JEFFERSON CITY- In a game they had to win to remain in the playoff hunt, No. 25 Carson-Newman (8-2, 4-2 South Atlantic Conference) showed very early that there would be no doubt as to how their game against No. 21 Newberry (8-2, 5-2 SAC) would end.
The Eagles scored on their first five possessions of the game to build a 35-0 lead and went on to an impressive 52-31 win over the Wolves. The Eagles keep hope alive for a postseason with the win over the No. 2 team in Super Region II.
"We had a group of guys that expressed their heart and played with heart. They did a great job of making plays, Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks said of the way his team bounced back after last week's 37-3 loss to Lenoir-Rhyne. "We had a lot of big plays today on both sides of the ball. I was really proud of them because we were not in the greatest of spirits at the end of last week. To respond the way we did today means we still have hope and still have kids who are not willing to throw in the towel or back down."
Eagles' quarterback De'Andre Thomas (Milledgeville, Ga.) was impressive in the game against the Wolves as he went 11-for-17 for 200 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Baker (Miami, Fla.) led the C-N ground game with 140 yards and two scores on 10 carries. The Eagles rushed for 297 yards in the game.
The Wolves were paced by quarterback Raleigh Yeldell (Johnston, SC) who threw for 161 yards on 13-of-26 passing and ran 20 times for 101 yards and two scores. He spread his passes around well, throwing to 10 different receivers who were led by Jason Livingston (Conway, SC) who had five for 56 yards and a touchdown. Livingston had 255 all-purpose yards as he added 153 yards on kick returns and 49 on returning punts. Carson-Newman limited Corey Washington, the nation's leader in touchdown receptions, to three catches for 38 yards.
Jaycob Coleman (Norton, Va.) anchored the Eagles' defense with 15 tackles – his fourth straight game with more than 13 - one fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries. Jonathan Sites (Hendersonville, Tenn.) had 13 tackles and Eien Jacob (Jeanerette, La.) had two interceptions and two pass break-ups. Coleman goes over 100 tackles for the season, he becomes the second Eagle in the last 15 years to crest the century mark and the 25th all-time for C-N. Jacob became the first Eagle to pick off two passes in a single game since Oliver Davis did it in 2010 against Tusculum.
Daniel Foster (Lancaster, SC) had 10 tackles for Newberry. Both teams lost two fumbles and the Eagles' defense produced three interceptions on the day for a total of five takeaways.
The Eagles' first scoring drive was a 15-play, 80-yard drive that gobbled 6:51 off the clock and was capped by Thomas' nine yard run. The drive was the Eagles' longest of the season both in terms of time and plays. However, the rest of Carson-Newman's scoring plays on the next four touchdowns would take place very quickly and completely shell shocked the Wolves.
Baker scored on a 33-yard run and then Thomas connected with Luther Walker (Pasadena, Calif.) for a 23-yard score, Walker's first of the season.
The first of two defensive scores for the Eagles came when Coleman fell on a fumble in the end zone to make it 28-0 at the end of the first quarter. C-N completely dominated the first 15 minutes of play as they had 181 yards of offense compared to -6 yards for the Wolves.
Carson-Newman pushed the advantage to 35-0 when Tyron Douglas (Clover, SC) scored from 12 yards out.
"I thought right off the bat, we shocked them a little bit because we had some determined kids. We had to establish some things right away and our kids did so that was great to see," Sparks said.
Newberry finally got on the board when Latavious Williams (Ware Shoals, SC) recovered a fumble at the C-N five yard line and ran it in for a score. Yeldell produced the second score for the Wolves on an eight-yard scamper. The final points of the first half came when Curt Duncan (Morristown, TN), who was good on all his extra points, booted a 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Eagles a commanding 38-14 lead.
The second half started the same way the first one ended with a Carson-Newman score as Jacob had an interception of a Newberry pass and Baker scored on a 53-yard blast to put the Eagles up 45-14.
After Kyle Clark (Beaufort, SC) hit a 29-yard field goal, Livingston caught a 19-yard pass from WT Murden (West Columbia, S.C.) for a score. The second Eagles defensive score came when Jarvis Neal (Columbia, Tenn.) had a 42-yard pick-six. Yeldell produced the final score of the contest when he scored from two yards out to make the final tally 52-31.
"You either respond as a winner or respond as a loser and today, we had a lot of chances to respond negatively and we didn't. I'm excited about this team and it was a fun locker room when we finished the game," Sparks said.
Carson-Newman completes the regular season next Saturday when it travels to Wingate for a 1:30 kickoff. Airtime on the Eagle Sports Network is 12:30 on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville) and online at cneagles.com/live.