Benedict RB Christopher Johnson is tackled by ASU defenders John Rouse, left, and Jeremy Reynolds during the second half of the Rams’ 24-13 win Saturday. (Augusta Chronicle/Special to The Herald)
BY DAVID LEE
AUGUSTA — Quick strikes in the second quarter led to two touchdowns as Albany State overcame early turnovers for a 24-13 win over Benedict in the Augusta City Classic on Saturday for the Rams’ fifth straight victory.
“I’m happy to get the win, first and foremost,” said White, an Augusta native and former Westside player. “We were able to hold on to the ball late and made the plays in the second half to win.”
ASU (6-3, 5-1) beat Benedict (1-8, 1-5) for the 10th time in the past 11 meetings behind a balanced attack, as senior Nathan Hoyte recorded 158 rushing yards and junior backup Keenan Grissett came on for a struggling Davis Kooi and added 60 through the air.
The Tigers started the scoring in the first quarter as Chris Johnson rushed from 10 yards out for a 6-0 lead.
And it looked like it might go to halftime like that after the Rams fumbled twice in their first two possessions of the second quarter. However, a holding penalty called on the Tigers while their quarterback, Marcus Graham, was in the end zone led to a safety, scoring the Rams two points to make it 6-2 late in the first half.
Grissett came on and found freshman Tevin Isom — who was playing for injured star wideout Ronnie Tubbs — for a 37-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds remaining in the second quarter to put Albany State ahead, marking Grissett’s first touchdown as a Ram since transferring from Division I Gardner Webb during the offseason. The Rams then added another touchdown on a 51-yard interception return by Marcavius Dudley for a 15-6 lead at the half.
“We were just trying to make a play,” Grissett said. “Tevin is a big body; he went up and made a big catch. And Marcavius is a great player. He knows what to do on defense. It was two big plays.”
Benedict came back to within two on a touchdown run by Graham in the third quarter. But a second safety on a punt block by Albany State was followed by a 74-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Quintory Braswell to give the Golden Rams a comfortable 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. Braswell emerged as a playmaker last week when he returned an interception 100 yards on the final play of Albany State’s Homecoming win against Clark Atlanta.
Grissett finished 4-for-8 passing and added 44 yards on the ground. Kooi has just 41 yards on three completions before being pulled.
“(Grissett) did a good job to come in like he did,” White said of the quarterback change. “He settled down and led the offense well.”
Hoyte rushed for 142 yards on 28 carries. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry and recorded a 24-yard run as his longest on the day. Hoyte came in averaging 93.4 yards per game and 747 total yards on the ground.
The win, meanwhile, sets up a winner-take-all game next weekend in Columbus in the Fountain City Classic against Fort Valley State. The victor of the game and East Division winner heads to the conference championship in Atlanta to face the West champ, while the loser will likely see its season end without any trip to the D-II playoffs.