NEWBERRY - The Newberry Wolves moved to 2-0 on the season with a tight 23-19 win over the visiting Florida Tech Panthers in the 2013 home opener at Setzler Field on Saturday afternoon.
Newberry (2-0) opens its South Atlantic Conference schedule next week at Catawba, while Florida Tech (1-1) hosts West Alabama in a nationally televised game on Thursday night.
The Wolves outgained the Panthers offensively and held the guests well on defense to overcome untimely turnovers. Newberry turned the ball over inside the FIT 10-yardline three times in the first half, including a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Florida Tech took an early lead on a Brion Ashley 35-yard field goal to make it 3-0 at the 9:50 mark of the first quarter. Newberry responded with a solid drive thanks in no small part to solid rushing from Dureal Elmore (Abbeville, S.C.), but the Newberry running back was stripped of the ball deep in a pile at the Panther 3-yardline to give FIT the ball and halt the momentum.
The teams traded punts, and on the last play of the first quarter, Florida Tech punter Brion Ashley shanked a 7-yard punt to set the Wolves up. On a long third down attempt, Wolves' quarterback W.T. Murden (West Columbia, S.C.) threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Byron Dickerson (Atlanta, Ga.) to give the Wolves their first lead of the game at 7-3.
The Panthers cut the lead to one point when Ashley made a 24-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 75 yard drive.
Newberry answered well, with a key fourth down conversion resulting in a 28-yard completion from Murden to Troy Thompson (Orangeburg, S.C.). Newberry was at the FIT 6-yardline, and Murden floated a pass out to his right, which Trai Cadore intercepted in the endzone and return all the way to the other end of the field for a touchdown, giving FIT a 13-7 lead.
The Wolves drove deep again before the half, with quarterback Raleigh Yeldell (Johnston, S.C.) leading the scarlet and gray down the field efficiently. Unfortunately, just before the half, Yeldell was stripped of the ball at the FIT 7-yardline to leave the halftime score at 13-7 in the Panthers' favor.
After the half, it was the Wolves who grabbed the momentum, thanks to a 48-yard punt return by Jason Livingston (Conway, S.C.). Three plays later, Wesley Brown (John's Island, S.C.) carried the ball to paydirt from two yards out to give Newberry its first lead of the game at 14-13.
Later in the third quarter, Newberry pieced together an eight-play, 67-yard drive that was capped by the first career touchdown carry from Romelo Doctor (Summerville, S.C.) to give the Wolves a 21-13 lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter.
From there, it was the Wolves' defense's holds in key situations that helped the home team earn the win. After FIT picked off a Newberry pass inside Wolves territory, the Panthers got inside the Newberry 2-yardline with first and goal. The Wolves stopped all four attempts at scoring, including a pass breakup by David Davis (Columbia, S.C.) in the endzone.
After Newberry punted, the Panthers cut the lead to two points on a 16-yard touchdown carry by Trevor Sand. The 2-point attempt failed, leaving the score at 21-19.
The Wolves were forced to punt again, with the kick from Kyle Clark (Beaufort, S.C.) pinning the Panthers back to their own 7-yard line. The Wolves added two points of insurance when Alstevis Squirewell (Great Falls, S.C.) sacked Bobby Vega in the endzone for a safety, extending the lead to a very important four-point margin.
Following the free kick, Newberry went three-and-out and the Panthers drove into Newberry territory. While FIT got into field goal territory, the Panthers had to go for a fourth down chance due to the scoring margin and this time it was Letavious Williams (Ware Shoals, S.C.) who sacked Vega and earned the turnover on downs.
Newberry was able to carry the ball for a first down and make FIT waste its timeouts to run out the clock and the Wolves won their second straight game to open the season.
For the game, Newberry rolled up 393 yards of offense on 77 plays, while limiting the Panthers to 231 yards on 64 plays. FIT gained only 75 rushing yards, for an average of 2.1 yards per carry.
The Wolves earned 190 yards on the ground, led by 61 yards on 11 carries by Yeldell, who also completed 4-of-6 passes for 41 yards. Murden completed 13-of-20 passes for 162 yards, the touchdown to Dickerson and two interceptions. Dickerson was the Wolves' leading receiver with three catches for 52 yards.
B.J. Mazyck (Ridgeville, S.C.) led Newberry with nine tackles, while Arnez Gray (Greenwood, S.C.) had eight stops. The Wolves racked up four sacks, with Squirewell, Williams, Edmond Robinson (Wadmalaw Island, S.C.) and Nate Sichali (Anderson, S.C.) all downing the quarterback behind the line.