With about 2 minutes to go, Newberry had two shots at a game-winning drive Saturday at Setzler field.
Tuskegee’s defense held though, and the No. 7-seeded Golden Tigers upset the No. 2 Wolves with a 35-33 victory in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
The loss was a letdown for the team, said Newberry coach Todd Knight, but he added the Wolves (10-2) learned a lot from their playoff appearance.
“I think you can see from our kids that they know what it looks like,” Knight said. “We’re light years from where we were last year. We came up a little bit short at the end, but you’ve got to be proud of our group of kids. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort that they put in today.”
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Near the end of the game, the Wolves found themselves at their own 41-yard line, needing to get in field-goal range for Shea Rodgers, who hit 26 and 32 yarders earlier in the game.
That possession ended when Jonah McCutcheon picked off a Braxton Ivery pass.
Newberry had another shot at a late drive when it forced a Golden Tigers (9-2) punt with 51 seconds left. That possession went nowhere, and Newberry turned it over on downs to clinch a Tuskegee win.
Ivery, an all-South Atlantic Conference wide receiver, started in place of SAC Player of the Year Raleigh Yeldell. Ivery completed five of 20 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, and rushed 21 times for 71 yards.
“I had to put it all on the field and give my team all I got,” Ivery said of his move to quarterback. “Accepting the role as the starting quarterback was tough. I’m not satisfied with the outcome, but I left it all on the field.”
Yeldell, who had passed for 3087 yards and 27 touchdowns, was held out for the second straight week for violation of team rules and is awaiting NCAA reinstatement.
“As gutsy as a performance as I’ve ever been around,” Knight said of Ivery, who suffered an ankle injury during the game. “There was a point in the second half where I wasn’t even sure that he’d be able to finish. His ankle was pretty banged up, but he just would not give up.”
Down 21-10 going into the second half, Newberry knocked out a 5-play, 66-yard drive that Ivery closed out with a 12-yard touchdown run. Rodgers’ second field goal of the game cut Tuskegee’s lead to 21-20.
Kenny Grant’s 49-yard TD run gave Tuskegee a 28-20 cushion, but Ivery got another score for Newberry, a 2-yard run, one play into the fourth quarter. The 2-point conversion that would have tied the game at 28 failed.
The Golden Tigers then drove the length of the field and took a 35-26 lead on Lacey’s 7-yard TD pass to Javarrius Cheatham.
Ivery found Castle in the end zone from 25 yards out to make it 35-33 with 3:57 remaining.
Newberry took a 10-7 lead early in the first half. Rodgers kicked in a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter, and Romelo Doctor scored on a 3-yard run early in the second. Redshirt freshman Nick Jones took over for Ivery on that drive and threw a 72-yard pass to Markell Castle to set up Doctor’s score.
The Golden Tigers bounced back for two scores before halftime.
Tuskegee went up 14-10 with 1:18 left with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Lacey to Javarrius Cheatham to finish off a five-play, 76-yard scoring drive.
Defensive Tackle Kali James intercepted a Jones pass and rumbled to the Newberry 2-yard line. Jerome Lewis ran in from 1 yard out with 24 seconds left.
North Greenville advances
At Melbourne, Fla., Will Hunter threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns as North Greenville defeated Florida Tech 27-13 on Saturday in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Tracy Scott rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown for the Crusaders, who will play Tuskegee on Nov. 26 in the second round.