Wingate Football Wins Fifth Straight at L-R, Plays for Division Title Saturday at Home Against Newberry

Cover Photo: Wingate defensive tackle Justin Rhodes stands over Lenoir-Rhyne quarterback Sean White after a sack in last Saturday’s 24-21 win over the Bears

Staff Writers: Samuel Rodriguez and RJ Rennie

The Wingate football team, winners of five consecutive games and six
straight on the road, takes on Newberry at Irwin Belk Stadium Nov. 5 in a
showdown for the Piedmont Division title of the South Atlantic Conference.
Coming on the heels of their 24-21 road win over top SAC rival Lenoir-
Rhyne last Saturday, the 8-1 Bulldogs (6-1 SAC) now have the inside track
to winning the league crown. A victory over the Indians Saturday will give
Wingate the right to host the first-ever SAC Championship Game on Nov.

Over the last three weeks, the Bulldogs have gelled as a team and shown
great resilience, coming back from 21 points down to win in overtime at
Limestone Oct. 15 and then drilling Barton 28-3 at home Oct. 22 before the
big win over L-R, which snapped a five-game losing streak to the Bears.
Last year, Wingate lost 31-6 at home to its top rival. The team moved to 7-1
overall and 5-1 in the South Atlantic Conference.

After struggling early in the season, the offense for the Bulldogs has been
much improved in recent games. Graduate student quarterback Shaw
Crocker has thrown for 1,560 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine
interceptions so far this season, while adding 197 yards and three scores on
the ground.

“With the comeback at Limestone, I think that it was us really showing
what we’re capable of and it was definitely great to be a part of,” redshirt
senior tight end Luke Ferrell said. “I thought that we as a team were
clicking against Barton. Everything worked like a well-oiled machine.” 

The passing game for the Bulldogs has been stellar during this stretch.
Junior wide receiver Myles Dillon leads the team with 27 receptions, 334
receiving yards and four touchdown catches. He’s been given strong
support from fellow wideouts Ra’Quan Simmons (18 catches), Kamal Desor
(15) and Trevor Bryan (10).

Junior Kalen Clark leads the team in rushing with 452 yards, but
sophomore Alexander Wilson has come on of late, rushing for 53 yards on
11 carries against L-R. For the season, Wilson leads the team in rushing
touchdowns (four) and rushing average at 5.0 yards per carry.

“Against Barton, we started off hot, but we’ve got to do better in the second
half,” senior backup quarterback Dylan Elkins said. “I think our entire
running back group really stood out and stepped up this week. Players like
[running back] Kalen Clark made some big plays happen for us.” 

However, it’s a defense led by All-America linebacker candidate Jaquan
Edwards that has been the Bulldogs’ calling card. Wingate leads the nation
in total defense, third-down defense and tackles for loss. The Bulldogs, who
are one of only two teams in the country holding opponents to less than 10
points per game (9.9 ppg), rank among the top five defensively in sacks
(second), red-zone defense (fifth) and first downs allowed (third).

Senior defensive end DJ Horne leads conference in sacks with 7.5, while
sophomore linebacker Davon Gilmore and Edwards share the team lead in
total tackles with 65. Gilmore earned his first SAC Defensive Player of the
Week of his career after the Bulldogs’ victory against Barton. Sophomore
defensive end Marquise Fleming leads the SAC in tackles for loss with
15.0, just ahead of Gilmore and Horne, who have 12.0 each.

Wingate ranked third in Region 2 of the four Division 2 regional rankings
released this week.

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