TIGERVILLE — On a night when the Newberry offense couldn’t seem to sustain a rhythm, Raleigh Yeldell made sure the hundreds of Wolves fans in attendance went home happy.
The senior signal-caller marched his troops 80 yards in 12 plays for the winning score, with Yeldell slipping two tackles before leaping into the end zone with 1:04 remaining.
But the victory wasn’t yet sealed.
Shea Rodgers, who had one extra point blocked and another sail wide right from 35 yards out after a penalty, was true on the point after touchdown, and the defense came up with a crucial fourth-down stop in the final 30 seconds to give Newberry (2-1) a thrilling 29-28 victory.
Yeldell’s passing numbers were less gaudy than in the first two games of the season as the senior went 21-for-38 for 215 yards and a touchdown. But he torched the Crusaders’ (2-1) defense for a career-high 146 rushing yards, tying for 46th in Newberry history in a single game.
While his end-game heroics stole the headlines, a four-play sequence in the first half helped solidify Yeldell’s place among the best to ever wear the scarlet and gray.
A six-yard completion to Cole Watson late in the first quarter tied Yeldell for ninth on the school’s all-time passing yardage list with Bryan Ehrlich (2009-11). Two plays later, a nine-yard touchdown pass to Markell Castle vaulted Yeldell past both Ehrlich and Brian Shealy (2001-03) and into sole possession of eighth place.
On the first play of Newberry’s next possession, the Strom Thurmond High School product threw a 24-yard strike down the sideline to Castle to surpass former Newberry quarterback Brandon Gantt (2007-09) for sixth on the all-time total offense list in school history one week after passing current Newberry assistant coach Hunter Spivey.
Yeldell now has 4,784 of total offense in his career, 294 shy of tying former quarterback and wide receiver Tim Singleton for fifth in school history.
In addition to his first-quarter scoring strike to Castle, Yeldell waltzed into the end zone from a yard out with 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter to cap a 13-play, 89-yard methodical march down the field. The drive was extended by 30 yards of North Greenville penalties on one play stemming from roughing the passer and late hit out of bounds infractions on the Crusaders.
The Wolves’ defense was suffocating throughout the first half. Both North Greenville scoring drives before the intermission covered less than 50 yards. The Crusaders were held out of the red zone throughout the half, never running a play from beyond the Wolves’ 24-yard line, while Newberry capitalized on each of its three red zone opportunities.
Newberry’s secondary held North Greenville’s Will Hunter to 5-of-14 passing for 34 yards in the first 30 minutes, half of which came on one completion to Tracy Scott. He would finish the game 14-of-34 for 96 yards and one touchdown and only one completion of at least 17 yards.
But the North Greenville offense roared to life in the second half, mounting two touchdown drives and netting a field goal to turn a 12-point deficit into 18 unanswered points and a six-point lead. The Crusaders’ six-play drive covering 56 yards gave the hosts a 28-22 lead with 4:09 to play.
North Greenville was forced to climb out of a hole following a 75-yard Newberry scoring drive that consumed just 1:51 off the clock to open the second half, with a 52-yard rush by Yeldell serving as the key play. Including the Wolves’ touchdown at the end of the first half, Newberry scored a pair of touchdowns in just 2:09.
Linebacker Joe Blue led the Wolves with 11 tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss, and a recorded a pass breakup. Rameak Smith chipped in eight tackles, while Will Elm broke up two passes. Three Newberry defenders recorded quarterback hurries.
Newberry moves to 12-3 in the series with North Greenville and drops the Crusaders to 67-18 all-time in Tigerville.
The 2-1 Wolves travel to Tusculum for Newberry’s South Atlantic Conference opener Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The Pioneers are 0-1 in the league following a 31-3 loss to Lenoir-Rhyne under the lights in Hickory on Saturday.
This release was provided by Newberry College.