WILLIAMSBURG - The sting of three straight losses was put to bed on Saturday as a pair of veteran linebackers led a stingy defense and a back-up kicker made the most of an opportunity to help the University of Pikeville football team topple No. 23 Cumberlands 22-7.
Seniors John Dudley Hilton and Nikolaus Lacey posted nine tackles each as the Bears’ defense limited the Patriots to just one touchdown after averaging over 27 points per game. Cumberlands mustered just 260 yards of total offense, the lowest output against the Bears all season, while UPIKE racked up 389 yards while utilizing a freshman quarterback in his first start.
But R.J. Rosemond Jr.’s pressure under center was lessened by a surprise performance.
Caleb Noe, a senior kicker who transferred to UPIKE (2-3, 2-1 MSC East) from Morehead State last fall, was given a chance to move up from his back-up position and all the senior did with the opportunity was perform. Noe hit all three of his field-goal attempts from 29, 37 and 40-yards, scoring UPIKE’s first six points and allowing Rosemond Jr.’s 14-yard keeper in the second quarter to put the Bears up 13-7.
The Patriots (1-3, 0-2 MSC East), who scored on a quarterback keeper as well, had taken a 7-3 lead on Randy Maynard’s two-yard burst. But Noe responded with his 37 yarder to make it 7-6 and Rosemond Jr.’s keeper two minutes later gave the Bears the lead for good.
Just before halftime, Seth Millar broke off a 41-yard scamper into the end zone to make it 19-7 and with the UPIKE defense dominating in the second half, Noe scored the only remaining points on his 40-yard kick at the start of the fourth quarter to make it 22-7.
Rosemond Jr. was far from perfect, completing just 11-of-28 passes for 191 yards, but he managed to make big plays when it mattered. None was bigger for gaining momentum than his 59-yard strike to Aaron Jackson in UPIKE’s first drive that helped set up Noe’s first field goal.
Connecting with Jackson became a recurring theme as five of Rosemond Jr.’s 11 completions went to the sophomore transfer from Western Kentucky for 121 yards.
Millar wasn’t a one-play wonder either. The long run before halftime was crucial to make it a two-possession game, but the senior was steady all game, finishing with a career-high 140 yards on 21 carries, averaging 6.7 yards-per-carry.
None of the stellar offensive performances would have mattered without a breakthrough day from the Bear defense. The unit forced and recovered three fumbles, tallied four sacks and allowed the Patriots to convert just three of 14 third-down conversions.
UPIKE’s biggest defensive sequence of the game came in the second quarter with Cumberlands hanging on to a 7-6 lead.
On the Patriots’ first play of their next drive, Dionte Braye recovered Blake Ingleton’s fumble which turned into Rosemond Jr.’s go-ahead touchdown.
Then the next Patriot drive ended with Blake Nolan’s punt being blocked by Romon Morris, keeping the momentum alive before Millar’s long touchdown run essentially put the Patriots away.
It’s also worth mentioning that Noe didn’t stop with just kicking, he also finished tied for fifth on the team with three tackles to make the most of his big night.
UPIKE returns to action at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday against another ranked opponent in No. 18 Cumberland (Tenn.) at the Hambley Athletic Complex.