with a game-high 17 tackles in the losing effort. The two teams played for the first time in school history.