By From School Reports
CLEVELAND – Bruce’s Richard Freelon rushed for three touchdowns to lead the No. 8 ranked Delta State Statesmen to a 28-23 win over No. 20 North Greenville (11-3) to advance to the NCAA Division II semifinals as Super Region 2 champions.
Freelon rushed for 130 yards on 23 carries, along with the three scores.
The sophomore transfer from Jacksonville State tied for third in Statesmen (11-2) playoff history with the three touchdowns and had the third highest rushing total in Statesmen playoff history.
“Richard Freelon really played well today and our guys opened up some holes in the ground game that proved to be the difference in the game,” coach Ron Robert stated.
The Statesmen will visit Pittsburg State (11-1) in the national semifinals on Saturday night.
On Delta State’s first drive of the game, Freelon put the Statesmen up 7-0 with a 4-yard touchdown run that capped off a 76-yard drive.
The Crusaders (11-3) answered with a touchdown, taking advantage of short field position after a Statesmen turnover at the 16-yard line. Willy Korn connected with Taylor Malphrus on a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
On the ensuing drive, the Statesmen answered with a 80-yard touchdown drive capped off with a 2-yard run by Micah Davis. Freelon started the drive off with a 12-yard run.
However, turnovers were an issue for the Statesmen in the first half, setting up another short North Greenville touchdown drive. After a fumble gave the Crusaders short field at the Statesmen 22, Korn capitalized, finding Sean Wright for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
The Crusaders added an 18-yard field goal at the end of the first half to take a 17-14 lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, Freelon gave the Statesmen a lead they never relinquished when he scored on a 1-yard run that capped off a 67-yard drive.
After a three-and-out by the Crusaders on the following drive, Delta State went 52 yards in 11 plays to score. Freelon had six rushes on that drive, including his third touchdown on the afternoon, another 1-yard run.
North Greenville responded with a touchdown but failed on a two-point conversion. The Statesmen ran off the final 6:42 to clinch the victory.