Eagles take early 17-0 lead
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Down 17-0 in the early going, a valiant Cumberland comeback fell short in a 31-28 loss to Faulkner Saturday at John Mark Stallings Field. The Phoenix had their chances, but missed a field goal in the third quarter and fumbled at the Faulkner 30 late in the contest
Shedrick Kirk returned a fumble 90 yards for a touchdown to help the Phoenix (5-5, 2-3 Mid-South) get back into the contest and Kris Parker caught a 13-yard TD pass and also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a score, but the offense was unable to get the tying or go-ahead score on two possessions in the final seven minutes.
"We clawed back into it," said Cumberland coach Donnie Suber. "But defensively, and I'll take the blame for it, we didn't prepare like we needed to. We couldn't get any pressure on their quarterback and he stood back there and picked us apart. Looking back, we lost the game in the first half."
The first drive stalled at the Faulkner 35, but Matthew Alter dropped a punt at the two.
The Eagles (5-4, 3-2) picked up one first down but had to punt, with the Phoenix taking over at their own 45 with 3:05 remaining.
Justin Snyder completed a 15-yard pass to Lorel Morton for a first down and on the next third down, Dezmon Huntley battled for a first down but fumble, with Faulkner's Austin Wilder scooping up the bouncing ball and returning it 46 yards to the CU25.
The Eagles got one first down and kneeled on it twice to secure the victory.
Snyder finished 8-of-17 for 149 yards while Huntley came on in the second half, rushing 16 times for 107 yards. He fumbled twice, with Parker recovering one in the end zone for a TD and the other at the end of the contest.
Michael Green caught four passes for 112 yards but injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter and did not return.
Faulkner QB Clayton Nicholas was masterful in the first half, completing 22-of-30 for 244 yards and three touchdowns. He finished 32-for-44 for 344 yards and four TDs, the last one for 58 yards to Keithon Redding to put Faulkner ahead, 31-21, with 13:50 remaining.
Cumberland answered that TD with a seven-play, 81-yard drive that started with a 53-yard completion from Snyder to Green, his 11th play of 40-plus yards this season.
Huntley and Austin Chaplin rushed five straight times and Huntley carried again. He fumbled at the eight but the ball was kicked forward into the end zone where Parker recovered.
The defense forced a three-and-out and the Phoenix took over with nine minutes remaining, moving 38 yards on eight plays.
Huntley rushed five times for 30 yards and a pass interference call helped CU reach the Eagles 30, but the drive stalled and Alter pinned the home team deep in their own territory, setting up the final drive that ended with the fumble.
The Eagles moved 59 yards on 13 plays to start the game, getting inside the Cumberland seven before a false start penalty pushed them back.
On fourth down Justus Dauscha sacked Nicholas, but the offense was unable to get a first down and Faulkner took over at the CU47 after the punt.
Three plays later Nicholas found Rob Lockhart in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard TD pass for a 7-0 lead for the home team.
Final game -- Cumberland will close out the 2016 on the road Saturday, Nov. 12 playing East Tennessee State. Game time will be 12 Noon at Johnson City's Science Hill High School.
ETSU stands 3-6 overall following a 21-13 loss at Mercer Nov. 5. Game time will be 12 Noon at Johnson City Science Hill High School.