Category Archives: NCAA DII

Wingate Rugby Club looking ahead to second game

Ashley Garcia, Sports Writer

Wingate University’s Rugby Football Club was founded in 2008 and is a member of the Southern Rugby Conference. It is also a USA Rugby Division II Collegiate Conference in the North and South Carolina region.

With the team coming in second place at the last tournament against Wake Forest, Campbell and UNC-Pembroke, the players on the team have some positive thoughts about how the season should go.

“I think the season will go pretty well because we have a lot of new people and everyone is picking up the game well,” sophomore Tyrese Dolberry said.

Many may not be familiar with the game of Rugby, but it isn’t difficult to understand. In fact, it’s very similar to the game of football.

The goal of the game is to score more points than the opponent. The game lasts for 14 minutes for each match. The team with the most points is the winner but games can end in a draw.

Every time you make a try, also known as a touchdown, you get six points. And a field goal is worth one point, just like football. This also includes kicking an extra point after scoring a try.

“There are seven people on each team,” said junior Malcolm Nelson. “The goal of the game is to pass the ball laterally, and the only way you can pass the ball forward is by kicking it. When going into the end zone, you have to touch it down with two hands because that confirms the score of a try.”

Wherever the ball is placed in the end zone is where you have to kick it to earn the extra points.

The players all said that as long as they keep practicing and making an effort to do better they can come on top, and maybe even become conference champs.

Freshman Josh McMillon said, “I love playing the game, and showing up to the practice and getting better overall.”

The next tournament that Wingate will be playing is at Elon University on Saturday, March 16.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Former football player reflects on time at Wingate, looks forward to future

Alex Virgilio, Sports Writer

Former Wingate University wide receiver Jaiquis Tyheem Stokes, more commonly known as JT Stokes, is willing to tell  about his past football career and hopeful future.

Stokes is planning on graduating at the end of this semester with a major in psychology and a double minor in communications and sports management. He is not only a student athlete, but a God-fearing man.

“It’s kind of a cliche, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Stokes says, when talking about where he gets motivation to be the best that he can be.

Stokes started his football career at the young age of five years old. His father, Tim Stokes, served as his “role model” as he played professional football for a few years in Europe and in the U.S. in the Arena Football League. Stokes says he used to watch his father play in the Arena Football League and that pushed Stokes to one day play professional football.

However, Stokes was not always the star wide receiver that the Bulldog community knows and loves; he actually started his career as a running back. Stokes made the transition from running back to wide receiver his freshman year of high school, but never forgot the skills he learned from his young career as a running back as he rushed for 186 career yards and 2 touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Stokes, who added 1,310 career receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, credits his two wide receiver coaches, Ross Jenkins and Nathan Poole.

Jenkins, an ex-college quarterback at Louisiana Tech, was an offensive coordinator who coached wide receivers (at Wingate), according to Stokes. “Coach Jenkins is the one who brought me here (to Wingate). He taught me a lot about offensive schemes.”  

Poole, a former NFL wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals from 2002-2004 and the New Orleans Saints in 2005, only coached Stokes for one year but taught him the art and the technique of playing Wide Receiver. Stokes, who was on his way to a record breaking year, had his senior season cut short due to injury at Limestone early in the first half. He suffered an ACL tear in his left knee, and did not return for the remaining three games.

Although Stokes did not compete in the last three games of his senior season, he is determined to not let this injury will not keep him from continuing his football career.

“It taught me to keep my faith. God sometimes tests our faith to see if we can handle the blessings,”said Stokes.

Stokes is in active conversation with potential agents and football leagues such as the Alliance of American Football League who believe that despite this setback, Stokes can make it to the next level.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Wingate Baseball begins season on a positive note

Ashley Garcia, Sports Writer

The Wingate Bulldogs began their baseball season at home with a 12-3 and 3-2 win in a doubleheader against the University of West Georgia Wolves. The next day, the Bulldogs beat the Wolves again with a score of 8-5.

In the fourth and fifth innings of the first game, seniors Andrew Llewellyn and Tanner Forry both hit a home run. In the third game, Forry hit another home run.

“I thought we pitched it very well today, and that was the big part we did today,” said Wingate Head Coach Jeff Gregory. “Obviously in the first game, we swung it really well and in the second game I thought our guys did a great job with the pitching.”

Pitcher Austin Turgeon played six innings with eight strikeouts in the first game and David Nash pitched for the first five innings in the third game.“Even though I made some mistakes, our team was still able to score some runs,” Turgeon said.

But it was the freshman that really stepped up in the three games.

Junior McCann Mellett said, “I thought personally that a lot of freshmen would help us out this year, and I knew they would in the first weekend. And I’m very pleased that they did.”

After practicing since the beginning of August and winning three games on opening weekend, the team was very happy and proud of how the games turned out.

“It felt good to get out here and play somebody else. It felt good to get out on to the plate,” shortstop Reece Daniel said.

With their record being 3-0, the team expects the season to be very successful, but also be able to fix mistakes along the way.

“With this group that we have together this year, I’m expecting this season to be really successful. Even though we won our first three games, we still have a lot to clean up and to get better,” said David Nash.

The Bulldogs will return home to play a three-game series against Erskine College on Feb. 14 and 15, with two games on the 15th.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Wingate wins 6th straight by beating Tusculum on Senior Day; advances to playoffs

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

Wingate built a 16-0 halftime lead and held on for a 16-12 victory over visiting Tusculum on Nov. 10. With its sixth-straight victory, Wingate (8-3 overall, 5-2 SAC) clinches second place in the final SAC regular-season standings.

Wingate senior defensive back Cameron Mattison celebrated Senior Day in style with a 44-yard interception return for a TD while freshman running back Nijere Peoples carried the ball 25 times for 82 yards to finish his first season with 994 rushing yards.

“We are very proud of our seniors and the great leadership they provided all year. The defense came up big all game. The 10 points off turnovers were the difference,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

It was a dominating effort for the Wingate defensive unit. They recorded seven sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, forced six fumbles and recovered one of them.

The leader of the defense that night was Cardell Rawlings. He had 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble.

Offensively, the Bulldogs did just enough to win. Wingate had no turnovers and scored a touchdown and a field goal in their two trips to the red zone.

To start the game, freshman Ra’Quan Simmons returned the kickoff 51 yards. His return set up Wingate’s only offensive touchdown, a 17-yard strike from Shaw Crocker to Mason Flynt.

Following Mattison’s pick-six, Tusculum fumbled on their next possession. Wingate took advantage of the miscue, as redshirt freshman placekicker McLean Robertson nailed a 38-yard field goal to conclude the first half scoring, giving the Bulldogs a 16-0 lead at halftime.

In a scoreless third quarter, Tusculum missed two field goals attempts, one of which was blocked by Robbie Wallace from 24 yards out with 1:36 left in the frame. Finally, Tusculum scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to avoid the shutout.

With the win, Wingate advances to the NCAA Division II football playoffs this Saturday. They will play on the road against West Georgia at 12 noon.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Bulldogs win big over Mars Hill on Homecoming

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

The Wingate University Bulldogs scored the fourth-most points in program history on Oct. 20, racing out to a 44-14 halftime lead en route to a 58-21 victory over visiting Mars Hill University in front of a capacity crowd on Homecoming weekend at Irwin Belk Stadium in South Atlantic Conference football action. Wingate wins its third straight, improving to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the SAC.

“It was a very physical, aggressive game for us. We did a really nice job of getting after them physically,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

As a team, Wingate piled up a season-high 534 yards, including 284 on the ground, collected 5 turnovers and scored 7 touchdowns in as many trips to the red zone.

Quarterback Shaw Crocker and running back Nijere Peoples led the Bulldog offense. Crocker was 13-for-15 for 223 yards and 2 TDs and ran for a TD in the second half. Peoples had career highs of 33 carries, 166 yards and 2 TDs.

Cardell Rawlings and Joe Kelly led the Wingate defensive unit. Rawlings had 9 tackles while Kelly registered 8 tackles.

Despite the lopsidedness of the score, Wingate trailed only 7-0. But it only took 4 plays for the Bulldogs to tie it up and after a bad snap on a punt that resulted in a safety by Floyd Louallen to make it 9-7 Bulldogs, Wingate was off and running with quick drives from that point forward.

Wingate returns home for Senior Day against the Tusculum Pioneers on Saturday, Nov. 10 after two straight weeks on the road at Newberry and Limestone, respectively.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Wingate drops heartbreaker to Florida Tech, 26-23 after mishandling extra point

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

The Wingate University Bulldogs looked to be on their way to tying the game in the final minute of regulation on Sept. 29, but a failed PAT returned for a score finished off a 26-23 victory for visiting Florida Tech. With the loss, the Bulldogs fall to 2-3 on the year.

“We had some opportunities and had a nice drive there at the end. Unfortunate to miss the chance to tie it up, it’s something we’ve done a million times so it’s unfortunate,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

JT Stokes and Nijere People’s led the offensive unit for the Bulldogs. For the second straight week, Stokes had more than 100 yards receiving, with seven catches for 185 yards and a touchdown in the loss. People’s had 23 carries for a career-high 133 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, Robbie Wallace and Auntrell Mack led with 11 tackles each. Kam Johnson also had nine tackles.

After a scoreless first quarter, Wingate took a 10-7 lead at halftime on a 20-yard field goal by Mclean Robertson. Then after a nearly scoreless third quarter, the final 17 minutes were wild.

Peoples scored his second TD of the day to give Wingate a 17-14 lead on the last play of the quarter. After a Florida Tech touchdown and field goal to make it 24-17 in favor of the visitors, Wingate drove down the field in hopes of redeeming themselves for the missed opportunities that would have tied the game against Lenoir-Rhyne the week before. For the second straight week, they couldn’t muster a tie and a chance to win it in overtime.

Crocker hit Stokes for the touchdown to make it 24-23, but the snap on the PAT bounced and the desperate attempt at a kick was blocked. Florida Tech then proceeded to return it for the game-clinching 2 points and after a failed onside kick, the Panthers had secured their victory.

Wingate is on the road this Saturday, traveling to UNC Pembroke for a 7 p.m. start.

Edited by Brendan Shriver

Wingate falls to Lenoir-Rhyne 31-24 at home after furious second-half rally comes up short

Brendan Shriver, Staff Writer

The Lenoir-Rhyne University Bears jumped out to a 31-7 lead in the third quarter, then withstood a furious rally from Wingate to hang on for a 31-24 victory. The Bears improve to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the SAC, while the Bulldogs fall to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in league play.

“We’ve got a lot of fight, we’ve got good players, we just have to execute more consistently. There were plays throughout the game, in the first half in particular, that we just set ourselves back. You could feel the momentum change on the sideline in the third quarter and we just started executing better,” Wingate Head Football Coach Joe Reich says.

Some streaks were snapped for the Bulldogs. It’s the first time that Wingate has lost at Irwin Belk Stadium at night. The loss was also Wingate’s first to Lenoir-Rhyne in four years.

Wingate outgained LR 378-353 on the night, although most of those yards came during the rally. “Offensively, we’ve got to get it going early on and not wait to until the second half to get things started. But I love the fight, I love the energy, I love this group of guys. They’re high character guys and in the locker I just want to tell them, I love that fight, keep that up, let’s just execute consistently and we’ll be all right,” Reich says.

There were two key plays in the closing moments of the game when Wingate was trying to tie the game. The first play was a goal-line stand by the Bears on the one yard line. Had Wingate scored and kicked the extra point, the game would have been tied and could have gone to overtime or the Bulldogs could have had a chance to win it outright.

The other critical play was an interception by Wingate with three minutes left. This came just after the Bulldogs had recovered a fumble shortly after the goal line stand. Wingate got the ball back for one final shot at the tie and overtime, but couldn’t capitalize.

JT Stokes and Shaw Crocker led offensively for the Bulldogs. Stokes had seven catches for a career-high 186 yards and two touchdowns while Crocker completed 14-of-27 passes for a career-high 288 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score.

“With JT it’s about the execution, but it’s also the leadership on the field as well. It’s the things you don’t see, the rallying the troops, it’s his presence out there. He’s a great leader,” Reich says.

Defensively, Cardell Rawlings had a huge game to lead Wingate. Rawlings piled up 14 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two QB hurries. Rawlings has 11.5 TFLs and 8.0 sacks on the year.

“There’s nobody more passionate. We talk about having a fierce desire, and that encapsulates Cardell Rawlings, just a fierce desire to win, a fierce desire to be the best and a fierce desire to prepare. It’s all emotion and intensity and passion, that’s who he is as a person, so it was good to see him have another big game,” Reich says.

Wingate is at home again next week, hosting Florida Tech at 3:00 p.m.

Edited by Brendan Shriver