Lenoir-Rhyne advances to program's first Division II title game
HICKORY, N.C. -- Josh Justice carried Lenoir-Rhyne to its first NCAA Division II championship game.
Justice rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns, and Lenoir-Rhyne advanced to the title game by beating West Chester 42-14 on Saturday.
"None of this has sunk in for any of us yet," head coach Mike Houston said.
Isaiah Whitaker added two touchdown runs and Michael Patrick had a late scoring run for the option-oriented Bears (13-1), who scored the final 30 points after falling behind 14-12, rushed for 451 yards and didn't attempt a pass in rainy, muddy conditions.
"No turnovers. What a phenomenal job of our quarterback, our fullbacks of taking care of the football," Houston said. "The key to the game was us not turning the ball over, able to control the line of scrimmage, drive the football and make them defend us and what just what a great job by our offensive line and Josh Justice."
Justice scored on runs of 4, 2 and 1 yard to help the Bears earn their first Division II title-game appearance. It's their first national championship game of any kind since the 1962 team lost to Central Oklahoma State in the NAIA final.
Sean McCartney was 12 of 22 for 135 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for West Chester (13-2).
The Golden Rams reached the semifinals for just the second time in school history but were denied their first berth in the championship game.
"A disappointing end to a great season," West Chester head coach Bill Swaan said. "The conditions were horrible but for both teams. It's tough to play a game as big as that in those conditions but that's the way it goes."
Lenoir-Rhyne, meanwhile, will play Northwest Missouri State in the title game Dec. 21 in Florence, Ala.
Whitaker's 34-yard touchdown run capped Lenoir-Rhyne's opening drive and pulled the Bears to 7-6 after McCartney gave West Chester an early lead with a 9-yard scoring pass to Tim Brown.
West Chester took its last lead at 14-12 on McCartney's 60-yard touchdown pass to Rondell White with 10:55 left in the half.
Justice capped Lenoir-Rhyne's next possession with his second TD run, a 2-yarder that made it 20-14 and put the Bears ahead to stay with 8:10 remaining.
Whitaker scored from 8 yards out with 28 seconds left in the half to make it 26-14, and Justice's 1-yard TD run with 27 seconds left in the third quarter made it 34-14.
Patrick iced it with a 1-yard score with 3:21 left.