FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -- The Methodist football team clinched a share of the USA South Championship with a 69-62 win over N.C. Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon at Monarch Stadium. Blake Scott provided the game-winning score with a 14-yard touchdown reception with 23 seconds remaining on MU's 100th play from scrimmage.
The game featured 14 total touchdowns, 1,315 combined yards from scrimmage and 14 offensive plays that covered 20 yards or more. The 69 points scored by Methodist are the second most in school history, trailing only a 72-point outburst against Gallaudet in 1994. The 673 yards of total offense by the Monarchs set a new school mark.
Despite Methodist's prodigious offensive production, it was the Battling Bishops (2-8, 2-5 USA South) who found themselves clinging to a 62-55 lead following a 75-yard pass play from Dustin Midgett to Devante Batey with 8:54 left to play. The Monarchs answered quickly, needing only six plays and 1:34 to make it a 62-61 game on Marquies Hall's third touchdown run of the day, a four-yard effort, with 7:20 on the clock. However, Jordan Rieling's extra point attempt was no good, and MU still trailed by a single point.
On their next drive, the Battling Bishops picked up three first downs and advanced to the Methodist 39 yard line. Following a false start and a two-yard gain by Elgin Counts, the MU defense forced back-to-back incompletions from Midgett to set up 4th-and-13. Scott called for a fair catch of Will Cutler's punt at the Monarchs' own five yard line with 3:08 to play.
A first-down gain of 17 yards, followed by runs of seven and 10 yards by Darius Page allowed Methodist to escape the shadow of its own goal line and gave MU a new set of downs at its own 32 yard line. On 4th-and-2, Jordan Vann, who had replaced injured starter Max Reber, shoveled a pass to Page who picked up 18 yards and took the ball down to the NCWC 42 yard line. On second down, a roughing the passer penalty gave Methodist 15 more yards and Vann found Page again, this time for 13 yards, for a fresh set of downs from the Bishops' 14 yard line. On the next play, Vann hit Scott on a short crossing route and he bulldozed his way into the endzone for the game-winning score with 23 seconds on the clock. Vann then found Anthony Radke in the back of the endzone for a successful two-point conversion.
On N.C. Wesleyan's final possession, Tyler Mitchell picked off Midgett at the Methodist 30 yard line to seal the win.
The scoring started at a rapid pace as the two teams combined for 37 points in the first quarter alone. Methodist held a 17-6 lead at the 4:03 mark after a Cody Ausherman 37-yard field goal, an 11-yard run by Page and a 29-yard touchdown pass from Reber to Cross. NCWC answered with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Lanier to Malik Adams to pull within 17-13 before MU closed out the quarter with a one-yard scoring plunge by Hall with 59 seconds remaining.
In the second quarter, NCWC inched ahead, 27-24, when Lanier scored from two yards out, and after Rieling converted a 32-yard field goal to tie the contest at 27-27. Jacques Alston gave the Battling Bishops a 34-27 lead at the break with a 50-yard scoring run at the 1:16 mark.
Radke opened the scoring in the second half, scoring on an 18-yard pass play from Vann to tie the game at 34-34 before NCWC regained the lead, 41-34, on a Lanier to Greg Edwards pass that covered seven yards. Both teams traded scores the remainder of the period and entered the fourth quarter knotted up once again, this time at 48-48.
Cross gave MU its first lead since 24-20 when he hauled in his third touchdown of the game, a nine-yarder, which put the score at 55-48 in favor of the Monarchs. Back-to-back scores by Batey, including his 75-yard catch and run, made it a 62-55 ballgame before MU's rally.
For Methodist, Page finished with 157 yards rushing on 30 carries, and 111 yards receiving on five catches with one total touchdown. Hall added 75 yards on 16 carries including three touchdowns, Patrick Jacobs hauled in a team-best eight catches for 95 yards, and Cross wound up with 89 yards on six grabs, including three touchdowns. Vann, who was the USA South Rookie of the Year for N.C. Wesleyan in 2010, finished 21-of-30 for 295 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Defensively, D.J. Payne had eight total tackles and a pass breakup. Marlon Thomas added eight tackles, including a sack, and James Atkinson chipped in six tackles (3.0 for loss), two sacks, a forced fumble and blocked an extra point.
Edwards was one of three Bishop wide receivers to surpass the 100-yard mark, with 148 yards on eight receptions (2 TDs). Batey added 131 yards on five catches (3 TDs), and Adams contributed 103 yards on five catches (1 TD). Lanier, whose day was also cut short due to injury, finished 19-of-30 for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Midgett was 8-of-16 for 192 yards with three scores and one interception. Alston totaled 145 yards rushing on 17 carries with one touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, NCWC was paced by Rakeem Cooper's 15 tackles, including 2.0 for loss. He also recorded one sack and came up with a fumble recovery. Chris Hassell and Kenneth Newsome each totaled 11 tackles, and Xavier Bell chipped in nine stops (3.0 for loss) and a sack.
Methodist has now concluded its season.