SALISBURY — Livingstone’s football team had the smile wiped off its face Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
The giddiness from a recent two-game winning streak ended when visiting Virginia Union held off the Blue Bears 32-25 in a classic seesaw battle.
“The kids fought extremely hard,” coach Darryl Williams said after LC was sucker-punched by fate. “But we’ve got to live with what happened. I thought we had enough, but in the end we just didn’t.”
Livingstone (2-3, 1-2 CIAA) won the statistical battle, though it hardly mattered afterward. “We ran 60 or 70 plays and about four or five of them defined our team today,” wideout Anthony Holland said. “We had this game in reach but didn’t execute. There were some mental mistakes but honestly, this other team played harder than we did.”
This other team scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with fewer than six minutes remaining, then jogged off the field with its first victory.
“I don’t care about the record but it feels good to get one under our belts,” VU coach Michael Bailey said after the Panthers (1-4 overall) squared their conference record at 1-1. “We’re on a division run. We’ve played tough teams and that’s how you get better. We’re playing one game a week going for the division.”
So was Livingstone after linebacker Kenneth White scooped up a VU fumble and raced 35 yards for a third-quarter touchdown that gave the Blue Bears a 19-17 lead.
“Hillman Evans gave the back a good wrap-up and the ball popped loose,” White said after recording 14 tackles. “Then it was just an open field run to the end zone.”
VU reclaimed the lead late in the period when tailback Damon Kelly scored on a 26-yard burst off the right side. Livingstone answered early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Drew Powell spiraled a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Hendricks, providing a 25-24 LC lead with 10:18 remaining.
“We were ready for everything their defense showed us,” Powell said after passing for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns. “I guess the football gods were on their side today.”
There was nothing magical about VU’s game-winning TD drive. It began on the Panthers’ 25-yard line and ended seven plays later when Kelly scored on a 1-yard sweep to the left side. Most damaging was quarterback Kenneth Graham’s 47-yard scramble to the doorstep.
“That last drive was all about being a man,” White said. “We let the team down.”
LC made one final trip into Virginia Union territory, but on fourth-and-1 from the visitors’ 19-yard line, running back Justin Forte (30 carries/101 yards) took a handoff, spun off the right side and was promptly stopped for no gain.
“Not sure about that one,” Powell said. “We needed one yard and he didn’t go backwards. He got hit at the line of scrimmage and dove forward. Usually that’s a yard, at least.”
Not on this day. Even a final-minute scrum that may have netted an LC fumble recovery was ruled VU’s ball.
“Coach said this would be a tough one,” Holland said after making five catches for 95 yards. “They were a wounded team looking for their first win. We expected their best shot and they gave it to us.”
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