With one play to start the second half, preseason All-American Dwayne Hollis made all the errors in the previous 30 minutes vanish.
After N.C. Wesleyan committed five turnovers in the first half Saturday, Hollis returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown – starting the highest scoring quarter in school history.
Fifteen minutes and 32 more points later, N.C. Wesleyan was surprisingly in cruise control for its first USA South victory at Northern Nash High School.
A five-turnover first half turned into a six-score third quarter as the Battling Bishops defeated Greensboro College, 45-23.
“It just gave our team a lot of confidence,” Hollis said of his kick return. “Throughout this whole season, we haven’t been fighting through adversity. Somebody had to make a play. Why not me?”
Greensboro College (4-3, 2-2 USA South) scored 17 points to open the game before N.C. Wesleyan (2-5, 1-3) scored 45 unanswered – 39 in the third quarter and 28 in a span of just 3:21.
“Once one good thing happened, then another good thing happened, then another one,” N.C. Wesleyan coach Mark Henninger said. “... It’s all tied together. Once one of those things happened, guys all of a sudden started thinking, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ Then boom, the next thing you know, you have 39 unanswered points.”
In his first message to the Battling Bishops after the victory, Henninger said that two weeks ago, his team wouldn’t have fought back from a 17-point hole. Instead, they likely would have thrown in the towel.
Saturday was different. The Battling Bishops had something to follow – something to emulate. Once Hollis made his play, everyone else wanted to contribute.
On the Battling Bishops’ second possession, they drove 80 yards from their own 10-yard line for a chip shot field goal.
They touched the ball just five more times before the end of the quarter.
But nearly every touch was a touchdown.
“It just gave us a lot of confidence,” said Hollis, whose kickoff return was the third longest in school history. “When a team has confidence, that’s a dangerous team.”
Jacques Alston fumbled twice in the first half, but with 3:30 to play in the third quarter, he made up for it. Alston caught a quick in route from quarterback John Jackson before making a cut for the sideline.
He was in the end zone 71 yards later.
“I had to pick it up,” Alston said of his first half. “My teammates were here to pick me up. I had to get over it, move forward and make it up for them.”
On the very next offensive play, Jamal Smith took a jet sweep 90 yards, the second longest run in school history.
Ahead by 14, Hollis, who started the quarter with a touchdown, sealed the Battling Bishops’ first conference win and ninth straight against Greensboro College – the two school have played just nine times.
Hollis jumped a short pass and returned the ball 44 yards for a touchdown. On the very next play, Hollis picked off another pass as time ticked off the clock in the third quarter.
“We have a young team. They want to see something good happen, something positive happen,” Hollis said. “You want to take that and go with it.”
Because of a penalty, N.C. Wesleyan received an untimed down to end the quarter and one final shot to score again.
Jackson found Tarboro High grad Jamias Williams down the N.C. Wesleyan sideline for the Battling Bishops’ fifth touchdown of the quarter.
“That (has) been there. It (has) been there, it (has) just never come to the surface,” Henninger said. “We see that every day in practice. We see that we’ve got guys that are very explosive, especially at the offensive skill positions. We have guys at those positions that are explosive as any team in the league. It’s just a matter of them breaking through and doing it.”
Greensboro College ended N.C. Wesleyan’s surge, but only after intercepting freshman third-string quarterback Robbie Lanier.
Two weeks ago, N.C. Wesleyan would have collapsed after the first half it faced – five turnovers and no positives off which to build.
It took just 15 minutes to change that perception.
“It’s just all about the type of man you are,” Jackson said. “One type of man will stay down on the ground. The other will fight through adversity and come through and play as well as they can.”
N.C. Wesleyan 45
GC 7 10 0 6 – 23
NCWC 0 6 39 0 – 45
GC – Tyler Fearrington 7 pass from Ryan Throndset (Mark Bush kick), 9:46
GC – Nick La Toof 22 field goal, 14:00
GC – Warren Scott Jr. 10 run (Bush kick), 8:12
NCWC – Laron Ellerbe 5 run (kick failed), 1:44
NCWC – Dwayne Hollis 90 kick return (Jamias Williams pass from John Jackson), 14:45
NCWC – Hampus Lithen 26 field goal, 7:42
NCWC – Jacques Alston 70 pass from Jackson (Lithen kick), 3:21
NCWC – Jamal Smith 90 run (Lithen kick), 1:33
NCWC – Hollis 59 interception return (Lithen kick), :16
NCWC – Williams 59 pass from Jackson (Lithen kick), :00
GC – Julian Cinotti 24 interception return (kick blocked), 11:32
25 First downs........................18
291 Passing yards...................306
414 Total offense....................506
Rushing – GC: Warren Scott Jr. 22-97; Cortez Vernon 7-20; Ryan Throndset 6-16; Pete Foret 1-(-10). NCWC: Jamal Smith 3-88; Jacques Alston 14-73; Laron Ellerbe 8-30; John Jackson 2-6; Robbie Lanier 1-3. Passing – GC: Throndset 29-52-1 291 yards. NCWC: Jackson 14-20-2 254; Ellerbe 5-10-0 52; Lanier 0-1-0 0. Receiving – GC: Dexter Russell 10-89; Antwan Thorpe 7-70; Tyler Fearrington 4-47; Tripp Honeycutt 6-46; Scott 2-39. NCWC: Alston 3-88; Jamias Williams 4-87; John Young 3-45; Taylor Revelle 3-38; Greg Edwards 2-23; Timaine Moore 3-22; Smith 1-3.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com