NEWBERRY, S.C. – The cards seemed stacked against the seventh-seeded Tuskegee University Golden Tigers before they ever hit the field against second-seeded Newberry College on Saturday afternoon. The team had to travel 330 miles to their destination, with a minor collision with a pair of buses in the convoy making the trip longer. They also had to face a conference champion who was riding a 10-game winning streak, and the weather called for gusts throughout the game.
However, shortly after the game kicked off, all of the lower seeds started to pull away in their games in Super Region 2 and the wind did not pick up until late in the second half. Throw that in with a pair of career days on offense and a pair of defensive highlights, and the Golden Tigers left Seltzer Field with a 35-33 victory over Newberry.
With the victory, the Golden Tigers will travel again next week, this time to sixth-seeded North Greenville – a team that upset third-seeded Florida Tech on the road Saturday.
For just the second time this season, Tuskegee (9-2) had a player rush for 100-plus yards in a contest when Kenny Gant put up 139 yards on just 18 carries. His total helped the Golden Tigers narrowly miss 200 for the day, as they finished with 195 yards on the day as a team. His biggest run of the day from scrimmage came in the third quarter after Newberry had pulled to within a single point at 21-20. Gant took the hand off, got past the first wave of defenders at the line of scrimmage, and outran everyone else to the end zone to give the Golden Tigers a 28-20 lead with 7:16 remaining in third quarter.
Sophomore receiver Javarrius Cheatham also had a career day on the receiving end of passes from Kevin Lacey and Jamarcus Ezell. The sophomore finished the day with four catches for 93 yards and three touchdowns, equaling his season total in just one game. His first touchdown came courtesy of a 27-yard slant from Ezell in which he outran his defenders to the end zone with 9:32 remaining in the half. His second touchdown came on an 18-yard pass from Lacey that gave Tuskegee the lead for good at 14-10 in the first half, and his final touchdown came in the fourth quarter when he made a diving catch on third down from seven yards out.
Let’s not forget a pair of defensive highlights that led to scores or sealed the victory for Tuskegee.
Freshman defensive lineman Kali James picked off his first pass in his career in which he read the screen perfectly and returned it to the two-yard line which led to a Jerome Lewis touchdown. Junior safety Jonah McCutcheon made a pair of big plays for the Golden Tigers as he intercepted a pass with just 76 seconds remaining. But it was the play in the back of the end zone where he jumped over the taller Newberry receiver to knock the two-point conversion and allowed Tuskegee to hold a 28-26 lead in the fourth quarter.
Not to be lost was the play of Lacey who finished with 188 yards passing with no interceptions and just four incomplete passes, and the play of Desmond Reece who finished with eight catches for 99 yards. Defensively, Osband Thompson and Quavon Taylor combined for 21 stops on the day.