PEMBROKE — With relentless sheeting rain and an out-of-sync quarterback, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team kept its rushers busy Saturday night in its home opener with Fayetteville State.
And the Braves’ primary ball carriers, Damonte Terry and Elliott Powell, delivered. Powell and Terry rushed for a combined 197 yards and four touchdowns to pace UNCP to a 31-21 victory over the Broncos in the fourth annual Two Rivers Classic at Grace P. Johnson Stadium. It was the Braves fourth straight win over FSU in the series between the schools separated by 47 miles.
“I’m very excited about the win, but I’m really excited how are guys responded in the second half,” UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick.
Led by the two-headed rushing attack of Terry and Powell.
Terry, who gained 98 yards on 23 carries, found the end zone in three of the four frames, serving as the finisher of drives with short-yard plunges across the goal line. Powell’s touchdown came on an open-field 69-yard scamper in the third. Powell took 14 carries 99 yards.
“I think what you see with those two guys is a pretty good combination,” said Shinnick, whose team rushed for 218 yards while holding FSU to 145. “Terry, he knows he’s 210-plus pounds and if he lowers his shoulder he has a great chance at being a force-back for us. He needs to be banging away and getting first downs. And Elliott has those capabilities for long runs.”
The Braves (1-1) first points, though, came on special teams when Matt Davis split the uprights on a 44-yard field goal to put UNCP up 3-0. After the Broncos (0-2) fumbled the ball back to UNCP — Dominique Bridges made the recovery — on their ensuing drive, the Braves promptly took advantage.
But, first they had to wait an hour and a half on an elongated lightning delay.
Once play resumed, Terry polished off an 11-play, 4:43 UNCP scoring drive. The junior tailback was fed three straight times inside the 5-yard-line before punching in a 1-yard score to put the Braves up 10-0 with 3:05 left in the first. Lumberton native Connor Haskins provided the extra point.
Fayetteville State, meanwhile, couldn’t find its footing in the ground-game and went to the air. Eventually, FSU managed to exploit the Braves pass defense when Andreas Hudson hooked up with Kasun Williams on a 52-yard reception, pitting FSU on UNCP’s 3-yard-line. Hudson took it from there with a sneak across the goal line to put the Broncos on the board two minutes into the second.
Meanwhile, UNCP struggled to regain its offensive rhythm, partially due to a string of errant throws by Luke Charles, including an interception to FSU’s Marcus Witherspoon, the first pick in Two Rivers Classic history.
The Broncos, however, stayed sharp.
Backup FSU quarterback Chauncey Concepcion slid under center and orchestrated a 10-play drive that led to Colon Bailey plowing in a 1-yard score that gave FSU its first lead at 14-10, one it would take into halftime. Highlighting the drive was once again the wideout Williams, who snagged a one-handed 19-yard grab as he dove to the turf at UNCP’s 15.
The trailing Braves, in unfamiliar territory, were determined to get back to what they do best in the third.
In an attempt to get Charles back in rhythm, the Braves blueprinted four straight passing plays coming out of the locker room and Charles completed them all.
“His rhythm was horrible in the first half, the interception he threw was something he doesn’t do; he throws that in his sleep,” Shinnick said. “He’s a guy that’s crucial to what we’re doing. He came out and had a much better second half.”
Charles’ fifth straight throw down the sideline to Te’velle Williams yielded an FSU pass interference, giving the Braves first-and-goal on the 5. Two rushes from Terry put the Braves in the end zone for the 17-14 edge.
“I didn’t have my mojo working so coach came out and gave us a repeat series and let me put the ball in the right people’s hands,” said Charles, who still finished with a subpar 107 yards on 15-of-33 passing and two interceptions. “I came out slinging it and that put be back in a good rhythm.”
The led swelled in a blink. After regaining possession, the Braves needed just one play, a draw up the gut to the Elliott Powell who trudged his way 69 yards to the paydirt. Haskins’ third point-after put UNCP up double-figures, 24-14. Powell finished with 98 yards on 23 carries.
But the Broncos wouldn’t go away.
With 10 minutes left in the fourth, the Braves coughed up the ball on a botched handoff attempt between Charles and Powell. FSU linebacker Donald Johnson Jr. scooped and scored on a 20-yard return, trimming the gap to three, 24-21.
The Broncos never got any closer. They marred any chance of tying or going ahead with an unsportsmanlike penalty call after sacking UNCP’s Charles under the 5-minute mark — which would’ve resulted in a UNCP 4th down at FSU’s 38, likely requiring a Braves punt.
“At that point in the game you can’t get a personal foul when you’re off the field on defense,” FSU coach Kenny Phillips said. “That takes us out of a chance to come back and win the football game. And that’s not who we do things at Fayetteville State. I don’t tolerate that.”
Instead of a UNCP punt, Charles and his counterparts were given 15 yards and a new set of downs inside the red zone, where Terry chalked his third touchdown on the night with a 1-yard score to make for the 31-21 final.
“It’s not me, it’s my offensive line,” Terry said. “If they give me the hole I’m going to take it. We all know that at the end of the day, me and Elliott we’re going to get the job done.
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