SAC Second Round Playoff Preview

November 24th, 2023 7:00am

SAC Second Round Playoff Preview

Hope everyone had a tremendous Thanksgiving and spent some time with their families. Unfortunately, none of the Thanksgiving NFL games were worthwhile.

The opening round of the playoffs is behind us and while the 2023 season ended for one program, another roared into the second round. For the second consecutive year Limestone’s season ended with a tough loss on the road in the GSC, falling 62-41 to Valdosta State. The Saints fell into a very deep hole early and just never could close the gap. Coach Furrey and company had yet another tremendous season. Lenoir-Rhyne dominated Shepherd of the PSAC, 63-17, behind Sean White’s historic day where he shattered several school records. It was close in the first quarter, but after that not so much. We had a terrific time as guests and many thanks to our gracious and wonderful host in Hickory.

Overall, it was a very intriguing opening round to the D2 bracket, with the host schools going 10-2 in that round. We shall see if that same favor last in round two.


SAC Awards

The SAC announced it’s 2023 all-conference teams and major award winners last week right after the column was posted, so I will take a moment here and congratulate all of these players and coaches on a tremendous 2023 season.

Offensive Freshman of the Year: Brooks Bentley, Wingate

Offensive Player of the Year: Dustin Noller, Limestone

Defensive Freshman of the Year: Mekhi Brown, Carson-Newman

Defensive Player of the Year: Marquise Fleming, Wingate

Jacobs Blocking Trophy: Leondre Andreas, Mars Hill

Ken Sparks Coach of the Year: Mike Jacobs, Lenoir-Rhyne


QB –  Dustin Noller, Limestone

RB –   Jordan Terrell, Barton

RB –   Tre Stewart, Limestone

RB –   Dwayne McGee, Lenoir-Rhyne

WR – Jelani Baker, Limestone

WR – Bo Pryor, Catawba

WR – Kameron Johnson, Barton

OL –   Leondre Andreas, Mars Hill

OL –   Alex Buschow, Barton

OL –   Shane Wells, Lenoir-Rhyne

OL –   JJ Martin, Limestone

OL –   Porfirio Acosta, Wingate

TE –   Beau DeBerry, Mars Hill

PK –   Caleb Bonesteel, Wingate

LS –    Blake Arnoult, Newberry

RS –   DeAree Rogers, Lenoir-Rhyne



DL –   Marquise Fleming, Wingate

DL –   Andre Jefferson, Lenoir-Rhyne

DL –   Dajavon White, Tusculum

DL –   Damipi Lamboni, Mars Hill

LB –   Landon Honeycutt, Mars Hill

LB –   Jon Ross Maye, Lenoir-Rhyne

LB –   Shane Perry, Barton

LB –   Chandler Matthews, Limestone

DB –  Tre Morrison, Wingate

DB –  Monroe Sanderson, Mars Hill

DB –  Major Williams, Carson-Newman

DB –  Ryan Dolce, Tusculum

P –     Ethan Muncy, Emory & Henry


Last Week: 2-0

Season: 58-20


Lenoir-Rhyne (11-1) at Benedict (11-0)

  • Location/Time: Columbia, South Carolina / 1 PM
  • Last Meeting: Benedict won 17-13 (2008) / Lenoir-Rhyne leads all time series (2-1-0)
  • Line:  Lenoir-Rhyne favored by -9.5




Total Offense

443.7 YPG (2nd in SAC)

423.6 YPG (2nd in SIAC)

Passing Offense

235.8 YPG (2nd in SAC)

258.1 YPG (4th in SIAC)

Rushing Offense

207.8 YPG (1st in SAC)

165.5 YPG (1st in SIAC)

Scoring Offense

40.2 PPG (1st in SAC)

41.1 PPG (1st in SIAC)

Red Zone

87% (3rd in SAC)

94.5 % (1st in SIAC)

Turnover Margin



Total Defense

232.9 YPG (1st in SAC)

207.7 YPG (1st in SIAC)

Passing Defense

152.9 YPG (1st in SAC)

121.4 YPG (1st in SIAC)

Rushing Defense

80.0 YPG (1st in SAC)

86.4 YPG (2nd in SIAC)

Scoring Defense

11.1 PPG (1st in SAC)

8.5 PPG (1st in SIAC)


60.1 YPG (5th in SAC)

62.0 YPG (6th in SIAC)

It seemed as though we were in for a high-scoring shootout in Hickory early Saturday. Both teams exchanged scores on their first drive. The Bears took a 14-7 lead, and it looked like Shepherd would answer before a fumble around midfield gave Lenoir-Rhyne the ball back. The Bears struck quickly, building a 21-7 lead. Shepherd had another chance to answer with 1st and goal at the 6 but got shut down quickly and had to settle for a field goal. When that field goal happened, I felt like that was all she wrote. Lenoir-Rhyne went on to take a 35-17 lead at halftime, cruising in the 2nd half to a 63-17 win. It was the absolute best I had seen the Bears look all season. The defense was shaky early, but the defensive line took over in the 2nd half. And you just can’t say enough about Sean White’s performance. Young man looked just incredible.

Benedict, as the #1 seed in the region, had a bye last week just like they did in 2022. The SIAC Champions look significantly better this season and are NOT hoping for a repeat of last year’s playoffs. Chennis Berry is an outstanding coach for the Tigers, and there are many that feel like a FCS job is almost a certainty for Coach Berry. What he has done at Benedict in such a short amount of time has been nothing short of impressive. The Benedict offense is lead by Aenaes Dennis at quarterback. Dennis has thrown for over 2700 yards in 2023 to go along with 19 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He has also rushed for 227 yards and 3 scores. The Tigers have a slew of running backs that get into the endzone. Three different guys have 5+ rushing touchdowns, led by Noah Zaire Scotland with 13. But the main back is Deondra Duehart, who rushed for just under 600 yards this year on 124 carries. Similar to Lenoir-Rhyne, Benedict doesn’t have one main receiver, as they have a couple of guys who look to cause issues for the Bears secondary. Caden High (41-679-8), and Jalen Jones (42-557-3) are not big receivers but have great hands. But what Benedict really brings to the table is that defense. Benedict is #1 against the pass in the entire nation and has an extremely talented secondary. Like Lenoir-Rhyne, they are also one of the best against the run in the country.

This is a tough game to choose because these teams are very similar in how they are built. Opportunistic offenses and great defenses. I think that this Benedict team is better than the one who got beat by Wingate last year, but I still think a SAC school ends their undefeated season again. If Benedict can score touchdowns and not field goals and cause the Bears to make some mistakes, then I think this can be a ballgame. Benedict also needs to keep at what is working, and not abandon it like Shepherd did last week. The run game was working early, and they just complexly tossed it.  For Lenoir-Rhyne, be patient. I think the Bears have too many weapons on that offense that can beat you and I don’t think Benedict has played a defense like the Bears all season. Give me the Bears to win and cover the spread.

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