Wingate’s push for its first South Atlantic Conference championship since 2010 is definitely starting up front.
The Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SAC) used a dominating performance on the offensive and defensive line in a 24-14 victory over No. 16-nationally ranked Lenoir-Rhyne (4-2, 2-1) at Moretz Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Wingate, bouncing back from its first SAC loss of the season last Saturday at Tusculum, finished the afternoon as one of four conference teams with one setback. But the Bulldogs have now beaten two of those three opponents head-to-head.
“That stuff is going to take care of itself,” Wingate coach Joe Reich said. “I was just glad to see us come out and play with some confidence again after last week. We thought if we could win the big plays and control the line of scrimmage we could do some good things today.”
The loss broke a 22-game conference winning streak for the Bears, who have won at least a share of the last four SAC titles. It was L-R’s first conference loss at home in more than five years.
Wingate lengthened a 7-0 halftime lead to 17-0 with two quick scores early in the third quarter — a 17-yard pass from quarterback Kyle Johnson to Jake Jensen, followed quickly after an L-R fumble by a 27-yard field goal from Caleb Baird.
The Bears got on the scoreboard with a 17-yard touchdown run by quarterback Evin Sims with 5:34 left in the quarter. They wouldn’t get closer than that 17-7 score.
An 11-yard touchdown pass from L-R’s Tyler Williams to Grayson Walls with 7:35 left made it a 24-14 game. But L-R never got the ball back as the Bulldogs ran out the clock.
Three who mattered
Lawrence Pittman, running back, Wingate: The former Mallard Creek standout carried 36 times for 205 yards and scored the Bulldogs’ first touchdown on a 3-yard run in the first quarter.
Kyle Johnson, quarterback, Wingate: Completed 12 of 18 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. But his 13 rushes for 98 yards were a key for the Bulldogs in several third- and fourth-down situations.
Evin Sims, quarterback, Lenoir-Rhyne: The sophomore carried 16 times for 131 yards and a touchdown.
How good was Wingate at ball control? The Bulldogs converted 8-of-14 third downs and two of three fourth downs and punted exactly once. Even that was from L-R territory, a 23-yard “coffin corner” try by Kyle Pollard.
The Bulldogs held Lenoir-Rhyne, Division II’s No. 1 rushing attack, to 260 yards on the ground — 173 under its average.
They said it
“They controlled the line of scrimmage and that defines a football game. We’re a better football team than the game we just played, but the record is what it is. We’re far from a complete team, and we need to improve.” — Lenoir-Rhyne coach Ian Shields.
Wingate hosts Carson-Newman at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and Lenoir-Rhyne is at Mars Hill at 1 p.m. Both are South Atlantic Conference games.