ND Homecoming

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 21, 2008

North Delta’s Bryan Nickle (right) goes up to break up the pass against Tupelo Friday night. The Panolian photo by Andy Young

ND comes from behind to win homecoming thriller

By Brad Greer

Before losing his battle with cancer in 1994, legendary North Carolina State men’s basketball head coach Jim Valvano gave his last speech in titled “ Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”

That seems to be the North Delta School’s new rally cry this football season.

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Trailing 28-24 with 33 seconds left in the game, Jim Tom Copeland caught a 32-yard deflected pass from quarterback Bateman Greenlee to give the Green Wave a  thrilling 31-28 come-from-behind victory over Tupelo Christian on homecoming Friday night.

While Molly Sanders was being crowned Homecoming queen, the North Delta coaching staff was concentrating on how to overcome a halftime deficit.

North Delta (6-3) erased a 21-10 halftime deficit by scoring 21-fourth quarter points to extend their winning streak to four games in a row. Tupelo meanwhile fell to 5-4 on the season.

Following the kickoff, the Eagles last ditch effort at victory was snuffed out when Bryan Nickle picked off a Brett Pierce pass on the Tupelo 37. Greenlee then took a knee as the final seconds ran off the clock.

The Green Wave’s game-winning drive started on their own 14 after Tupelo turned the ball over on downs. Greenlee connected with Nickle on pass completions of 8, 12, 15, 13 and 11 yards to key the drive. Then on the Eagle 32, Greenlee lofted a pass in the endzone that was tipped by a Tupelo defender into the waiting arms of Copeland for the score, with Greenlee adding the point after.

“That was a barn-burner right there. It was too close for comfort,” said assistant coach Brad Wilson. “The guys came out in the third quarter and gave it all they had and they never gave up. That’s what you ask from your players is to give it their heart and their best effort. We’re just so proud of them.”

North Delta narrowed the score  early in the fourth quarter on a 11-yard scoring strike from Greenlee to Copeland with Tres Brasell adding the two-point conversion for a 21-18 Tupelo lead with 11:25 remaining.

The Eagles quickly regained the momentum on the next series when Pierce hit Darius Garrett on a 69-yard scoring strike to make the score 28-18 at the 10:30 mark. Pierce finished the night with 17-of- 28 passing for 338 yards and three touchdowns.

North Delta answered right back with a 10-play, 52-yard drive of their own with Greenlee diving over from a yard out to make the score 28-24.

The Wave converted a key 4th-and-6 play  from the Tupelo 48 on a seven-yard pass from Greenlee to Nickle.

The Green Wave took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on  Greenlee’s 25-yard field goal. Tupelo then took their first lead on the next series on a nine-yard hookup from Pierce to Garrett with 3:09 left in the period. Garrett led all receivers with 11 catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns.

Nickle’s 32-yard kickoff return  put North Delta in excellent field position at the Eagle 43 to start the next series. A pair of eight yard runs by Brasell set up his one-yard plunge with 9:35 left before halftime to give the Wave a 10-7 lead.

Tupelo took a 21-10 halftime lead into the lockerroom by scoring 14 points in less than a minute. Ryan Bright first scored a 11-yard run. Then after a Greenlee interception, the Eagles scored again as Pierce found a wide-open Garrett for a 42-yard touchdown reception on the last play of the half.

“We made some adjustments at halftime but what it came down to was all heart. It was not one guy making a key play. It was a bunch of them coming together as a team,” said Wilson.

North Delta finished with 332 total yards on the night, 170 of that coming on the ground. Brasell led in rushing with 20 carries for 88 yards. In the last four games the sophomore has rushed for 545 yards and four touchdowns. Greenlee followed with 13 carries for 54 yards while Nickle added 18 yards on four carries. Michael Magee and John Paul Keel chipped in with six and four yards each.

Greenlee had an outstanding night throwing the ball as the senior completed 12-of-18 passes for 162 yards. Nickle led the receiving corps with eight catches for 90 yards followed by Copeland with a pair of catches for 43 yards while Geri Lamm and Chris Reeves hauled in one catch for 16 and 13 yards. The stingy Green Wave defense held Tupelo to 37 yards rushing on the night.

North Delta will host West Memphis, Ark Friday night in a huge district matchup starting a 7:30.