By BEN JOHNSON
Joel Rockmore’s incredible run of football came to an end Saturday at Doc Wadley Stadium. The sophomore running back — second in the MIAA in rushing — must have just been deferring to his senior teammates.
After all, it was Senior Day.
Senior wideout, Chucky Bryant, more than doubled his previous career touchdown total by catching three touchdown passes while finishing with four receptions for 43 yards as the RiverHawks coasted past Lincoln, 45-21, in NSU’s regular-season home finale.
“It’s a great way to go out like that on my senior night,” said Bryant, a former standout at Tahlequah High School. “I’m very proud. That’s all.”
Bryant — who entered the final home game of his career with 159 receiving yards this season and only one touchdown during his time in a RiverHawks’ uniform — got into a groove early with quarterback Johnny Deaton. The two connected on the RiverHawks’ first play from scrimmage — a 20-yard strike — before capping off NSU’s initial drive with a 10-yard scoring connection.
It was Bryant’s first touchdown catch of the season. But he wasn’t done there.
Early in the second quarter, Bryant, who matched a season-high with four receptions, caught his second touchdown pass on a 4-yard connection with Deaton.
“He got us started,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said of Bryant. “Chucky was really good ... and I’m excited from him because he’s such a key player for us, and for him to make some great plays is a great way for him to finish up his senior year.”
Lincoln (1-9, 1-9 MIAA) hung around early, though, while Deaton and Bryant continued to rack up touchdowns. The Blue Tigers tied the game at seven in the first quarter (on quarterback Jacob Morris’ 9-yard run) and at 14 in the second quarter (on Donald Malone’s 5-yard run).
However, after Malone’s third touchdown run of the season, it was all NSU in the final 39 minutes.
The RiverHawks (3-6, 3-6) scored 17 straight points to close out the second quarter, thanks to Deaton’s 1-yard TD run, Terrance Dixon’s 46-yard run and Drew Patton’s 36-yard field goal.
“I said earlier in the week that (Lincoln) has played well against everyone, and they have,” said Evans, whose team led 31-14 at halftime. “...A lot of them have ended up like this, but (Lincoln) has played well. They have some players that are as good as anybody in this conference ... they’ve got guys who could play for anyone.”
The third quarter was much of the same for both clubs: no points for Lincoln while NSU kept hammering away.
Bryant hauled in his third scoring reception of the game in the third quarter on a 9-yard pass from Deaton.
Deaton finished the game with a modest 146 yards on 9 of 17 passing.
But, of course, Deaton didn’t need to rack up passing yards with the RiverHawks running all over Lincoln. While Rockmore was limited to 54 yards — 56.3 yards below his game average — his NSU teammates picked up the slack.
Dixon piled up a team-high 103 yards on 10 carries. Dixon also added a 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to five the RiverHawks a 45-14 lead — its largest of the game.
Contributing to NSU’s running efforts was freshman Zack Simmons, who had a career-high 84 yards on 12 carries. Deaton added 28 yards on three carries, thanks to a 32-yard gain in the second quarter.
Yet, it was Bryant’s 64-yard run in the second quarter that highlighted NSU’s day running the ball.
“I’ve been telling (my teammates) all year, but they haven’t been listening,” Bryant said of his running skills. The RiverHawks finished with 327 rushing yards on 46 carries.
“This is the first time we tried running it today, and it really worked out well for us.”
The Blue Tigers wound up with their third touchdown of the game on Justin Ferguson’s 29-yard interception return off of backup quarterback Cale Fulps, who was one of four quarterbacks to play for NSU against the Blue Tigers.
NSU will take its current three-game winning streak to Edmond on Saturday, as both the RiverHawks and Central Oklahoma Bronchos will close out the regular season.
Northeastern State 45, Lincoln 21
LU 7 7 0 7 -- 21
NSU 7 24 14 0 -- 45
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Chucky Bryant 10-yard pass from Johnny Deaton (Drew Patton kick), 12:58.
LINCOLN — Jacob Morris 9-yard run (Michael Ashley kick), 4:04.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Bryant 4-yard pass from Deaton (Patton kick), 11:16.
LINCOLN — Donald Malone 5-yard run (Ashley kick), 9:10.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Deaton 1-yard run (Patton kick), 7:41.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Terrance Dixon 46-yard run (Patton kick), 5:41.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Patton 36-yard field goal, 0:00.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Bryant 9-yard pass from Deaton (Patton kick), 8:17.
NORTHEASTERN STATE — Terrence Dixon (Patton kick), 1:32.
LINCOLN — Justin Ferguson 29-yard interception return (Ashley kick), 9:48.
First downs 22 20
Rush 9 11
Pass 10 7
Penalty 3 2
Rush Att-Yds 38-157 46-327
Pass Comp. 25 11
Pass Att. 45 21
INT’s thrown 2 1
Passing Yards 206 165
Total Yards 363 492
Punts-Avg. 4-28.2 3-44.7
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1
Penalties-Yds 6-50 9-102
Lincoln: Jacob Morris 18-77, M. Anderson 7-56, Donald Malone 9-36, Deon Brock 3-5, Jon Manning. NSU: Terrance Dixon 10-103, Zack Simmons 12-84, Chucky Bryant 1-64, Joel Rockmore 15-54, Johnny Deaton 3-28, Ashdon Perry 1-2, D. McCutcheon 1-(-1), Thor Long 1-(-2), TEAM 2-(-5).
Lincoln: Morris 25-45-2 206; NSU: Deaton 9-17-0 146, McCutcheon 2-2-0 19, Long 0-1-0 0, Cale Fulps 0-1-1 0.
Lincoln: J. Trammell 5-50, Maurice Woodard 5-6, Malone 4-13, Andre Borney 3-17, Henderson 2-82, Kevin Wade 2-17, Quan Guion 1-12, Devoyius Mark 1-6, O’Hara Fluellen 1-5, Brock 1-(-2). NSU: Bryant 4-43, Jahami Coleman 2-65, Gionni Harris 2-22, Jermaine Sherman 2-19, Nick Whitlow 1-16.