JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – The Emory & Henry College Football Team (2-1) scored the go-ahead touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in the game to defeat East Tennessee State University (0-4) by a 27-24 score Saturday afternoon. The game was played at Kermit Tipton Stadium on the campus of Science Hill High School. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Saxton (Monroe, N.C.) found redshirt freshman wide receiver Tyree Ward (Statesville, N.C.) from seven yards out for the score.
It was the first meeting between the two schools since the 1954 season when the Buccaneers claimed a 48-12 win. The victory made it an 11-9 lead for Emory & Henry in the all-time series between the two schools. The game was the first for the Wasps against a NCAA Division I program since they defeated the Davidson College Wildcats, 45-21 in the 2003 season.
East Tennessee State got on the board on its first drive of the game going 62 yards in eight plays. Jajuan Stinson accounted for 28 yards on the drive including a one-yard plunge for the opening touchdown of the afternoon.
After forcing an E&H punt, the Buccaneers struck quickly for their second score of the game. This time Austin Herink started the drive with a 56-yard pass to Dalton Ponchillia. Stinson got his second touchdown of the game three plays later on a three-yard run to make the score 14-0 with 7:08 to go in the opening quarter.
Emory & Henry got its offense working thanks to a 14-yard scamper by senior running back Chris Edwards (Murphy, N.C.) to get E&H on the board, 14-7. The Wasps got 32 of their 74 yards on the ground during that drive.
E&H next took possession of the ball on the ETSU 36 yardline after pinning the Bucs inside the five and forcing a punt. On the first play of the drive, sophomore wide receiver Nick Webb (Troutville, Va.) hit redshirt freshman wideout Kelman Simpson (Asheville, N.C.) for a 36-yard touchdown on a double-pass play, tying the game at 14 with 13:58 to go before the half.
ETSU would go up 17-14 at the intermission after a 15-play, 84-yard drive stalled with 90 seconds remaining. J.J. Herman hit a 20-yard field goal to put the Bucs back in front.
On the second play of the second half, Emory & Henry junior corner Tre'von Lightfoot (Big Island, Va.) intercepted Herink and set up a 48-yard field goal by freshman Skyler Simcox (Abingdon, Va.) to tie the game, 17-17. Three drives later, Simcox struck again from long range, hitting another 48-yarder for a 20-17 advantage late in the third quarter.
East Tennessee State went back on top 24-20 on the third play of the fourth quarter as Ponchillia snagged a 45-yard pass from Herink for the touchdown. Faced with a fourth-and-one situation with less than 2:30 to play, the Emory & Henry defense held strong and got the ball back for the offense at midfield. Saxton and the Wasps moved efficiently down the field covering the 51-yard distance in four plays, running just 1:13 off the clock. A 31-yard reception by Webb gave E&H the ball on the 11 yardline and two plays later, Saxton hit Ward for the go-ahead score.
After a penalty and a free kick out of bounds, ETSU got the ball back on the 50-yardline. Four-straight incomplete passes saw the Bucs' hopes of their first win fade away as the Wasps took over on downs and ran out the clock for the 27-24 win.
Saxton paced the Wasps with 244 passing yards, completing 23-of-37 attempts for a touchdown while Webb was perfect on his one throw for a 36-yard score. Simpson caught five passes for 82 yards and a touchdown and Ward had five catches of his own for 53 yards and a score. Senior running back Chris Edwards (Murphy, N.C.) had a game-high 42 yards on the ground and one score while sophomore running back Isaiah Rodgers (Canton, Ga.) combined for 30 rushing and 30 receiving yards. Simcox finished the day with nine points, going three-for-three on PATs and two-for-three on field goals.
Three Emory & Henry defenders totaled 10 tackles on the afternoon; sophomore safety Carter Harlow (Bristol, Va.), senior safety Ryan Byrd (Grottoes, Va.), and senior linebacker Rennel Marshall (Rustburg, Va.) with seven of Harlow's tackles coming as solo stops. Junior defensive end Jaylen Simmons (Johnson City, Tenn.) made four stops and two tackles for loss in his hometown while Lightfoot had four tackles to go along with his interception.
ETSU was led offensively by Herink's 17-for-28 performance for 261 yards and a touchdown. Stinson had two touchdowns and 40 rushing yards while Falon Lee added 35 rushing yards. Drake Powell caught five passes for 45 yards and Ponchillia finished the game with four catches for a game-high 117 yards. Dylan Weigel led the Bucs' defense with a 15 tackles, including 10 solo, and two tackles for loss. Trey Quillin and Tony Welch each added eight stops.
Emory & Henry will begin Old Dominion Athletic Conference play next Saturday when it makes the trip to Ashland, Virginia and the campus of Randolph-Macon College. Kickoff between the Wasps and Yellow Jackets is set for 1:00 p.m.
-photo courtesy of Dave Grace