Nothing about Saturday afternoon’s game came easy for the Lenoir-Rhyne football team. Following an emotional victory over Wingate last week, the Bears got nonconference UNC Pembroke’s best shot, but rallied in the second half for a 45-31 win on Senior Day at Moretz Stadium.
The win moved the Bears to 10-0 on the season and gave them 20 consecutive regular-season victories and 13 in a row at home. Meanwhile, the Braves dropped their fourth straight and fell to 3-7.
Dareke Young put L-R ahead early on a 3-yard touchdown run, but UNC Pembroke’s Josh Jones completed a 4-yard TD pass to Faheem Diaab less than five minutes later to tie things at 7-all. Then, after the Bears fumbled the ball away, the Braves received a 37-yard field goal from Hunter Braswell to grab their first lead.
The game continued to swing back and forth from there, with L-R’s Grayson Willingham throwing the first of his three TD passes on a 22-yard strike to Demarius Hampton at the 1:55 mark of the opening quarter before UNC Pembroke’s Jones answered with a 5-yard TD scamper early in the second period. The Bears countered with a 9-yard TD run from Cal Dickie before Chase Allbaugh kicked a 33-yard field goal to put the hosts up 24-17 at the half.
It took less than a minute for the Braves to knot the score at 24-all in the third quarter, as Jones found Sean Brown for a 33-yard TD pass. Josh Sheridan later recorded an 8-yard TD run to give UNC Pembroke a 31-24 advantage.
From there, the Bears did all of the scoring. A 23-yard TD pass from Willingham to Young made it 31-all with 4:23 left in the third period, while a 4-yard TD run from Ameen Stevens and a 99-yard scoring strike from Willingham to Jaquay Mitchell in the fourth ran L-R’s lead to 45-31 where it would remain.
L-R’s Willingham completed 12 of 16 passes for 303 yards and three TDs, and he also ran the ball seven times for 16 yards. His 99-yard TD pass to Mitchell in the final quarter set the school record for the longest scoring strike, surpassing their 90-yard hookup from the previous week.
Speaking of Mitchell, he had two receptions for 108 yards and a TD to go with five carries for 44 yards. Ryan Carter added 94 total yards (50 rushing, 44 receiving) for L-R, with Drake Starks catching two passes for 72 yards.
On the other side, Jones completed 34 of 46 passes for 382 yards and two scores for UNC Pembroke. Marcus McDonald (7 catches for 142 yards) and Brown (7 catches for 100 yards) each reached the century mark, while Sheridan finished with 78 yards and a TD on 14 carries.
The Bears finish the regular season with a road game at Catawba next Saturday at noon. A win would give L-R its second straight 7-0 season in South Atlantic Conference play.