MARS HILL, N.C. – The Lions held on for a 28-27 overtime victory over SAC rival Tusculum in South Atlantic Conference football action Saturday afternoon at the Ammons Family Athletic Center and Meares Stadium. Mars Hill improved to 4-5 on the season and 2-3 in the league. The Pioneers fell to 2-7 overall, 1-4 in the SAC.
Austin Brown rushed for 128 yards and threw for 138 yards to lead the Lions offensively. He completed 20-28 passes and threw one touchdown while averaging 6.4 yards per rush including a touchdown on the ground. Malik Prescott rushed 36 times for 172 yards and one score. Craig Rucker was on the receiving end of nine passes for 70 yards and one touchdown. Tray Smith led MHU with eight tackles followed by Tyler Guy Parrish with five tackles and a sack. Robert Morgan, Jr., had three tackles and an interception. The Lions' defense held the Pioneers to just 76 yards rushing and 225 total yards.
Luke Lancaster completed 9-28 passes for 149 yards and three touchdown passes to pace the Pioneers offensively. Deres Benn and L'Keith Brown recorded a game high 13 tackles to lead Tusculum on the defensive side of the ball. Benn added three tackles-for-loss.
Tyler Stewart gave the Lions a 6-0 advantage in the first quarter hitting field goals from 29 and 34 yards, respectively. Lancaster hit Lorenzo Mitchell on a nine-yard pass play to give the Pioneers a 7-6 advantage at the 5:55 mark in the second quarter. After a Lion fumble, Lancaster found Rodnell Cruell on a 17-yard scoring strike with 4:27 left in the first half to extend the Pioneers lead to 14-6. Mars Hill trimmed the deficit to one point (14-13) with 31 seconds left in the half after Rucker caught a seven-yard pass from Brown. The teams carried that score into the locker room at the intermission.
A one-yard dive by Prescott with 10:06 left in the third quarter put Mars Hill back on top. The Lions went for the two-point conversion and Brown successfully found Matthew Maennle in the endzone to give the Lions 21-14 lead. The score capped off a 12-play, 83-yard drive that consumed 4:46.
Lancaster tied the contest on a 44-yard strike to Evan Altizer with 10:01 left in regulation. After that score, the teams traded possessions twice before Mars Hill had a chance to win the contest. Unfortunately, a 40 yard field goal attempts missed wide left with 13 ticks left on the clock and the game was sent into overtime.
Mars Hill won the coin toss for the extra period and chose to play offense in the first possession. Brown hit Rucker for a 14-yard gain on second and 11 yards to go before finding the endzone himself on a 12-yard scamper. Stewart's PAT kick was good and the Lions enjoyed a 28-21 lead.
After a couple of penalties and the same number of incompletions, the Pioneers were looking at fourth down and 30 yards to go from the Mars Hill 45 yardline. On a hook-and-ladder play, Lancaster hit Cruell at the MHU 30 who lateralled the ball to Altizer who ran 21 yards down the sideline to the Lion nine yardline. On the next play, Jordan Shippy rushed seven yards to the MHU two yardline but fumbled the ball after contact. The ball was projected into the endzone where Keveon Broadwater recovered the pigskin for a touchdown. The Pioneers opted to go for a two-point conversion and the win. Lancaster's PAT pass attempt to Mitchell was broken up by Germell Jenkins in the endzone and the Lions prevailed, 28-27.
Mars Hill will play at Wingate University on Saturday, November 5. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.