Saturday, November 4, 2023

Lenoir-Rhyne Secures Conference Championship Berth with Dominant Win

HICKORY – #15 Lenoir-Rhyne clinched the Piedmont Division Championship, celebrating Senior Day at Moretz Stadium with a convincing 28-7 victory over Catawba. A spirited crowd of over 7,000 witnessed this remarkable feat on Saturday, propelling the Bears to the SAC Championship, where they will face Tusculum in a rematch of the first-ever SAC Championship game from the 2020-21 COVID season.

In a matchup that showcased the Bears' dominance, Lenoir-Rhyne took an early lead, with Sean White connecting with DeAree Rogers for a 35-yard strike in the first quarter. White added to the lead with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Deondre Lester. At the close of the first half, White executed a 1-yard QB sneak, tallying three first-half touchdowns and a 21-0 advantage.

Catawba attempted a comeback in the second half, scoring a 3-yard touchdown, but the Bears responded swiftly when White threw his third touchdown pass, connecting with Malakei Sumner. The game's latter half saw solid defensive performances from both teams, with no further scoring.

Lenoir-Rhyne's defense held Catawba to 44 rushing yards on 37 attempts and just 232 total offensive yards on 70 plays. Offensively, the Bears amassed 418 yards and 228 rushing yards, averaging 6.9 yards per play. Sean White completed 15-of-23 passes for 190 yards, while Dwayne McGee exceeded 1,000 yards on the season, rushing for 96 yards.

Defensively, Jon Ross Maye tallied 14 total tackles and two pass breakups, while D.J. Taylor contributed nine tackles and three sacks. Andre Jefferson recorded four tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hurry. As a team, Lenoir-Rhyne secured seven sacks.

The victory marked the 102nd all-time meeting between Lenoir-Rhyne and Catawba, with each team now having 49 wins and four ties. Notably, the Bears lost their first two fumbles of the season in the fourth quarter. Additionally, Lenoir-Rhyne's seven sacks tied for the second-highest in a single game in the NCAA era.

Lenoir-Rhyne's strong home record continued, with a 60-21 record at home since the start of the 2010 season. The game broke a streak of 16 straight quarters without allowing a touchdown at home.

Lenoir-Rhyne's victory sets the stage for the SAC Championship clash with Tusculum, scheduled for 1 p.m. in Greeneville, Tenn., after the Pioneers secured a win over Mars Hill in overtime.