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Notre Dame Hangs On, Falcons 31 Cavs 28

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SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio - Notre Dame College built leads of 14-3, 24-13 and 31-21 but needed a late defensive stand to hold off visiting UVa-Wise 31-28 at Mueller Field Saturday. With the win, the Faclons improved to 8-2 and kept their playoff hopes alive. Quarterback Malik Grove passed for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns despite completing just 12-of-25 attempts in the victory.

UVa-Wise (5-5, 4-5 MEC) played from behind all day but found itself with the ball down just three with 4:30 to play. Beginning from just inside their own 20-yard line, the Cavaliers quickly got moving. Senior Javonte Latney (Fredericksburg, Va./Massaponax H.S.) rushed for 16 yards on the opening play of the drive. Three plays later, freshman Jarome Johnson (Washington, D.C./Eastern H.S.) used his legs to keep the drive alive when he scampered 14 yards on a fourth down and eighth play from the 37-yard line.

Brycen Lee (Mayo, Fla./Eastern Kentucky University) would then complete three consecutive passes to get UVa-Wise to the Notre Dame 31-yard line.

After failing to pick up a first down, Cavaliers' Head Coach Dane Damron elected to try a game-tying field goal. Trevor Owens' attempt had the distance but sailed just wide of the goal post, effectively ending the contest.

UVa-Wise fought back throughout the game, after falling behind 14-3 in the first quarter, the visitors mounted an 11-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a Lee to Kaian Duverger (Greenacres, Fla./Lackawanna Junior College) 4-yard touchdown.

When down 24-13 late in the third quarter, Johnson hooked up with Duverger on a 27-yard touchdown pass before finding Jake Barnett (Big Stone Gap, Va./Union H.S.) for the two point conversion to cut the lead to three. Johnson also helped get the score back within three in the fourth quarter when he ripped off the second longest play in program history, a 97-yard touchdown run.

Notre Dame's ability to play from in front paid dividends throughout the game. The Falcons ran the ball 44 times for 205 yards in the win. Tailback Brian Walker produced most of the yardage as he averaged 5.2 yards per run on 19 carries en route to 99 yards on the ground.

Punter Anton Vrebac also played a role as he saw a hole in the UVa-Wise defense and raced 39 yards when his team had lined up to punt. Vrebac's play set up a Grove - to - Johnson touchdown to push the lead to 14-3.

The Cavs appeared to have a shot to take the lead early in the fourth quarter when Grove fired an incomplete pass to Markus Hood; however, Marquis Hamilton (Washington, D.C./Marshall University) was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty when he dislodged the football from Hood. The penalty gave new life to the Falcons as two plays later Vasean Davis darted in from 18 yards out to push their lead to 31-21.

The loss marked the fourth time this season UVa-Wise suffered defeated by a touchdown or less.

Johnson finished with 124 rushing yards while Duverger added 67 receiving yards on five catches. Hamilton had a 50-yard kickoff return to finish the day with an average return of 30.3 yards.

Kwadwo Diawuo (Alexandria, Va./Nofolk State) led the way on defense with nine stops while Ed Kargbo (Springfiled, Va./South Co. H.S.), Chris White (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith H.S.), Donavan Montague (Altavista, Va./Altavista H.S.), and Michael Tarrer (Richmond, Va./JR Tucker H.S.) had six stops each.

Walker added 42 receiving yards while Johnson caught three passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns in the win. On defense, Shaun Jones led all players with 12 tackles while Sha'ha Williams had two of Notre Dame's four sacks.

UVa-Wise wraps up the 2017 regular season next week when No. 2 Shepherd University visits Carl Smith Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. in Wise, Va.

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